Ode to Benchwarmers ... and Kids Having Fun
This was written by the kids at the Jumpstart AIM Sport for Community Camp with the help of poet Priscila Uppal and should immediately rank among the best sports poems of all time.
Ode to Benchwarmers
Because you need second string people to have first string
Because sometimes people sweat from their bums
Because sometimes the benches are just cold
Because teams need energizing
Because when we look at the bench it shouldn't be empty.
The Jumpstart program was wrapping up today after two weeks at Havergal College and I couldn't help but be very impressed after checking it out this morning.
The program is aimed at kids from three troubled neighbourhoods in Toronto and exposes them to 12 different sports over a week and also a little verse, as you can see. There was a group of them being introduced to rugby this morning, learning the rules and getting shown the proper technique for tackling with their shoulders.
The high school students teaching them used a thick tackling pad and when 10-year-old Sakib got up after making his hit (that's him pictured above), he had a question for them.
"Did I burst the pad?" said the slightly built, bespectacled and totally charming young man.
The big smile he wore was a good indication Sakib has been thoroughly enjoying himself.
"It's a lot of fun here," he said. "Sports are kind of difficult, but I'm kinda learning how to do them."
The great thing is these kids are being active and getting to learn in a positive, safe environment.
Several Olympians have been involved as beach volleyball players John Child and Conrad Leinemann put on a clinic one day and rhythmic gymnast Alexandra Orlando was there on Thursday. Heck, even the boys got into the act with the ribbons. As former Canadian race walker Ann Peel pointed out, they don't know they're not supposed to like stuff like that yet.
Peel oversees the program, which grew out of her work at Havergal College in helping the students engage with the world. She was approached by a group of kids who wanted to use sport as the vehicle.
"Their dream was a world in which all kids play sport and learn sports and participate actively," said Peel.
The program drew 90 kids this year, more than double from the first year. It's delivered in a gap between when city programming ends and school starts. A group of 25 high school kids from around the city, not just students from Havergal, volunteered to be counselors, or leaders in training as they're called.
It's funded by the Canadian Tire Jumpstart program, which is now run by former Olympic swimmer Dan Thompson.
"The kids tell us they feel way more confident just as kids and way more confident in their sports skills and that they really enjoy meeting the high school students," said Peel. "The high school students talk about how rewarding it is to work with kids and see smiles on their faces all day long. It's pretty simple, but I think that's what's so powerful about sport."
It's a great idea. We can't have enough of this kind of programming in the city. The Power of Sport. Pass it on.