Youth sport can be a huge influence during one’s formative years, aiding in character growth and providing new goals to strive for and role models in the form of coaches. Being on a team can build lasting friendships and help kids develop healthy habits that last a lifetime.
The University of Saskatchewan has a well-developed sports culture, and many students have some experience in sport. Although not all of the experiences are positive, the personal testimonies below, written by the students themselves, serve to paint a small picture of youth sports.
“The sports that I played growing up were soccer, baseball and hockey. I ended up quitting both baseball and soccer to play only hockey, as I loved hockey the most as a kid and still play it up to this day. Playing sports made me feel, for the most part, included with the teams I was on, and I enjoyed playing on them a lot.
“The only sport in which I did not feel included was football in high school, as the coaches did not treat people properly and did not respect if people did not feel they were a proper fit for their position. Most players quit after the first year, as the coaches treated [them] poorly.
“Usually, it depends on the coach to make people feel included. When I had good coaches, the teams would gel together and work better together. When a coach [treated] all players equally, that was when the teams would play better together and there wouldn’t be anyone feeling excluded.
“I feel that sports were a part of my early growth, as they teach a person that you need to work hard at them to get better, just as you need to do in everything else in your life.”
second-year arts and science
“From the time I was four, my family had me involved in some kind of sport — be it soccer, basketball, volleyball, swimming or wrestling. I was taught the importance of physical activity from an early age, and my parents hoped it would lay a good foundation for the future by teaching me relevant life lessons such as teamwork and the significance of a healthy lifestyle.
“My parents had me in the water pretty much after birth, and they were thrilled to watch me play soccer with the other toddlers, chasing the ball in a pack. I began basketball at the age of five — my brother taking me, my beloved Edmonton Oilers basketball and our Little Tikes hoop to the driveway to drill me through pylons before my first official practice.
“I rotated between seasonal sports until the age of 14, when I chose basketball for both spring and fall. Sports always made me feel [like] a part of something bigger. I didn’t have very many friends in school, so being on a team was a huge social aspect of my life and made me feel included.
“When the time came to play sports in school, I felt proud to represent my school. I made the senior basketball team while in grade seven and was thrilled to be the only one of my peers to be on that level at a younger age.
“High school basketball was more stressful but came with three opportunities to play post-secondary. I accepted at first but quit before the season began. Basketball had defined me for 14 years, but I was ready to discover other aspects of myself. The lessons I learned helped me grow as a person, and I am grateful to sports for giving me the space to form an identity and express myself.”
“Growing up, sports were always a huge part of my life. I was fortunate to be able to participate in a large variety of different sports ranging from basketball, hockey and soccer to lacrosse and golf.
“Before I was even able to skate, my dream of becoming a professional hockey player was born, and at the age of five, I was fortunate enough to have a family that could afford the costs that come with playing organized hockey.
“My parents were always immensely supportive of my sports career and never pushed me towards a specific sport but were always there for support. Youth sports teach essential skills such as teamwork and sportsmanship and also help build character.
“Sports provided me with … lifelong friendships and the opportunity to be around like-minded people with similar interests. Today, the majority of my best friends are people who I met through sports in my youth. The different teams I was on provided me with lifelong friendships and provided me with [a] sense of inclusion.
“My experience as a child in sports positively molded me into the person I am today.”
fifth-year political studies
“I had an overall great experience with sports growing up. It was really challenging as a kid with a visual disability, but my time playing sports was fantastic.
“From grades seven to 12, I was on the track, basketball and badminton teams, but for the most part, I played volleyball. Coming from a small town, there is far more opportunity to be on sports teams than in larger centres, as there were rarely tryouts and lots of opportunities to get involved.
“Sports, for me, as an extrovert, allowed me to socialize and hang out with my classmates. I felt like I was part of the team, but it was tough because I was a benchwarmer for most of my volleyball career — which is to be expected when you don’t have depth perception.
“Sports teach you how to lose and how to take disappointment. As a bench warmer, there were times when I wouldn’t get much playing time at a tournament, which was disappointing, but learning how to have a good attitude in those situations is crucial not only in sports but also in real life.
“My coach, Mr. Knot, also taught us the importance of striving for excellence, not perfection. This kept us grounded and taught us not to be hypercritical of ourselves. Leadership is an attribute I feel was fostered through my time playing volleyball.
“I distinctly remember Mr. Knot taking me aside after a practice and telling me that, if I improved my serves, I would get more playing time, so I began to work on my serves.
“Getting that extra time on the court felt so good, because it was something I had worked for and I knew I could benefit my team. Looking back at high school sports, a lot of key components of my identity and personality can be traced back to the volleyball court.”
Jack Thompson / Sports & Health Editor