Organized Sports: The Unwritten Reality

Growing up as a child living in Ontario, I’ve experienced firsthand the push for physically active lifestyles from the provincial government. We’ve all seen it. Whether it be the ads in our children’s television show commercials translating to ads on Canadian broadcasting channels, it’s always been there for us to see. It’s not until you grow older that you really get to see what the government is doing. Granted, it does make sense and it’s honorable that our government takes it into their own hands to strive for the children of this country to be active and to enroll in organized sports. The promotion is for the many benefits it brings physically, mentally and socially yet this endeavor does have its flaws. Organized sports teach you so much in many areas of life. Speaking from personal experience, the sports in which I’ve participated have shaped me into the person I am today for the better. I’ve learned teamwork, perseverance, and dedication just to name a few things I’d be lacking in without track; my personality has really developed through it as well. My experiences with sports have and continue to bring many advantages in my life and that’s what is portrayed to us through the media. Although it’s not entirely dishonest, it’s not a full depiction. Organized sports bring many issues along with their benefits. I distinctly remember my grade 9 gym teacher asking us about our involvement in sports and our interest to continue with extracurricular sports both in and out of school through the next four years. She then went on to talk about how students tend to quit going into high school or going into the senior years of high school because of schoolwork loads and time commitment. She added that it’s manageable and it’s a good idea to stay in sports and while I agree that it is manageable, it is a lot of work. As an athlete, it’s not only hard to keep yourself going, but you then have to add in your peers and teammates quitting alongside you which really makes it difficult to keep yourself going. It seems there are a few key reasons just why it is so hard that I believe need to be brought to attention.

Expenses:

First and foremost, organized sports are costly activities, especially as you get older. Though with all the ads and their many benefits, no one feels it necessary to mention the expenses. Playing a sport in a high school often means that by your senior grades you’re playing at a high level. High-level sports directly translate to large expenses. Costs are so high because of a necessity for many resources. You need to pay for the team and the facilities required. Then you have to add on costs of uniforms or special merchandise, trips, etc. Unfourtunately the government does not have easily accessible subsidization programs. There are some organizations in place to assist but once again they are not the most accessible to people. It is understandable that it requires a long progress in order to ensure that financial aid is granted to those who really need it but it can also be rather offsetting to families thus ending the dreams of young athletes. Each organization does have their own objectives listed:

The Canadian Tire; “Jumpstart is more than just about getting kids active. It’s about giving kids from families in financial need the same chance to participate as their neighbours, their classmates, and their friends. Whether it’s the chance to try a new sport or to continue with a favourite one, no kid should be left out”. 

GameON; “As Ontario’s Minister of Tourism, Culture and Sport, I am thrilled to take a leading role in securing a vibrant, safe and inclusive sports system for people of all ages, abilities, and walks of life to enjoy.”

Kidsport; “KidSport believes that no kid should be left on the sidelines and all should be given the opportunity to experience the positive benefits of organized sports. KidSport provides support to children in order to remove financial barriers that prevent them from playing organized sports.” 

It’s true that all of these organizations are around to help, and they are doing a good job, but I believe the government that establishes the idea should be the same one to offer the most assistance not just approximately the same assistance.

Time:

From personal experience, I’m spending about 10 hours a week training and this isn’t even factoring time spent competing, which is sometimes every weekend for as long as 1-2 months. This is a huge commitment which is often very difficult to keep with the high demand of U-level courses, and a part-time job. I have a personal obligation to be present at my practices and to attend regularly as my coaches are volunteering their own time for me. Maintenance is essential in keeping myself on track. You see the difference in athletes who are going to practices, managing their time to be able to do so. As an athlete, you may not see it all the time in yourself but coaches and spectators do notice. I’ve seen one specific basketball player who got stuck in the cycle of not attending practices and suffered the consequences of missing them. In the end, her skill level decreased and she lost the love of the sport that she once had. This, unfourtunately, is the sad outcome for many.

(Me working on math homework during a track meet)

Health:

Reaching this level of a sport by high school can be rather difficult. It seems both food and sleep deprivation are much associated with being a senior student. I’ve seen a high improvement in my performance when I’m eating well at the right times of the day and the right amount, getting a good amount of sleep and being low on stress. Consequently, this is basically just in the summer when I have more time and no schoolwork. I struggle throughout the school year because my lifestyle tends to be around 4 hours of sleep (often less), missing lunch to study in the library (where eating is not allowed), not drinking enough water (less than 500mL for sure – one Nestle Pure Life bottle). Although I may be able to complete workouts and compete well I know I’m not at my very best.  End up depriving myself a bit to be able to keep up with school work which consequently continues this dangerous cycle. While asking some of my peers, they feel the same. We all know taking care of ourselves is the best option, and we know the benefits it has but we all struggle to keep up the lifestyle on our own.

Speaking for the WCI Senior volleyball team, they’ve seen this difference. They were a stellar team of amazing athletes. They had a “dream team” with senior members Owen Malo, Liam Dolan, Joey Friedel, Andrew Rowlands and Dante LeFeuvere. They’ve talked about how well their team has done when everyone is healthy and able to perform their best. They were the most dominant team when we could put starters on the floor. Unfourtunately, they found themselves to be lacking in consistency when these players were unable to play due to health issues and injuries. Sadly all of this could have been avoided if they had taken the time to take better care of themselves. This could have been the year that WCI emerged to OFSAA as their coach notioned but we will never know as long as we let our physical (and emotional) state deteriorate.

Don’t get me wrong, I love organized sports, and I love Track and Field. I have a certain fondness for all the many benefits it’s had on my life and continues to have for me. I’m also very thankful for the memories I’ve made in these years. I would have never been able to even consider going out of Canada to further my education. When done right, you can have the world as your oyster in the things you can do. It could be that the Ontario government is right to strike interest into sports in children, they just need to make it more known that it’s not going to be easy, but it is worth it.