This coming Tuesday is the day when everything gets back to normal for parents.
But while it’s the first official day of the new school year, it also means another year of school sports is set to begin.
The NWT School Athletics Federation is responsible for all scholastic sporting events in the territory and that includes the first big territorial championship of the season: the Elks Outdoor Soccer Tournament in Hay River, which is scheduled to happen this year from Sept. 21 to 23. Traditionally, Sir John Franklin, St. Patrick, William McDonald and Allain St. Cyr have sent athletes or full teams to compete at the tournament.
Participation is the name of the game for the federation, according to its president, Tobi Dusome.
She said the more athletes taking part in events, the better off they’ll be down the road.
“Being a multi-sport athlete is so important, especially at the younger ages,” she said. “It’s important that the young athletes get involved in as many sports as they can. Representing your school is a big deal and that’s really cool no matter what age you’re at but empowering youth and having them play is key.”
The added benefits of better co-ordination and understanding physical fitness with students competing in a variety of sports are big as well, she added.
“Long-term athlete development is the model every sport is shooting for nowadays,” she said. “There’s a big push to get kids active in many sports and teaching physical literacy in phys-ed classes will only help with that co-ordination. We’re providing kids with every opportunity to to compete in sports.”
The big events of the season are always the outdoor soccer tournament in Hay River, followed by the Spike It! tournaments in October, the NWT Badminton Championships in Hay River in December, the Cager basketball tournaments in February, Super Soccer in late April and early May and the NWT Track and Field Championships in Hay River in June.
In terms of hockey, the big game of the year is the Wade Hamer Challenge Cup between St. Patrick and Sir John Franklin and that will happen in November.
Dusome said because the school sports season is so short, the federation does the best it can to make sure everything is spaced out but not to the detriment of any one sport.
“We try to keep it equal so all sports get close to the same amount of practice time leading up to it,” she said. “We talk to the TSOs (territorial sport organizations) to get some help and we know that teams head down south to play in tournaments so we do our best not to conflict with any of that.”
Try as they might, Dusome said it doesn’t always work out as some students do end up missing school sports tournaments.
“I know there’s some athletes who will be missing Cager because of the Canada Winter Games (in February) but you can’t help that,” she said.
As much as the athletic side of the federation is important, these are student athletes, said Dusome, and there’s a reason the word ‘student’ precedes athlete.
“All of the athletes must be in good standing with their school and they must be doing well academically,” she said. “Performing well in school is a must, as is attendance, and we are big advocates for that.”