February 28, 2008
Unsung Heroes Come To Town
Organizers are expecting more than 2,300 athletes from the four western provinces and three territories to compete in 17 different sports. The event has taken about five years to plan and there are 3,000 volunteers working to make sure everything runs smoothly.
The games have been around since 1975 when they were first held in Regina (which has hosted the Games twice) and are usually held every four years. Alberta has been host to the games only once before, in 1983, when Calgary was host.
For the athletes the Games are a chance to shine. All that hard work of training and practice comes to a head with the opportunity to show family, friends and the public what it’s all about. For some these games may be the highlight of their athletic career. For others they are a way station on the way to the Canada Games, Pan American Games, World University Games, Commonwealth Games or the Olympics.
When we go out to cheer, whether it’s basketball or badminton, it’s the athletes who are in the spotlight, and rightly so. In my opinion though, the true unsung heroes of amateur sport, the ones who don’t receive nearly enough cheers, are the coaches. They may be in the background when the medals are handed out, but the rest of the time they are front and centre working with the athletes, sometimes encouraging, sometimes pushing, always focused on the goal of helping them become the best they can be.
No matter what the sport, without coaches the athletes wouldn’t be able to reach their potential. As a participant in any sport you need someone who believes in you and your abilities and at the same time pushes you to strive for even greater success.
That’s true in individual sports, and is even more so in team sports. Our local children’s softball, baseball, soccer and hockey teams just wouldn’t be able to exist if not for some public spirited adults who have stepped forward to take over the coaching reins. More often than not, for the younger ages anyway, the coach may never have played the sport and may know nothing about the sport when they agree to become coach. What they have is motivation, a desire to provide a positive experience for their child and his or her friends.
That first coaching experience may come somewhat reluctantly when a parent is told there will be no team for their child unless they step forward as coach. Frequently though the coach then stays in the game long after their child is no longer playing, having discovered the joy of working with children who give back as good as they get.
When you think of those who were influential in your development to maturity, who is the first person that comes to your mind? It’s probably your parents and other family members, teachers, maybe a pastor or priest and probably a coach or two. If you’ve ever played organized sports you’ve had coaches. Some may have been better than others, but usually the experience was pretty positive.
We think of fair play as a Canadian value, but how do our children learn about fair play? It’s through family – but also through the encouragement of a coach, through the shaking of hands after a loss, through the encouragement of good sportsmanship throughout the games. Coaches teach the importance of practice and perseverance, of striving for a higher goal, and working together as a team. These are not values and instincts we’re born with, they have to be taught – and for many of us a sports coach is a most effective teacher.
So when the athletes gather for the Western Canada Summer Games (or any other athletic competition), give a thought to the coaches involved. From badminton and basketball, from athletics to wrestling, none of the athletes taking part would have made it to this elite level without the help of a coach or two along the way. If you seen any of the coaches at the event say thanks, for yourself and for the community. We’re the better for their hours of dedication to sport and young athletes.
Peter Goldring is the Member of Parliament for Edmonton East.