In a day and age where sports have been sensationalized and monetized (to the point where 15 year-old athletes are being courted by big business) it’s easy to see how the true nature and meaning of sports has been lost. Young athletes seek the aid of professional trainers, go to elite camps, post videos of their play on Youtube, and spend hours alone in a gym or weight room in an effort to gain a competitive advantage. Sport, at its core, is so much more than just competition.
Sport is when your teammates and coaches become your family. It connects us far beyond the hockey rink or football field. Sport is the dad who teaches his three-year-old daughter how to throw a football for the first time; the mom who wakes up at 6 am every day just to take her son to practice; the grandfather who cheers from the sidelines with tears in his eyes after a championship win.
Sports are not only the opportunities we take for ourselves but also, often more significantly, the opportunities we give to those who need it most.
For the town of Abbotsford, sports have allowed for just that, especially through events like the Abbotsford Police City Basketball Tournament, which runs from Wednesday, December 13th until Saturday, December 16th. The annual tournament has united the community with its youth – both on and off the basketball court.
“Every team has an opportunity to get a $500 scholarship,” said Les Barkman, Abbotsford City Councillor. “So there’s some benefit to being apart of this tournament.”
Councillor Barkman has worked for the city for 35 years and has been involved in a plethora of sports, including softball, track, and of course, basketball. His commitment to the tournament links back to his own love of the sport, which he too played when he was growing up.
“I just think that the kids have the opportunity, but we also, as either city leaders, or grandparents, or parents, model what we expect our kids to be.”
Players from each team will be considered for 1 of 18 scholarships.
“It’s no secret what we try and do. We try and give scholarships to every high school team that’s involved here, at least one, quite often two,” said Don Macdonald, a member of the Tournament Committee.
Now retired, Don spent his final 11 years teaching at Robert Bateman Secondary School, one of the schools that will be hosting the Abbotsford Police Tournament.
“At the end [of the tournament], in every Grade 8/9/Junior team, we recognize one individual on each team that represents what the Abbotsford Police call a ‘Crime-free lifestyle.’”
Someone that coaches and fellow teammates want to have on their team, not just for their athletic ability, but for their great attitude in all aspects of life.
Sponsors from within the community, like the Abbotsford Police Department, generously donate each scholarship.
“I think it’s a great way for police to connect with kids,” said Councillor Barkman. “It’s a very non-combative, easy way that police officers can get involved.”
Ian MacDonald, the APD’s Public Information Officer, has been apart of the tournament for the past eight and a half years while also in his 20th year of policing.
“One of the, I would say, cornerstones of what we do in connecting with the community, is things like this police basketball tournament,” he said. “Something that we’ve really tried to put additional focus on is engaging youth…and encouraging those positive choices, which sometimes can manifest through sports, sometimes it’s through the arts, but it’s always encouraging young people to do positive things as opposed to the negative things that sometimes can lure them along the way.”
And while the tournament has a large focus on young athletes, the overall theme of the event seems to be the connection between those who choose to play sports and those who choose to support them.
“I think most of us on the committee are the sort that we’ve always been involved in sports,” said Don Macdonald. “This year I’ve got a grandson on the Grade 8 team that I’m coaching. And the junior girls team here at Bateman, I’ve got a granddaughter there, so it’s personal, as well.”
Councillor Barkman also feels a personal connection through his kids and grandkids.
“You know, we’re talking about kids who enjoy whatever it is, whether it’s snowboarding, whether it’s skateboarding, I don’t care if it’s basket weaving. If it’s basket weaving that my kids are involved in, I’m going to be there,” he said.“That’s how sport has affected me and my family, and I want to pass that on.”
While creating an unparalleled relationship between the community and police department, the Abbotsford Police City Basketball Tournament truly has been a slam-dunk for the city.
“The police department is one of those contributors to this tournament,” said Cst. Ian MacDonald. “We have something in our own city that is a showcase piece to the youth who are making really positive choices.”
Positive changes that all started with the bounce of a basketball.
For more a full list of schedules and information on the Abbotsford Police City Basketball Tournament, please visit http://www.abbypdbasketball.com/
Written by: Crystal Scuor