Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Go Long

Part of the RBC approach to the Torch Relay was the idea of “paying it forward” which is really cool on their part. They want to get as many Canadians involved with the spirit of it all as they can. To me, paying it forward in this circumstance isn’t just telling as many people as I can about carrying the torch, but bringing some attention to sport as a lifestyle, and public support for our amateur athletes.

In my torch bearer application, I eluded to having a true belief in supporting amateur sport, and anything that would get kids interested in kicking a ball or shooting a puck with a real soccer ball or hockey stick, instead of a virtual one and a Wii controller. I had seen how amateur athletes are supported and promoted in other countries in the world and felt strongly that Canada should adopt the same mentality. I was fortunate to be at a school who let us watch parts of the ’88 Games in class on a 27’ tv they rolled in on a cart and plugged into the wall with an extension cord. Why aren’t we trying to get our 11 year olds to develop national pride and support amateur sport role models today? There’s no reason for our world-class amateur athletes to remain anonymous. We should be getting excited about them. I met Jayna Hefford last year and she let me touch her gold medal! I’m 32 and couldn’t hold back the excitement of just meeting an actual Canadian Olympic gold medalist, let alone seeing and touching the medal itself. How the hell has Cindy Klassen not been plastered all over everything since she won 5 medals in ’06? Added to her previous Bronze in ’02 and she’s the most decorated Canadian athlete in the history of our participation in any Olympic Games! No need for me to even say the words “if she were American…”.

Let’s get some of this exposure to our youth. I’m not about to complain that we don’t have champions for sport involvement, and I’m fully aware of the time constraints that parents and teachers are under. My teacher friends remind me of it all the time. I’m just saying that it’s quite apparent that extracurriculars including art, music, and sports have taken a back seat. And since this is an Olympic blog, and since the lack of the arts doesn’t necessarily have to do with a physically healthy lifestyle – I’ll stick to the sports argument.
Does anyone remember the Canadian Fitness Program at school with the Excellence, Gold, Silver, Bronze, and Participation patches for meeting certain standards in physical activity? As Gordie so eloquently wrote the tidbit of Canadiana in Fireworks:

next to your comrades in the national fitness program
caught in some eternal flexed arm hang
droppin' to the mat in a fit of laughter
showed no patience, tolerance or restraint

I’m not saying to bring back the flexed arm hang, but some variation of these activities would be great. They never crushed anyone’s will for not winning excellence or gold. Okay, maybe a few, but they did give a Participation pin, which was basically the “thanks for coming out, here’s your duffle bag” of that time. Kids used to have sport in their culture. They were still allowed to have winners and losers and the lessons of each. They didn’t have to be on a team, or in a league to appreciate what it offered. It was FUN. I remember guys who didn’t even know how to run back in grade 5 or 6. Who doesn’t know how to run? They didn’t care. They took joy in just givin ‘er, looking like Mike Myers in the ‘hyper-hypo’ skit on Saturday Night Live from years ago. One of those guys ended up figuring it out that the arms and legs have to basically go in the same direction and was on his university track club years later. Red patch to that guy, I say!

Our elementary school didn’t have a track. Our version of the 400m was a lap around the school yard and the 100m was a measured sprint down Arvo Street – the dead end right beside the school. The only paved part of the St. Andrew’s schoolyard was a basketball court that was used for every type of sport you could imagine that required a paved surface. Basketball and handball dominated the warmer months, with ball hockey all winter. The school had enough hockey sticks and helmets with cages donated to fit a full class and the girls and boys could all play. As for the rest of the schoolyard – all gravel. So we had a gravel soccer field, a gravel baseball field, and gravel broomball (yup – we had enough taped brooms for everyone to bat around those rubber outdoor soccer balls too!). Ever play snowshoe football? Everyone at St. Andrews did. Fortunate enough to have access to snowshoes too, plus we could borrow them for after school if we wanted to. One of my lasting memories to this day is lining up at receiver during a “gym class” football game and breaking wide open while my grade 6 teacher lofted a spiral my way, then having it slip through my fingertips to the gravel below. The sheer joy of getting open past the defenders, and the terror of it falling through my hands was my own personalized version of the famed Wide World of Sports opening. My teacher even grilled me about it when we got back into class. It didn’t scar me. I didn’t go home that day and cry. It was awesome! Playing, running, laughing with friends. Tough for it not to benefit an 11 year old.

Look, we’ve already got enough kids struggling through school. I’ve seen it first hand. Kids didn’t get dumber. They got lazier. Sport is just one of those avenues that can instill drive and determination that can be carried to other areas like math and spelling.

Apologies for the disgruntled tone on the topic, but if part of my torch run application included stating that I would use this opportunity to promote an active lifestyle, then here it is cut and dry. Kudos to those of you still playing for your own red badge of Excellence or for the participatory duffle bag – or just to earn the beer afterwards. Even bigger kudos for those up before daylight and at every other hour of the day running your kids around to the rink or court or field, helping coach those kids or organize those teams and leagues. Yours is a badge much greater.

Back to torch fun shortly.

Postscript on the topic – a friend of mine (and blog follower) had to leave the ice while helping coach his little guy’s hockey team practice a few days ago and got rushed to the hospital with some chest pains. So although I just got the chance to go and visit Jeff in the hospital and see that he’s doing better, I wanted to reiterate everyone’s best wishes for speedy recovery Skinner! I’m sure you’ll be back on the ice chirpin’ everyone in no time.

1 comment:

  1. I agree with everything you posted.

    Going in and out of grade schools these days, I find more and more children that are over weight. Very sad. I also have fond memories of recess playing snow soccer, some of the best times.

    Nobody plays outside anymore.
    very sad.