By Darren Lum
If the pandemic has taught me anything, it’s to be thankful for what we have because we know from living during this time that what we know can be taken away with little notice.
This appreciation was on full display at the pitch behind Archie Stouffer Elementary School during last week’s Grade 7/8 ASES and JDHES soccer tournament held at the elementary school in Minden. This was the first athletic action for many of these youth in close to two years. If what spectators saw is what we can expect from the next generation then I’m optimistic for our collective future.
During my 17-year career, I’ve seen plenty of sports at various levels from elementary school to world class competitions such as the Pan Am Games. It’s not always positive and not always supportive and there have been negative incidents with adults, as coaches, players and spectators.
Adolescents are not typically very verbose when it comes to sharing their feelings. However, seeing the smiles, hearing the quiet engaging interactions between players from both schools, and the positive shouts of support from the kids on the sidelines for their teammates, it was evident they were enjoying the experience. It’s worth noting the adults who attended (abiding by COVID-19 protocols) were also positive in their speech and body language conveyed to the dozens of players.
The co-ed tournament might have been won by a JDHES team, but it was difficult to know who was winning and who was losing any of the tournament games because the attention was engaged with the playing rather than the results. The local tournament only included players from ASES and JDHES and this enabled more than one team from each school to be entered, giving more than just the best players of the school a chance to participate. For many, this was the first organized competition outside of minor hockey and it was welcomed by players and their family.
Sport has its share of negative examples of toxic culture and despicable abuses of power, but at its best can instill life lessons about teamwork, character, leadership and foster a love for fitness. It can also provide a stage for the quiet hero to shine and have their skills speak for them, projecting their passion, or it can simply offer a child an opportunity to have a memorable positive school experience.
This tournament not only served that function for the students, but served to be the light at the end of the proverbial dark tunnel for elementary school athletics.
Here’s to the hope that the COVID-19 case numbers continue to fall and that we let the young people be the best they can be by giving them the chance to keep playing.