As an athlete, my goal was always to take my sport to the highest level I possibly could, therefore, no matter the level I was currently at, I always had my sights set on the future. Although I never gave anything less than 100% effort, I knew that there were more important things ahead. In hindsight, I now see what I perhaps didn’t fully realize at the time, and that is just how important high school basketball was in my life. At the time I viewed it simply as a stepping stone to get me onto a university basketball team and in my mind that is where my journey would truly begin. Little did I know, my time as an athlete at Sentinel Secondary School in West Vancouver had already been playing a huge role in shaping my character and developing myself as a man.
Now, as I have moved on from my competitive playing days and into coaching high school basketball at Lawrence Park, I truly realize the impact that playing high school sports had on me, not just as an athlete, but as a student and as a person, and I am starting to see the impact it has on all my players as well. I had the chance to be with the team at a tournament at Earl Haig that lasted the whole day, and seeing the team playing, hanging out all day in between games, watching the other teams play from the stands, and going for lunch at local restaurants really took me back to the good ole days. I started to think about my old teammates, many of whom are still some of my best friends to this day, the hilarious stories we still cry laughing about to this day, the long days spent at tournaments like this one, and the intense battles we shared on the court, sometimes ending in triumph, sometimes in heartbreak. I also thought of my coach who has supported me to this day since way back in grade 9, through all the highs and lows of my career, and even now on my way to a career in teaching/coaching just like him. No matter how great my time at the University of Toronto was, and how high the level of basketball was, or the intense bond me and my teammates shared, my time at Sentinel was just as amazing and just as formative. Because I was lucky enough to play sports at university, I had the tendency classify high school sports as lesser and I under-appreciated its value. Now, since I am coaching seeing first-hand the value and impact that being a part of team has on these student’s lives, I believe that it is actually more important than high-level sports as its reach is far greater as so many more students have access to this opportunity. The character that is being built, the unbreakable lasting bonds, the mentorship and the incredible journey that is being shared through sport is one of the most valuable experiences that a person can have during those difficult high school years. The skills gained from being a part of a team are also extremely valuable in the long term, such as teamwork, communication, leadership and problem solving (almost a direct quote from my resume).
Those who dedicate their lives to high school sports are some of the most important pillars of our communities, as they influence and shape the lives of countless young students. That is why I hope to dedicate as much of my time as possible to the youth sports community wherever I end up living and working, because I know firsthand the incredible impact these people can have on the lives of the student-athletes. Even though the position of coach can often be a tough one, such as in the position of making cuts to potentially leave some students without the amazing opportunity to be a part of something so special, it is worth it in the long run as the chance to have such a great impact is incredibly rare. An example of the tough situations coaches are put in when selecting teams with more people trying out than spots available on the team happened to me during tryouts for the LP team. We were down to one final spot between 2 guys, and the final spot on the roster is more or less trivial as the 15th man on the team probably won’t see any meaningful playing time, but still the decision was a tough one. It was between a grade 12 senior with a lot of friends on the team, who definitely wouldn’t play, or a grade 11 who showed decent potential but just wasn’t good enough yet. So the decision came down to this: Do we give the spot to the grade 12, allowing him to have one last run with the boys to cap off his high school experience, or give it to the grade 11 who could develop and potentially be an asset to the team next year or could decide to give up on the sport altogether if he got cut. In the end, this moral dilemma was irrelevant as we ended up cutting both of them (LOL) and choosing to carry only 14 players. It still makes me sad to think about those who got cut when I realize just much fun it is to be a part of a high school basketball team, but then again it also occurs to me that although sports have been basically my whole life, it is not quite as big a deal for other people, and that gives me some solace.
Although high school sports have such a positive impact on the community, it is not without problems or controversy, as politics are usually play a huge role at the higher levels, and oftentimes participation levels suffer as students already have so much on their plate. The Superintendent of West Vancouver School District Chris Kennedy, who is a role model of mine in the education field (youngest superintendent in Canada; was a principle by 30), often writes in his blog about high school sports, and these posts usually go viral, showing just how much people care about this subject. He has many great ideas for youth sports, including ways to increase participation and ideas for restructuring the way these sports are implemented. His blog is definitely worth a follow, and since my delve into the education world, I have been keeping up with him and the development of the West Vancouver School District which is definitely one of the most innovative in the nation.
Here is his post on increasing participation: https://cultureofyes.ca/2018/11/05/some-different-ideas-to-increase-school-sport-participation/
And on the restructuring of youth basketball: https://cultureofyes.ca/2018/12/16/the-problem-with-basketball/
Overall, I love being able to share whatever expertise I seem to think I have with the young athletes, and seeing them implement my coaching into real game situations makes me very happy. Perhaps my involvement in school sports as a coach comes from a place of selfishness, not wanting to let go of my glory days and move on from my basketball career, but even so, I know from experience just how huge of an impact high school sports has had on my life and the lives of many others, so whatever the motive, I am thankful to be able to coach these kids and help give them an opportunity to experience everything I was so lucky to experience through the sport of basketball.