I feel like a high school valedictorian lately, full of clichés on change and opportunity, yet sadness on leaving what is now over. For the past few weeks, somewhere in my heart I could hear The Graduation Song by Vitamin C, along with Good Riddance by Green Day, playing on loop.
You see, I’m leaving. I’m finally leaving Douglas College.
I came to Douglas to play basketball back in September 2003. The plan was to enjoy ball for two more years while completing my first two years of sciences, then stop playing, go to UBC, finish my degree, and go teach and coach at my old high school. I was a teenager who knew his path, and was happy to stay on it.
Then life started happening. My favourite saying now, thanks to this time of my life is, “Man plans and God laughs”.
Through a series of events, I played basketball at the college for four years (where I was able to help bring home a national silver medal my final year). After which, I moved to the Student Union as a rep for two years. Then by luck, a job opened in the Athletics department, and I was the successful candidate. In my last year playing I also met a certain female who would rather quickly steal my heart and join me on the crazy journey known as marriage. During my work years I got married, had two kids, and completed my Master of Arts in Leadership. Needless to say, my life since 18 years old has been intimately linked to Douglas College and the Royals family.
There have been several awesome things in my life that I and my family owe many thanks to the college. Being granted 5 weeks off to go on our honeymoon, take parental leave for 6 months when our daughter was born with a birth problem (she’s doing awesome now!), and all the time off over the two years on my Master’s studies made those individual life events that much better or less stressful. But more importantly were the smaller things — the days off when the family was sick, the comradery with the people I worked with on a daily basis, the ability to intertwine personal interest and development into my formal role — these things kept me at the college 12 years longer than I had planned.
Perhaps the best thing that came of this for me is the foundation laid. See, my family played sports, formal and informal, my entire life. It’s what we did, be it baseball, basketball, football, soccer, tennis, golf, hockey. You name it, we played it. I always saw sport as fun (because it should be!) but nothing more than that.
But as I moved through my playing career at the college, and then through my working days, I began seeing the other things sport can do besides fun and exercise. As a team captain I had to learn how to speak to my coach on behalf of the team. I had to lead fundraisers, and had to begin dealing with tough situations. As a player, I had to learn to communicate with my teammates about what I was seeing, even though I wasn’t the best player. I had to work alongside teammates that I didn’t like (some I would have like to knock over and never see again) to achieve a common goal, often in highly stressful situations. I had to learn how to balance practices, games, work outs, homework, two part-time jobs, and the occasional party.
I also learned a lot about myself. I tried being the rah-rah captain, but quickly realized I looked like a fool. I wanted to be the best player, but discovered that a team needs many roles filled to be successful (another favourite quote of mine, from the legendary John Wooden, “The main ingredient of stardom is the rest of the team”). I learned the goal of perfection should never be a goal. I learned that I remembered the people I played with and against more than the results. I learned that my opponents weren’t people I needed to hate off the court.
Most importantly, I learned how many of the skills I learned and honed playing team sports are highly valuable in many other aspects of life. And that brings me to where I am today.
I love sport. I love competing. I love working my butt off to accomplish something great. I love putting in the blood, sweat, and tears behind the scenes for the payoff when it matters. I love the feeling of winning. I hate the feeling of losing. I love the learning that can come from losing so I can get better and win next time. I love discovering new peaks of my physical abilities (my first slam dunk felt awesome!). But now, I ask myself, why?
I gather that humans in general love to push their mental and physical limits. We seem to love to compete in everything (my son tries to make his bed faster than his sister). And we love the spotlight that is often reserved for winners. But in the 21st century, so what? How does sport help our human race, as a global family, push forward and be better?
There are disturbing statistics, many of which are familiar to everyone. Rates of obesity, heart disease, diabetes, and many other debilitating health problems are the highest they have ever been. Average life expectancy is decreasing for the first time since it’s been tracked. And in the sports world, we are seeing a decrease in multi-sport athletes, an increase in injuries in youth, a focus on high performance, and a significant percentage (70%) of youth dropping out of sport by the time they finish elementary school.
Now I am not here to claim the troubles in our adult health are directly linked to the problems facing the amateur sports world, but it has been shown that youth who play sport through their schooling years and live a healthy life are healthier and more active adults.
I want to know if sport can have a bigger impact.
Sport has given me the life skills to navigate personal and professional relationships. It has honed my work ethic to get things done that may not have seemed possible. Most importantly, it has taught me to work with others when I want to achieve something great. Is this result unique to me, or are these consistent indirect results of sport participation?
There are many great Canadian researchers exploring this type of question, and I hope to support those researchers and continue to offer sporting opportunities to youth.
But I never would have come to this without my experiences at Douglas College. So many pieces intertwined, between my playing, schooling, dating, and working. But the common theme for most was sport. And the common feeling from me is I could not have done as well as I have without all of it coming together. Since I am very happy with where I am currently, and where I am heading, I owe a huge thank you to the entire Douglas College community.
Another turning point, a fork stuck in the road
Time grabs you by the wrist, directs you where to go
So make the best of this test, and don't ask why
It's not a question, but a lesson learned in time
I felt like I had to prove myself coming in as a player, then as an employee at Douglas. Instead, I realize it was just another step towards the winding journey that is my life. I hope to do great things, and no matter what happens, a great portion of my foundation was laid here at Douglas College.
Pride certainly is forever.