Commentary – All kids deserve a sporting chance

Tom Henihan

In all forms of sports clichés abound, but none more so than “it is not winning that counts, it is how you play the game.”

Of course, winning counts, at times to such a degree that the obsession to win overshadows the joy of the game and the individuals and as a team the show of skill, athletic prowess and the team spirit are often completely forgotten if one’s team loses.

How one plays the game is also important but a truism that should be added to sports clichés is that “winning doesn’t matter, how you play doesn’t matter, unless kids get the opportunity to play.”

Getting to play is something many kids take for granted but for others getting to play is as an exciting first step from which many others things can happen.

When I attended school in Ireland, rugby was the school sport. Typically, everyone wanted to win games against other college teams but sport was also considered a means of educating young people in cooperation, courage, discipline, stamina and fair play.

Sports were intended to develop attributes that were useful to us on and off the field. So, while winning is always the preferred outcome for any team, all was not lost when one’s team did not prevail.

On Friday, Feb. 22, a group of Ecole Providence students headed to Peace River to take part in a basketball tournament. Not having an established basketball team and having received an invitation to participate only a few weeks before the tournament, the kids committed themselves fully to doing their best and though quite young, they were surprisingly realistic about their chances on the court.

Still, they took their practices seriously, committed to doing their best and looked forward to getting in the fray and testing their metal against other schools in Holy Family Catholic Regional Division.

What was interesting to note is that the prospect of participating in the upcoming tournament changed things in a number of positive ways for the kids, giving them something to work towards and something to which they could look forward.

Even a week or so before they climbed on the bus to attend the tournament in Peace River, the kids had already experienced a couple of positive outcomes, simply by having the opportunity to play.

What is also interesting is how quickly the kids transformed from a ragtag bunch of individuals to a sense of mutual endeavor and team spirit.

Another aspect of the tournament that the kids looked forward to is going on a short road trip, going out for something to eat after the game and getting home later than usual.

While the last items mentioned have nothing to do directly with sports or playing in a basketball tournament, they do however arise from the kids having the opportunity to play.

It would be disingenuous to say that winning in sports isn’t important as it is always gratifying to be on the winning side. But, when winning becomes all important so much of the value, fun, exuberance and camaraderie of the sports becomes obscured by the fever of seeing triumph as the only value the endeavour has to offer.

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