By Devin Jones
For the past five years, Ryerson Rams athletes have travelled to public elementary schools weekly to discuss the importance of staying active and the friendships that can be made through sports.
The Rising Rams program, which started in the fall of 2010, began with five to 10 athletes participating at two to three schools. Now there are 30 athletes visiting more than six different schools throughout the year, according to Jacob O’Connor, a work-study student who runs the program.
“The athletes are hoping to build real relationships with the students [who] inspire them to recognize the power they have within themselves to do whatever they are called to do,” O’Connor said. “We really want all of the students to feel comfortable and confident in their own skin, no matter their skills or strengths.”
On Feb. 26, soccer players Kyle Stewart, Katrina Gonyea and Jackson Tooke as well as women’s volleyball players Julie Longman and Alex Whyte were at Church Street Junior Public School to talk to Liem Bui’s Grade 6 class about the role sports has in dealing with conflict resolution. By sharing their stories, playing games and getting to know the students, Stewart believes the experience can be relatable to anyone involved.
“Like the classroom, on a sports team you’ll be playing with diverse people all around you, [so] experiencing those different viewpoints is crucial for learning,” Stewart said. “Sports allow for an open environment to better solve conflicts as long as you have the focus of how it betters the team.”
In terms of staying active, Bui doesn’t believe keeping students away from their many screens is the answer. Instead, incorporating technology with teaching physical education is what he aims for.
This can include using tablets to help students understand new games and excercises. Bui says it is important for his students to have a period of physical activity every day, despite how much of a challenge it can be to prepare that class.
“Most students need 20 minutes or more of activity a day. They do have recess, but when they have gym class this group in particular is very focused,” Bui said. “But it takes a lot of preparation on the teacher’s part. It’s not an easy subject to teach and so I’m just happy it’s an interest of mine.”
Many of the students in Bui’s class have also realized the importance of physical education and the relationship that sports has with conflict resolution.
“You can build lots of muscle and build confidence in the sport you’re playing,” sixth-grader Mujtaea Osman said. “Also you meet lots of new people and teammates[who] you can become friends with over time.”