Building community through participation

Written by: Jordan Tinney

Published On: February 12th 2017

The room is packed. It is hard to open the door but my wife and I slip through and shuffle along the wall. Every seat is taken. It’s standing room only. We find a spot and tuck in tightly because we don’t want to get near the line. Down the wall and across the way, I spot several parents we know from various activities. We also spot many kids we know from around the community. It becomes clear to me just how extra-curricular activities, in this case intermediate boys basketball isn’t really just about basketball, it’s about building community.

Across the gym, there are two long benches full of kids. On our side, I count 16 squeezed in not including the 5 on the floor. Everyone will play and it’s all about participation. The coaches are a mix of vice-principals, volunteers and teachers. The kids rotate in shifts, and the teams are balanced so that everyone really does get a chance to play. At this age, 11 and 12 years old, the name of the game is fun.

On the opposing team, I know the coach. I know at least 8 of the players from other sports like soccer and rugby. These are kids and parents we’ve played with, we’ve teamed with, and we’ve coached with. They are not the “opposition” they are our colleagues and friends.

The game goes on and it’s what I call “bumblebee basketball” at it’s finest. A small horde of kids chasing the ball, having fun, and making baskets here and there. Parents cheer both sides. It really doesn’t matter who wins and loses, everyone is there to see their child get a chance. We are all there in support. We laugh, we cheer, and after it’s all done, we go say hi to each other, touch bases, thank the coaches and leave. But as I walk away I am reminded of how all the volunteer time that goes into extra-curricular events is not just about the sport on the floor or field, it really is about building a sense of community in a larger sense.

I know as well that as these children grow to the youth in the pictures on this blog, they will quickly become young adults looking to life beyond school. No matter what that life brings, I know that their time in organized sports has been a very significant part of their attachment to the place we call school. In Surrey, I am told, almost 1/3 of all students participate in some form of extra-curricular sports. That’s close to 25,000 students and I know that the sports domain is only but one avenue of the much larger realm of arts and activities that extend our schools beyond the classroom.

So through this blog, to the educators (teachers and administrators) who volunteer your time. To the parents who drive, chauffer, feed and cheer. To the volunteers who referee, adjudicate, raise funds, feed, organize, coordinate and do thousands of other tasks to “make it so” in all extra-curricular activities. Thank you.