The Power of Sport
There’s no getting around it – I have always sucked at sports.
Baseball? Nope. I got hit with a line drive while playing in the field behind our house when I was nine, knocking the wind out of me and putting an end to whatever baseball career ambitions I may have harboured.
Hockey? Nope. I learned to skate on the frozen river behind our house in Toronto, and loved the feeling of gliding on the ice under the frozen sky. I wasn’t a great skater, having started too late in life – it was the same year as the line drive, so I was an ancient nine years old. Still, I enjoyed playing shinny under the stars with whoever was around. Then we moved to Vancouver and I discovered that it was all a cruel illusion. Skating actually meant tracing endless circles in an indoor rink with horrendous, distorted music blasting away all thoughts of peace and tranquility. That was it for skating and hockey.
Is judo a sport? I sucked at that too. My parents signed up my sister and me for judo lessons at Frank Hatashita’s dojo in Toronto. I found out many years later that he was a Canadian judo pioneer, but what did I know? I was eight. All I know is that my younger sister Rachel received her orange belt while I was still toiling away with the noobies wearing a white one. And then in my first bout in my first tournament I was flipped on my back by a little girl half my height and knocked out of the competition. That was it for judo. Although I still have fond memories of the cooler filled with bottled pop at the front. I always got a Grape Crush afterwards. So that was something.
Basketball? Nope. Tennis? Nope. Volleyball? Are you kidding me? Golf? Not a chance.
Now, I don’t want you to get the ideas that I hate sports. My father hated sports – didn’t watch them, didn’t play them. Although he used to shoot rabbits on the farm when he was a boy. He also snared gophers and collected five cents per tail as a bounty. Incredibly, he once shot and killed a moose while running a fishing lodge in northern Manitoba. But I digress. Lets just say that he never encouraged me to play or value any form of team sports. Tossing around a football in the backyard was never going to happen.
Despite my father’s best efforts (or lack of effort?), I enjoy watching hockey, baseball and football. And I do see the appeal of playing sports. Beyond the physical fitness benefits, there is the value in learning teamwork, perseverance and all that. Our older daughter plays field hockey and enjoys it. Even in the rain. It must be a recessive gene I guess.
All of this is a roundabout way of getting to my point, which is the unifying power of sport and its value as a catalyst for young people. One need look no further than the pre-war Asahi baseball team that essentially took the community on its shoulders and, at least on the playing field, was able to escape the strictures of racism and discrimination.
The Asahi were disbanded will the internment but young people continued to play sports in the camps as a way of passing time and (mostly) staying out of trouble. In the postwar years, sports were one way of staying connected with others in the community, as well as forming bonds with others outside the community – see the photo on page 29 as an example.
For more contemporary examples of the positive impacts of sports we can look at the youth hockey teams that have been travelling to Japan to compete since the first team formed in 2000. As organizing parent Paul Kariya told The Bulletin at the time, “As I look at the JC community, I see that we have, for a number of reasons, produced good kids like these. Unfortunately, there is no support system, no means of nurturing them as future leaders in our community. Part of the problem is that you need a peer support group, and I think hockey could be that vehicle.” I think he might be right.
Although maybe it’s baseball that’s the vehicle. The Shin-Asahi baseball team that formed in 2014 is another example of activating the power of youth and forging connections that make our community stronger.
Even my father would have seen the value in that.
And while we’re on the topic of sport, the JCCA has two fundraisers coming up that anyone can take part in, regardless of fitness level or ability. I’m talking about the bowl-a-thon on February 21 and the golf tournament we’re co-presenting with Tonari Gumi on June 12. Support the JCCA and The Bulletin. And have some fun! Really!