–By Ottawa Sportspage
Blessed with reasonable weather during a stingy summer season, the Connecting Athletes of All Means to Paths in Sport Project ran a series of successful introductory sports clinics for children and youth from Ottawa Community Housing neighbourhoods in July out of Pinecrest Park, McNabb Recreation Centre, Ledbury Park and Dr. F. J. McDonald Catholic School.
The clinics allowed the participants to experience sports they haven’t tried before, or get a taste of familiar sports in an organized setting with high-quality coaching.
Leading the sessions were coaches from a number of CAMPS Project partner sports clubs, including Ottawa Beavers/Banshees rugby, FC Capital United soccer, Gloucester Griffins lacrosse, For Pivots Sake skateboard, Nepean Nighthawks field hockey and Ottawa Titans water polo, alongside a member of the local ultimate community.
For Aaron Cayer, who’s delivered skateboard programs (including free boards and helmets) for 6 years through his not-for-profit For Pivots Sake group, the motivation to help out comes from a desire to influence society in a positive manner, starting with the grassroots.
“You’re not going to get every one of them skating,” underlines the University of Ottawa economics grad and lifetime skateboarder. “But I saw one kid where I was like, ‘OK, he’s actually pretty good.’ But he probably doesn’t have a board or anyone to skate with, so let’s come back and work with him.”
Cayer’s aim is now to offer programs on a weekly basis throughout summer with collaboration from the likes of Rochester Heights Community House. It’s not his chief objective, but there is the possibility that a young athlete may good really good at skateboarding, which was recently added to the Tokyo 2020 Olympic programme. The pull of the podium can certainly act as an inspirational force.
“What I like about skateboarding is that if you want to have fun on a board, you can go and have fun, but if you want to go and win a gold medal, it’s on you,” Cayer notes. “You’re not ever going to have a coach come in and say, ‘Work harder’ or ‘You didn’t do well enough.’ It’s all going to be self-driven.”
Regardless, what’s important for Cayer’s For Pivots Sake team is that a connection is made through skateboarding.
“I hope because skateboarding is a little rough around the edges that it’s easier to connect with some of these kids,” highlights the federal government employee and part-owner of Birling Skateboard Shop on Somerset St. “We don’t come in and say, ‘Here I am, this shining worldly example.’ You know, I make mistakes. I’m a real person.
“I hope they have fun with skateboarding. And I also hope they look at us and they’re like, ‘Ya, they also have a full-time job.’”
The clinics series was just one aspect of the CAMPS Project, which is run collaboratively by the Ottawa Community Housing Foundation’s recLINK program and the Ottawa Community Sport Media Team not-for-profit that operates the Ottawa Sportspage.
Concurrently this summer, OCH youth were being shuttled by actKIDvity’s Abdul Sadiku to attend summer camps at CAMPS Project partner clubs, and many more continued to participate in their seasonal sports programs.
The clinics serve to ignite a spark, then participants can move onto other CAMPS Project streams. Eventually, the goal is to open doors to university scholarships and careers in sport for talented athletes, and for all to enjoy being active and take an interest in becoming part of the next generation of sport volunteers, coaches and mentors in our community.
“There are a great many people who made this initiative possible – too many to properly salute, really,” says Ottawa Community Sport Media Team executive director Dan Plouffe. “But a big thank you to all the volunteers who gave their time to run the sessions, our funding partners, the staff at recLINK, and in particular our CAMPS Project coordinator Nick Nishikawa, who did an amazing job pulling together all the pieces to make these opportunities possible.
“As I know all local sports volunteers can appreciate, it’s the smiles on the kids’ faces at the end of the day that make all the work worthwhile. We look forward to continuing to build our CAMPS Project with the local sports community and seeing lots more smiling faces for years to come.”