It sounds like the Nitros provided a blast for kids along the north shore of the Bay of Islands this year.
In its third year of existence, minor hockey on the north shore is further proof that it only takes a dedicated person or group to have sports thrive in communities. Unfortunately, that is far too often not the case.
Congrats to Perry Sheppard and the group of volunteers. They don’t have the comforts of a big stadium, high-tech ice-making equipment, or Zambonis, but they have all that matters — an opportunity. There were 67 kids playing minor hockey on the outdoor rink in Cox’s Cove this year.
Ian Morgan, 13, gets to brag about being the most improved player at Templeton Academy this week, while Annie Pennell got to lace up her skates every day there was hockey except two this season — dedication indeed.
In The Western Star last week, Sheppard talked about going to the Salvation Army in Corner Brook and Deer Lake to buy hockey equipment so all the kids in the program would have gear. Awesome Perry. Sports communities everywhere need more people like you — people willing to go the extra mile for the kids. Far too often, for some reason I can’t explain, coaches or volunteers are only in it for themselves or their own personal interest.
This sort of thing is true for all sports. If you look at any group of kids, whether it is grade levels or communities, I think you would rarely not be able to find potential athletes. So, why all of sudden does a school have a great team or even a team regardless of ability? It’s because somebody gave them an opportunity. Sure, sometimes there will be a core group of rare elite athletes that come along only every now and again, but in general with hard work and effort most every young person can become good at a sport.
An example of this is in Xavier this year. The Grade 9 girls basketball team are by far the best junior high team on the west coast. It has been rare that the best basketball team on the west coast hasn’t been one of the Corner Brook schools, but the credit goes to Ryan Chaulk and his girls for putting in the time and effort to get where they are.
While Ryan has been working with these girls for years now, I can’t help but think about all the young girls in Grade 8 and 7 behind them. There was not even a girls’ basketball team for either of those grades at Xavier this year.
While Ryan coaches the team because his daughter is on the team, it just shows what a good coach can do with a group with hard work. Maybe, he lucked out to have some good athletes too, but I am sure they all began learning how to dribble and do a lay-up like everybody else. So, couldn’t the Grade 8 girls or Grade 7 girls at Xavier also have been the best on the west coast too? Maybe, but we will never know because they didn’t get the opportunity.
It’s a real shame. Everybody should be given an opportunity. That’s what sport is all about.