STEPHENVILLE It may not look good on paper, but Randy Alexander isn’t about to sound any alarm bells about the state of school sports in this province.
Alexander, a physical education teacher at Stephenville High, has been around the school sports block for a number of years and keeps a close eye on things in his volunteer role as Western Director for School Sports Newfoundland and Labrador — the provincial body that governs 13 different sports, both male and female, throughout the school calendar year.
Alexander said he never has a problem getting a school to host a regional event for any of the 13 sports and usually has to remember who is next to host on a rotational basis. However, he said there is a bigger commitment involved in hosting provincial tournaments so that is always a challenge from year. He said hosting provincial tournaments require facilities capable of holding a large group of athletes at one time and there is also the struggle of finding billets for the athletes when teams travel more than an hour to participate.
According to Alexander, any school interested in hosting a particular tournament in a given year must submit a bid in June with intentions of hosting one the following year.
It is very common to seea lot of provincial tournaments with no hosts confirmed for the fall sports such as soccer, softball, volleyball and cross-country running.
This year was no exception. Not every tournament had a host nailed down for this school sports season. But, Alexander said a lot of this has to do with the fact a lot of schools don’t put in a bid when they don’t know if the physical education teacher or the person taking charge of a particular sport will be returning to the school next year.
“There was a large number (of provincial tournaments without hosts) on paper, but so far we haven’t had a tournament cancelled because of a lack of hosts,” Alexander said.
During his tenure, he can’t recall a time when a provincial tournament was cancelled because there wasn’t a school willing to play host. Usually, he said, a teacher comes into a school and decides to take the bull by the horns and take on the challenge and other coaches wait in the wings to see if somebody else was willing to step up.
He said there were no hosts for the provincial soccer and softball tournaments before school opened, but now all have been filled and players can breathe a sigh of relief.
As for participation levels, Alexander admits the numbers haven’t really changed, but noted a growing trend of the same core athletes popping up one or more school teams.
He said times have changed with high school students living a different lifestyle than they did in years past. He said high school students now have car payments and cellphone bills to worry about, and it’s pretty to easy to find a high school student who has accumulated a toy or two for recreational purposes.
“One of the biggest detriments to students playing high school sports right now is their lifestyle,” he said.
He said a lot of students have busier schedules these days with jobs and other activities eating up their minutes. He also sees the general student population as being inactive and that’s why there is a trend of multi-sport sports in his school and others in the region.
How do you change it? He is not sure how to go about it, noting that different initiatives like Active Living and Participation Nation have been introduced to the younger students where the numbers are high, but it doesn’t appear to be keeping the students engaged in physical activity when they get older.
“It seems like once they get to high school they have different life choices and different lifestyles that conflict with sports,” he said.
The western region will host a number of provincial tournaments this year. Some of them will be on the calendar this month.