Hoops for Mental Health: Supporting the Community

February 28, 2024 4 min read

Free throws are one of the toughest aspects of basketball. It’s a mental challenge for many players to overcome—standing alone at the foul line, facing a chance to add points to the scoreboard and sometimes, secure a win for their team.

However, Calgary Academy students weren’t alone at the line during the school’s first Hoops for Mental Health Shoot-a-Thon on Feb. 22. The CA community joined together to raise money and awareness for mental health and support this year’s basketball season.

The Beginning of a New Tradition

Getting students involved in sports can be challenging, especially ones they haven’t tried before. However, one great season can inspire someone to return for future years. Helping students discover new passions for sports by building a basketball program has been a goal of Calgary Academy for years.

Junior School Assistant Principal Liz Thompson understands the value sports can have for students of all ages.

“I look back on my childhood and see how sports positively impacted me. It gave me a group of people and a community to connect to. I think that’s invaluable for our students.” – Ms. Thompson

Knights Athletics is one of the most popular extracurriculars at the school. Countless student-athletes look forward to the Annual Dig Pink tournament, but it only features one sport—volleyball.

With this year’s Knights Invitational Basketball Tournament, Ms. Thompson, Principal Tim Carlson, and Head of Athletics Nick Waterbury worked to debut an exciting new event: the Hoops for Mental Health Shoot-a-Thon. This school-wide event offers students the chance to raise money and show off their basketball skills.

Ms. Thompson sees Hoops for Mental Health as the beginning of a new tradition for Calgary Academy.

“I look at Dig Pink and what it does for volleyball, but there’s also what it does for our community… the idea was to create some similar excitement around basketball.”

An Afternoon of Fun and Fundraising

Before students rained in shots from the free throw line, the school gathered for a pep rally to cheer on the Knights basketball teams.

After introducing the CA teams involved in the tournament, Ms. Thompson spoke briefly about her experiences with mental health and how these struggles can affect anyone.

The community gathered to discuss this important issue in their House colours, filling the stands with positivity, understanding, and excitement.

Hoops for Mental Health hopes to make it easier for students to speak with each other about these challenges. While CA provides a safe space to talk with empathetic teachers, psychologists, and administrators about mental health, Ms. Thompson knows students need to have these conversations themselves.

“I think any time we can get in front of the kids and positively talk about things—it can positively impact how they discuss things together… for mental health, I think this helps our community and students better understand.”

All participants in the shoot-a-thon raised a minimum of $25 to step onto the court. With 5–10 minutes on the clock, they had to sink as many shots as possible. One CA Knight, Sebastian G. (who hit over 80 free throws), loved seeing the school community meet for an important event.

“It feels amazing having everybody come together for a fun time. The thing about basketball is it brings people together through joy and challenges. It’s like everyone’s therapy. It brings people happiness, and it’s great to share that.” – Sebastian

Students received prizes based on the number of shots taken and made and the total donations raised. Together, everyone fundraised over $2,500 and hit hundreds of shots from the foul line.

Donations will go to The Summit: Marian & Jim Sinneave Centre for Youth Resilience to support mental health services.

While Ms. Thompson is proud of the money raised towards a noble cause, what’s most important to her is CA students having fun and feeling connected to their community.

“If students leave having had fun and feeling good, that’s a win for me… I hope they come out of this event with a positive outlook towards mental health challenges. Yes, they happen, but there’s light at the end of the tunnel.”