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Back to school also means back to sport

Now that summer is unofficially over — it’s time to get back to school.

Now that summer is unofficially over — it’s time to get back to school.


For kids and grownups alike, the return to the serious season of academics and work delivers butterflies to the stomach -- a nervousness that just can’t be escaped as the carefree days of vacation evaporate.


But the field of play is there to ease the pain. At universities, colleges and high schools across Canada, practices have begun in earnest. Gym teachers and coaches are putting in the extra hours to entice students to spend a little more time beyond the classroom.


Let’s hope they continue to succeed.


Somehow sport has always made hitting the books a little more tolerable. It’s long been a comfort to believe that at Canadian institutions, student-athletes under the guidance of wise and qualified educators have been allowed to prevail.


Many members of a certain generation recall the coaches and phys-ed instructors they encountered as the ones who had the most significant and lasting influence on their lives. They demanded attendance at early morning training sessions, fostered fierce competition and pushed bodies to exhaustion. They required discipline.


But those teachers also volunteered their time and took an interest in the results. For most of them success in the classroom and on the turf were not exclusive of each other but rather a necessary partnership.


It’s disquieting to see physical education programs at many schools dismantled because they are no longer considered part of the core curriculum. Worse still is the creeping professionalism of university athletics where the stakes are too high. This has led to violence and cheating. That Human Growth Hormone should be employed by a Canadian university athlete is a dark sign indeed. It means we’re on the road to missing the point.


Joseph O’Neill in his remarkable novel, Netherland, written about cricket in New York City, calls sport “... a fantastically important part of culture.”


“It is a way of perpetuating the world of childhood and creating a sort of refuge,” O’Neill goes on to say.


That kind of sentiment rings true at this time of year as we all go back to school and learn that sport has a unique and lasting value unto itself.

 
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