Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Editorializing ...

Today's line story in the print edition of the Ottawa Sun about A.Y. Jackson Secondary School cancelling its senior boys basketball season -- one year after it won the Ontario championship -- was the whole notion of high school vs. community sports programs ("club teams").

The latter are in ascendancy -- it's now unheard of, in Ontario, for a good basketball or volleyball player to play only for her/his high school. The best in athletics all train with the Ottawa Lions, whose stadium is a 20-minute walk from my house. Donnie Ruiz, the former CFL defensive back (and he starred for Laurier!) who's now a personal trainer and works with a lot of young athletes, had some thoughts about how, for a young athlete, it does matter to have that sports connection with her/his school.
"To see that it was cancelled is sad. With city basketball, generally you have all-star teams -- a couple guys from A.Y. Jackson, a couple from another school ... But the identity that comes with high school basketball is valuable. It's good for the morale of everyone to be able to associate your school with basketball, soccer or track and field. It's a big part of the morale, even for someone who doesn't play sports.
This is coming to a head all across Ontario ... what is the purpose of high school sports? There isn't a ton of development that can be done in a short season, so basically whoever has the jocks who play outside school -- or the kids who at that age, can play anything -- wins.

In Ottawa, it seems like there should almost be two divisions for track and field -- one for the kids who train with the Ottawa Lions and one for everyone else (assuming there's anyone competing who doesn't go to the track club). Ilya Abelev, the 16-year-old wrestler who just won a silver medal at the Commonwealth Youth Games, can't compete for an OFSAA gold medal this winter because the school he's attending has not had a wrestling team for several years. In Ontario, some elite female hockey players are barred from representing their schools. (The basketball player Devoe Joseph, though, could play on a national under-19 basketball team without losing his eligibility.)

With regard to basketball, Adrienne Coddett, teacher and coach at Woodroffe High in Ottawa, notes that a teenager can play 30-50 games with his club team. Throw in a high school season, which can run up to 40 games if your team goes to a lot of tournaments and, in her words, "that's an NBA schedule."

Ruiz hits on a major point, though: People do play the team sports popular in schools -- basketball, football, volleyball, rugby, soccer, whereas hockey kind of takes on a life of its own -- do feel need to be socially high-ranked. For a baller, there is better competition available with a club team, or a regional team in the summertime, or in the case of football, playing in the National Capital Amateur Football Association. However, the kids still want to play for their school. It's good to be seen as an athlete.

True, there are always those who just do it to prove something to themselves, or because they feel something within. They're called the track and field team.

Meantime, the educators have to deal with teacher burnout, yearly budget shortfalls and the fallout from the so-called Common Sense Revolution that ripped the heart out of public education in Ontario in the back half of the 1990s. There is also a much more heterogenous student population than they ever could have anticipated, which can cause communication problems. I'll say this much, though -- there's no way you can overpay the people who makes the decisions about this stuff.

1 comment:

Duane Rollins said...

Nice post Neate. It covers a lot of worthwhile stuff.