Mens Sana in Corpore Sano. The Roman poet Juvenal argued that “a healthy mind in a healthy body” is the basis of human happiness.
Playing a sport brings not only the physical rewards of a healthier body, but also a wealth of mental benefits. This philosophy is shared by players, coaches and team organizers across the many sports clubs in B.C.
A cultural and holistic approach to sports
“We see sport as good medicine and as preventative medicine,” says Lara Mussell, Director of Sports at Indigenous Sport, Physical Activity & Recreation Council (ISPARC), a not-for-profit organization working to support a healthier future for Indigenous communities in B.C.
“We take a holistic approach to sport so there’s recognition that not only are there physical benefits to sport participation, but there can be cultural, spiritual, emotional and intellectual benefits,” says Mussell. She explains that ISPARC supports sports programs that are community-driven, taking guidance from the communities themselves on the type of sports to develop.
Mussell gives examples of how communities reconnect to their culture and heritage through sports. To revive their tradition as a paddling community, the Ditidaht Nation on Vancouver Island partnered with ISPARC to launch a canoe camp. The resulting enthusiasm among the community’s youth led to the inclusion of canoeing in their school curriculum.
Another example is the Osoyoos Indian Band who worked to establish an archery program. “They knew some kids who already knew how to use a bow and arrow from hunting with their families,” explains Mussell. Since then, they have launched a top-class Indigenous archery club called the Twisted Arrows. “We get eight spots for Team BC archers to participate in the North American Indigenous Games and last time about five of those spots came from kids who came from the Twisted Arrows club,” says Mussell. “They are competing at international games and at provincial and national events. They are doing some great things in their community.”
Comradery and competition
One of Canada’s oldest sports clubs is here on Vancouver’s North Shore. Founded in 1921, the North Shore Cricket Club (NSCC) is now in its 97th year. The club’s archives are full of pictures and artifacts that document its evolution through the years. Often referred to as a gentleman’s game, cricket itself is a sport steeped in tradition.
“Until 1952 the Naval band used to inaugurate the season’s first game,” says Bhavjit Jauhar, President of the NSCC. “We can only imagine how elegant it was.”
Jauhar has served as the President of the NSCC since 2013. He and other volunteers work hard to organize the four teams that the club enters in the BC Mainland Cricket League (BCMCL).
“The main reason we do it is because of our passion for the game and the pleasure we derive from seeing the people in the community making friends and moments which become an everlasting memory,” says Jauhar. “The effort is completely worth it as our club is going to be 100 years old and we feel proud that we are keeping and carrying forward this legacy for future generations and youngsters.”
At the end of the day, it’s the players’ passion for their sport that carries a team forward. What motivates people to join a sports club?
Alton van Straalen is one of the newest members of the NSCC. Originally from western Australia, van Straalen and his family moved to Canada last summer. Having made strong friendships playing cricket in the past, one of the top priorities for him after his move was to join a cricket team. He believes that it is a good way to build a social network.
“I wanted to find a local club because I wanted to meet local people,” says van Straalen. He attends training once a week and plays a game over the weekend. For him, cricket, and sports in general, fulfill three different functions.
“You’ve got comradery, you’ve got the social aspect, and then when you get on the field, you’ve got the competitiveness too,” says van Straalen. “I need all three things in my life. Sports let you compete at a friendly level and they satisfy that desire to compete.”
“The other thing that I like about cricket is that you can play it as you get older,” says van Straalen. “It’s there for years to come.”
Many opportunities to participate
The NSCC host four weekly games on their training grounds of Norgate Park and Inter River Park, and invite visiting teams from all over the Lower Mainland to participate. With one of the lowest season fees for any outdoor sport, and four teams ranging from division one to seven in the BCMCL, the NSCC offers an opportunity for all levels of players to enjoy the sport.
For younger players up to 12 years, the NSCC offers Kanga Cricket, which is played with a much softer ball. The club would also like to restart their women’s team, but currently do not have enough players to enter a team in the BCMCL.
ISPARC has six regional sports coordinators across the province promoting a variety of sports ranging from archery to ultimate frisbee. The activities are hosted by Indigenous communities and are open to the public. ISPARC has an inclusive approach to sports participation. Although they target Indigenous communities and Indigenous youth, they publish an activities calendar on their website to garner interest from a wider audience.
“Ultimately, sport participation is about building a better society with healthier and happier citizens,” says Mussell.