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Posts Tagged ‘Steve Ewen’

“If a tree falls in a forest and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound?”

I had the great honour of being on Howard Tsumura’s podcast last week (link HERE).  We spoke about blogging, basketball and the future of schooling among other topics.  Howard has been a real mentor for me in the world of writing, as he is an amazing storyteller.  I didn’t get to say it on the podcast, but reporters like him, Steve Ewen, Don Fennell, and Mark Booth have all been inspirations for me with the Culture of Yes because they tell wonderful stories. I have often tried to use this blog to tell more stories like those I read them sharing.

Now, I don’t want to just turn this entry into a blog post that laments the loss of so much local news through our traditional sources. I do think it is a big deal, and community based public education is not well served by Facebook Groups replacing community newspapers.  I have written before (HERE) about the loss of community circulations, but rather today I am thinking about the importance these local papers are to our high school athletics. 

When I talk to people from other parts of Canada, one of the great differentiators we have had is that our media has treated high school athletics as important and relevant.  I remember coaching in local high school gyms in the mid-1990’s and seeing Trevor Henderson, Barry MacDonald and Don Taylor walk in to do a story for Sports Page. And this was no surprise – they and others would often be at fields and gyms telling the stories of high school athletes. School sports, like the Canucks, Whitecaps and Lions was part of our British Columbia sports DNA.  I know many people who only had a Vancouver Province subscription to read The School Zone on Thursdays with Howard Tsumura or Steve Ewen. Both Vancouver daily newspapers had full-time high school / university sports reporters at the time. 

Now because of the foresight of the Langley Event Centre and a collection of partners, we still have the treasure that is Howard Tsumura doing stories for Varsity Letters.  And others like BC Sports Hub trying to fill the high school sports storytelling void.  And Steve Ewen still makes sure that school sports gets into the Vancouver Sun and Province, but his beat is now basically everything so it can’t get the same attention.  And it all makes me sad for stories we will never hear. 

We will always get Canucks scores but what about the stories like Andy Prest who writes for the North Shore News and his remembrance of Quinn Keast, or Ben Lypka in Abbotsford who was writing about Chase Claypool when he was winning provincial football titles and playing senior boys basketball – well before being a breakout star with the Pittsburgh Steelers,  or Marty Hastings in Kamloops who covers sports in their local community so well, or Mark Booth who has been writing for decades about school sports in Delta and Richmond or Don Fennell who I first begun talking to about high school sports in Richmond in the 1980’s and now writes as Editor at the Richmond Sentinel (I encourage you to explore any of these links – they are all great stories told by masterful writers). 

Stories like this one from Howard Tsumura on Bradley Braich on sports and mental health are powerful and they make a difference when other young people can read stories like this.  It helps students to know they are not alone.  And so important that stories like Karin Khuong’s get told – the way Steve Ewen did multiple times, including this past October

Now, I know we are all still challenged by COVID, but I am absolutely convinced school sports will come roaring back in a post-pandemic world.  As I have written before, athletics may (and I think should), look different, but school sports are tightly linked to our definition of schooling. 

What I have noticed during the pandemic is that as much as I miss school sports, I really miss the stories of school sports.  I realize that reading and watching the stories of athletes, coaches and teams is one of my favourite parts of the game.  The human interest aspects are as or more interesting to me than the scores of the games.

And it is this coverage which has been waning in recent years prior to the pandemic.  Replacing a full-page story in a local community newspaper on a young athlete with a highlight reel on Instagram is not the same thing.  And in recent years this has really been lost.  I worry that with no high school sports this year, another unintended consequence is that when they come back, there will be even fewer storytellers.  I get it, reporters move on, newspapers and other traditional media are struggling.

Talking to Howard Tsumura definitely made me nostalgic.  I love reading about the grade 9 track star from Burnaby, or the high school rugby coach from Victoria who is fighting cancer or the graduating volleyball player who is also an amazing musician.  These kinds of stories define the power, beauty and community of school sports.

Thank you to all of you who have and continue to tell our stories of school sports.

I started with that overused quote about a tree falling in the forest, as I keep thinking about it when I reflect on high school sports.  If there is nobody around to tell the great stories – how will we know about all of our students amazing accomplishments?  And that will be a tremendous loss.

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Using my blog for something different this time.  Last week I had a good conversation with Vancouver Province Sports Reporter Steve Ewen on the possibilities for school sports – even in the middle of a pandemic.  Readers of this blog know how interested I am in youth sports.  In an effort to share the article with a larger audience, I am sharing the text from Steve’s article below.  You can also see the original article on The Province website HERE.

West Vancouver school district Supt. Chris Kennedy thinks it’s time to try to restart high school sports.

He’s very clear. He’s not talking about something leading to a massive provincial championship. Kennedy’s talking about neighbouring high school teams, in cohorts of four, playing against only one another with extensive coronavirus protocols in place.
He’s talking about what community sports was granted in August by the B.C. government and has been doing since then. The government’s return-to-school plan released in July said inter-school events wouldn’t be permitted to take place initially but would be “re-evaluated in mid-fall 2020.”

High school teams have been allowed to practise since classes returned.

The provincial election has taken the focus of the government of late. Kennedy understands too that the rising COVID-19 case numbers may spark concern. He believes that schools can make sports run safely — “we’re living those protocols every day,” he explained — and a return to games between rival schools, albeit in a limited format, would benefit the overall well-being of students and school communities.”

“There’s so much positive will trying to make it happen right now. I’ve spoken to a number of my superintendent colleagues and there’s a common belief that sports can aid in the physical, social and emotional well-being of students,” explained Kennedy, a longtime high school basketball coach himself, highlighted by his time guiding Richmond’s McRoberts Strikers.“We’re worried about the mental health of kids. We’re looking for more things to connect with kids. If school becomes just a place where you go to get credits, then it’s not really school.”

“I don’t want to underestimate the complexities of this, but everything we’ve done so far with schools this year has been complex. Getting the kids to school, getting the cohorts figured out, dealing with different technology issues … every day we’re faced with problems that we never imagined before the pandemic.”

The basic frustration for school sports folks about being on the sideline is the simple fact that community sport is up-and-running. As Kennedy says, there are “kids in our gymnasiums with school teams from 3 to 6 p.m. obeying by certain rules and then they can be back in those same gyms with their club teams from 6 to 8 p.m. playing under a completely different set of rules.”

There’s the price point issue as well. School sports is subsidized. Club sports is often a business. The longer school sports sits on the sideline, the more you wonder about how it might look when they do eventually return, and whether programs will be lost long-term. There are also families who don’t have the money or wherewithal to take part in club sports regularly.

“There’s probably been little change for the affluent families regarding sport through this. They’ve found club situations that work for them,” Kennedy explained. “The kids who need school sports the most are the ones who aren’t getting it.”

Kennedy downplayed the idea that student/athletes were missing out on university scholarship opportunities with school sport in limbo, calling it a “red herring.” He believes that university coaches will find ways to find players.

In fact, he thinks that the return of school sports in this era would have an even greater focus on participation, since teams wouldn’t be gearing up for a run at the provincials.

“You’d probably carry a bigger roster, you’d probably play everyone more equally because you’re not worried about that high-level competition piece,” he explained.

Kennedy contends high school sport could “look different” for it to be allowed to return. He talked about switching to 3-on-3 basketball or 2-on-2 volleyball, for instance, if that help makes things safer.

“You shouldn’t skip out on something just because you think it might be hard,” Kennedy explained. “We’ve found ways to make music and art and drama happen in so many of our schools. There are other kids who have passions for athletics. We need to help them.

“We’ve got schools launched. We’ve got club sports launched. Now we take what we’ve learned from both of them and put it together for school sports.”

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