School sports back on track

A new organizer of elementary school sports is on the job, working for kids who might otherwise not get to participate in organized sports.

Andrew Lenton is making sure school sports don't disappear from the district.

Andrew Lenton is making sure school sports don't disappear from the district.

A new organizer of elementary school sports is on the job, working for kids who might otherwise not get to participate in organized sports.

Andrew Lenton is the president of the Elementary School Athletic Association, a volunteer position, and he will be working to revive the Maple Ridge-Pitt Meadows school sports scene that has been decimated by the labour war between the B.C. Teachers’ Federation the provincial government.

Two weeks were lost at the end of the last school year, and at the beginning of the present year.

But the work-to-rule tactics, where the union asked teachers to pull back all extra-curricular activities, had a devastating effect. Even after the union battle, some teachers didn’t return to coaching, for a variety of reasons.

Elementary school sports in the district “basically collapsed,” said Lenton.

That is a shame, he added, because for many students schools provide their main access to competitive sports.

“Most community sport is costly, and a lot of kids can’t afford it, or their parents can’t be available,” he said. “Schools offer low cost, or no cost, access to sport.

“When our local schools don’t offer a volleyball program, the only option is to drive to Coquitlam,” he said.

For Lenton, it’s a social justice issue.

“All kids should have access to sports, not just kids who have money and means.”

Lenton, a teacher at Thomas Haney Secondary, has a passion for sports. But that is far from his only qualification – he’s got lots of past experience organizing athletic organizations. He also heads up the high school Track and Field Commission for B.C. School Sports, and brought it back from a state of near collapse. Locally, he was the founder of the Golden Ears Athletics Club, and remains a coach with the track and field team.

Lenton’s new task is to see elementary school sports rejuvenated.

Improved communication is a key, and this month he will launch a website offering information to coaches, students and parents.

Training coaches is also high on the agenda, and Lenton will offer clinics for the four major elementary school sports – basketball, volleyball, track and field and cross-country running.

“We’ve got to provide coaches with support, and improve the quality of coaching,” he said.

Basketball will be the first sport to rebound, and it starts in the second week of January, under the auspices of district basketball coordinator Jeff Conway. They’re happy to have 18 out of 21 public elementary schools running a hoops team. Coaching clinics are full. It’s a significant step forward, Lenton said.

“I hope to make it 100 per cent next year.”

There will be a cross-country championship, with a Maple Ridge-Pitt Meadows championship in the fall.

And there will be a district track and field championship, for grades 4-7, which will run over two days in June.

Lenton said school sports is about more than just getting kids in shape, or assisting in their physical development. It brings school pride, and gives young athletes something to look forward to.

“It helps with school pride, and it helps kids be more engaged at their school.”