With seconds to go in the City Championship Senior Men’s Basketball game, Grade 12 student, Cole S., came off the bench and sunk a three-point shot just before the buzzer. The crowd leapt to its feet and roared. The team ran off the bench, swarmed Cole and threw their arms around him and each other.
The shot didn’t win the game or the championship, but winning was beside the point. The point was that they were there—Knights on the court, the stands packed. After the pandemic had shuttered sports for nearly two years, teachers, students, parents were playing, cheering, coaching, and celebrating, together.
For the group of young men on the court, many of whom had played together since Grade 7, “it was the culminating moment of their high school basketball career,” says Head of Athletics, Nick Waterbury.
When Calgary Academy announced the return of the athletics programs for the fall of 2021, Waterbury worried about how many kids would come out. He wasn’t sure what toll the pandemic had taken on the kids’ enthusiasm for sports.
The turnout floored him.
Fifty students came out for Junior High badminton. Thirty-five for soccer. Grade 11 students who had never played volleyball before came out for the team.
Interest was so high, in fact, that a new Junior High drop-in badminton night was born. And, for the first time in many years, Calgary Academy had a Junior Varsity Mens’ volleyball team, in addition to the Senior Varsity team.
What’s more, the kids brought everything they had to the playing field.
The October Dig Pink Fundraiser brought together 24 competing teams. The Knights Women’s Volleyball team made it to the quarter finals in the tournament—”A huge accomplishment considering the competition,” says Waterbury. The tournament raised $12,000 for the Alberta Cancer Foundation through clothing sales, registration fees, and other volunteer-led activities.
Grade 11 student, Erik B., not only participated in the Cross Country Provincials, he came in third overall.
The Senior Varsity Men’s basketball team came in second in the Calgary Independent Schools’ Athletic Association Tier 2 City Championship—an incredible and fitting accomplishment for this group of young men. The Grades 7 and 8 Men’s basketball team also won a banner for their Tier 3 league.
When sports are a given, it’s easy to focus on skills and winning games. But losing sports to COVID has emphasized that the smaller in-between moments in sports are often the most meaningful.
The year in athletics was about the opportunity for students to thrive outside the classroom. To be a part of a team. It was about the bonding on the field and the court. About older students stepping up as role models. And everyone remembering what it’s like to be part of something bigger than themselves.
This year, sports were also about the simple things the students have been missing so much and are so very essential, like laughter and fun.
As Waterbury—who also teaches math and science—puts it, “The kids don’t remember the time in my Math class. They remember the opportunity to be together, to have fun, to try new things and to be active.”
With athletics and other extracurricular activities back in full swing, teachers and administrators have seen academics, personal relationships, and overall attitude improve dramatically. School spirit has swept the hallways—attendance at athletic events has never been higher.
On Friday, June 3, the Knights at the Athletic Awards Banquet will celebrate the accomplishments and spirit of CA athletes. Each team will recognize its Most Valuable Teammate and Most Coachable Player. Sportsperson of the Year will be awarded to an athlete who exemplifies the REACH principles and has been a positive leader both on their team and throughout the school. Knight of the Year will recognize an MVP who also exemplifies REACH.
The celebration is about everyone this year—and that, after unprecedented challenges, the Knights brought all of their enthusiasm, skill and heart to sports.