Sports fair aimed at empowHERing girls (PHOTOS)

By on May 18, 2017
The EmpowHER Sports Fair brought together over 125 Grade 6 and 7 girls from SD 58 for a day of positive reinforcement about the importance of sports and healthy living for all female students. (Ian Webster/Herald).

Over 125 Grade 6 and 7 girls from five district elementary schools converged on Central School last Thursday for the first-ever EmpowHER Sports Fair.

The goal of the all-day event was to introduce young, female students on the threshold of moving on to high school to the many sports, recreational and leisure activities available to them — either at school or in the community.

The idea of a district-wide fair was the brainchild of Merritt Secondary Grade 11 student Jamie Neill, herself a dedicated athlete and sports advocate.

“I am very passionate about sports, and want to see the number of female sports participants in our community increase,” said Neill. “Many girls tend to quit playing sports and being physically active once they get to high school. I want to change that by encouraging girls to participate in sports and have knowledge about how to live a healthy life of sport.”

“When you get to Grade 8 in high school, play on every sports team. Some sports will come easily to you, some will not. Continue to play sports right through to Grade 12. It’s going to open doors for you, give you confidence, give you lots of great memories, and prepare you to be active for the rest of your life. Girls who play sports do better in school, they stay healthier, and they are happier.” – Josee Warren, Sport Development Coordinator, PacificSport Interior BC

Neill shared with her audience at Central the fact that only about 60 per cent of females in high school or older are physically active.

“Our goal today is to defy that statistic, and to empower each other and encourage each other to participate in sports,” she said.

Dr. Christine Perkins, assistant superintendent of School District 58, also spoke to the assembly of girls, and had some words of encouragement.

“You have to have a dream, and then you break it down into little tiny goals. As you reach each goal, you get closer and closer to your dream. That’s what Jamie is doing for you today, and I’m super excited for all of you.”

(Ian Webster/Herald).

Josee Warren from the Merritt branch of PacificSport extended her greetings and best wishes to the group. She spoke of the initial failure that many young people experience when they first try something new, and this being the reason for them giving up or quitting.

“It breaks my heart every time I hear someone say that,” said Warren. “I challenge you all to change your mindset, and believe that you can learn and grow, believe that mistakes can help you get better, and believe that challenges lead to great opportunities.

Event organizer Jamie Neill from MSS and her guest speakers. From left to right, PacificSport BC’s Josée Warren, SD 58 assistant superintendent Dr. Christine Perkins, Neill, and Central Elementary teacher and MSS girls rugby coach Erica Martindale. (Ian Webster/Herald).

“When you get to Grade 8 in high school, play on every sports team. Some sports will come easily to you, some will not. Continue to play sports right through to Grade 12. It’s going to open doors for you, give you confidence, give you lots of great memories, and prepare you to be active for the rest of your life. Girls who play sports do better in school, they stay healthier, and they are happier.”

The final guest speaker was Erica Martindale, a Central Elementary teacher and the head coach of the Merritt Secondary girls’ rugby team, which just recently qualified for this year’s provincial championships. She and several members of the team travelled to New Zealand in April.

(Ian Webster/Herald).

“Sport has done some amazing things for me,” said Martindale. “It teaches responsibility, teamwork, friendship, grit and perseverance. It teaches you to find the strength within to keep going. It also promotes belonging, and empowerment — and that’s why we’re here today.”

Martindale then went on to read a short inspirational story about a Muslim girl who overcame tremendous obstacles in her life to become an Olympic weightlifter.

“Sport is good for everyone,” the girl said. “It creates peace and unites nations. No matter what the challenges are, never walk away from your dream. The more you persist, the closer you will get to your goals. When things get tough, just get tougher.”

(Ian Webster/Herald).

Each of the Grade 6 and 7 students was then assigned to one of five groups. Senior students from MSS acted as group leaders and facilitators. Over the course of the next three hours, the groups moved through five stations, where they were introduced to team sports such as basketball, soccer and rugby, as well as to dance and yoga.

Instruction and guidance at each of the stations was provided by local experts, such as Merritt youth soccer coach Kelly Donaldson, MSS basketball coach Tamara Foster, BC Rugby development co-ordinator Darcy Patterson, Love To Dance Academy instructor Lizette Nels, and Akasa Studio yoga teacher Katie Huber.

Throughout the day, the message to the young athletes was the same ­— embrace, enjoy and persevere. Appreciate the skills that the activities teach, and the camaraderie and teamwork that are fostered during the learning process.

(Ian Webster/Herald).

A steady rain did little to dampen the enthusiasm of the sports fair participants.

The spirited day ended with a talk by MSS teacher Shelly Moorhead, who outlined the many sports and leisure opportunities that exist for girls at the high school level.

Neill closed by expressing her profound gratitude to the many people, organizations and businesses throughout the community, and SD 58 administrators and teachers – all of whom supported and assisted her efforts to make the sports fair happen, and the day such a success.

(Ian Webster/Herald).

One Comment

  1. BC Gray

    May 18, 2017 at 9:23 pm

    Great Job……and I am certain that organizers are planning empowerHIM sports day so that they show true gender inclusion

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