HIGH ACHIEVERS: Stay-Safe Edition
Keeping Local Sport Spirit High During the Pandemic
By Martin Cleary
This is normally the time when Ottawa’s top high school boys’ basketball and girls’ volleyball teams travel to their respective OFSAA championships around the province. But not this year. The COVID-19 pandemic has squashed all sports in 2020-21.
Despite no high school sports for the past 12 months, the National Capital Secondary School Athletic Association, which oversees all interscholastic athletics, has followed a much different path and rebranded itself for this season.
“Basically, we’ve pivoted and tried to figure out what we can offer our membership,” said Ginette Godmaire, one of two NCSSAA athletic co-ordinators. Godmaire and co-athletic co-ordinator Steve Smith have been busy and productive.
Not only did they create the student-led Speaker Series, where the students interview notable current and former Ottawa athletes, but also they are helping their teacher peers with the biweekly How To and Information series.
The Speaker Series recordings, which are broadcast live, can be viewed on the NCSSAA’s YouTube channel.
“It’s all new,” Godmaire added. “It’s fun for us to expand. Maybe we’ll record games in the future.”
After four months of contacting the NCSSAA’s athletic directors and planning how to step into their brave new world, the Speaker Series started on Feb. 5.
“A lot of people gave us names, but we did cold-calling, too,” Smith said.
The result has been an impressive list of speakers, who were connected to their student interviewers through Zoom. Ottawa cheermaster Cameron Hughes, who has excited crowds in 25 leagues in nine countries, was the inaugural guest.
“He has cheered at Sens games and cheered all over the world,” Smith added. “He has written a book. Having him kick off the series gets people excited.”
The Speaker Series also featured basketball’s Courtney Pilypaitis (St. Peter), track and field’s Glenroy Gilbert (Laurentian), football’s Brendan Gillanders (Sir Wilfrid Laurier), and speed skating’s Vincent De Haitre (Béatrice-Desloges).
One of the Black History month shows centred on the University of Ottawa’s Black Student-Athlete Advocacy Council. The student-athletes were interviewed in English and French.
Ray Zahab, an ultra-adventure athlete who explores places in the world where people don’t dare to go, was recently highlighted, as well as Kingston rower Kristina Walker.
NHL linesman Steve Barton (March 19), para soccer player Samuel Charron (March 23), rugby hall-of-famer Al Charron and Carleton University men’s soccer coach Kwesi Loney are scheduled to round out the next month.
Godmaire and Smith also have produced several How To and Information videos to pass along to school phys-ed department heads, who can share them with their phys-ed teachers and coaches.
Videos have been made featuring former South Carleton High School and Queen’s University football linebacker Sam Sabourin, who operates, Between the Bumpers gym in Stittsville, and athletic therapists at the University of Ottawa.
“We’ve tried to make (the Speaker Series) interactive to get people involved,” Smith added. “It has been interesting and we’ve had some great questions.”
The NCSSAA also travelled across the city to gather all of its city championship sports trophies and plaques. Ninety-two trophies and 20 plaques have been sent out for repairs and updating.
The Ottawa Catholic School Board has an E-sports league and the NCSSAA hopes to meet with teachers to look at the possibly of starting a league using video games. The NCSSAA also spent time reviewing its operating policies and bylaws.
At the end of March, Angela Dagg will retire after 18 years as the NCSSAA office administrator. She has been an energetic, conscientious and key link between the teacher-coaches, convenors and the NCSSAA athletic co-ordinators.
Martin Cleary has written about amateur sports for 48 years. A past Canadian sportswriter of the year and Ottawa Sports Awards Lifetime Achievement in Sport Media honouree, Martin retired from full-time work at the Ottawa Citizen in 2012, but continued to write a bi-weekly “High Achievers” column for the Citizen/Sun.
When the pandemic struck, Martin created the “Stay-Safe Edition” to provide some positive news during tough times, via his Twitter account at first and now here at OttawaSportsPages.ca.
Martin can be reached by e-mail at email@example.com and on Twitter @martincleary.
HELP SHINE A LIGHT ON LOCAL SPORT! The Ottawa Sports Pages has proudly provided a voice for local sport for 10 years, but we need your help to continue another 10 and beyond. Please donate to the new Ottawa Sports Pages Fund today.