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Composite of Alexia and her father
All For the Love of the Game Sports

Going full circle: Sports across generations

By Mitchell Fox

Jayden Fox grew up in a household obsessed with sports. 

The first-year defender on the Toronto Metropolitan University (TMU) Bold women’s hockey team and her two sisters were all coached by their father Dave as children. Fox said he has been a big influence in her life both as a coach—which she admitted could sometimes lead to arguments—and as a parent.

Fox said having her dad as her coach meant a lot because she got to hang out with him “all the time.”

“Sports, to my family, it’s kind of just us,” she said. “Sports gave my family a time to be together and…just enjoy each other and embrace our talents.”

Fox’s parents met playing co-ed softball and encouraged their daughters to play a variety of sports throughout their childhood. She and her sisters would play sports at their cottage and had mini stick battles in their basement, while their dad would put any game possible on the television. 

Fox has now wrapped up her first year with the Bold—a team she joined the year after her older sister, Dani, graduated. It was nice to come to a team where everyone knew her family, she said. Teammates often shared stories of Dani, and some even wore her old gloves, showing them to Fox, quipping, “Hope there’s another goal in these.” 

“I already felt like I was home when I came here,” Fox said.

Sports have become a home for Fox—a sentiment shared between her and many athletes. The love of the game flows through family trees and within family dynamics, reflected in the passion of high-level athletes, sports enthusiasts and casual fans alike. Whether as a bridge between family members or as a means of carrying on a legacy, sports are much more than a game to
many like Fox. 

Sport can be a powerful vehicle for bonding amongst family members, especially between fathers and their children, Jordan Sutcliffe, an assistant professor of psychology at the Royal Military College who specializes in family dynamics in sport, said. 

“Playing sports together from a very young age, or even sharing cheering on their favourite sports teams, can lay a foundation for a lifetime of bonding over a mutual interest,” he said.

Family sports culture is also familiar to Evan Bacal, a former athlete and the president of the Toronto Metropolitan Sports and Business Association (TMSBA). The fifth-year business management student continues to play any recreational sport he can while also making sports a part of his career through the TMSBA.

“Just seeing sports in the university and seeing that it’s able to be incorporated with my degree…[shows] you can actually use your passion, or your two passions and combine them into something,” he said.

“They love seeing you do what you love”

Bacal’s grandfathers helped pass down the love of sports in his family. His dad’s father was a tennis player and massive hockey fan. Some of his fond memories include watching the World Junior Ice Hockey Championship at his grandfather’s home in Montreal, Bacal said.  

He remembers a time when his grandfather—who sat in front of the blaring TV to watch—yelled, “Shoot the damn puck!” at a player on Team Canada. He said that moment was even mentioned at his grandfather’s funeral a few years later.

“That’s the first time we’d ever seen him so explosive,” Bacal said. “My brother and I were in tears laughing at it, it’s a good memory.”

Bacal’s maternal grandfather played “pretty high-level soccer” as a goalkeeper in the former Soviet Union. Bacal remembers playing soccer with him and using the poles of a tennis court fence to make a net outside of his apartment.

“He’s a little too old to play now but we talk about it still to this day,” he said.

After putting sports on the backburner to focus on school, he said he felt “a little bit lost” when he started at TMU. However, Bacal said he now gets to build a different family around a shared interest in sports at the TMSBA. 

“I went to their meet-and-greet and then their first event and realized, wow, there’s an actual business behind the thing that I love,” he said.

Bacal said sports are a connector for him and his family, especially his father.

“To this day, whenever I’m at home and there’s a Leafs game on, I’m sitting down watching while eating dinner with my dad,” he said.

Second-year TMU women’s soccer player Alexia Rhooms knows the connection between sports and business in her own way. While participating in a variety of sports, Rhooms watched her dad, Delroy—a former professional beach volleyball player—make a living as an athletic trainer. 

Rhooms is now pursuing a career as an athlete and a coach as well. She runs a training business, Female Soccer Fitness, where she applies her father’s focus on athletic movements.

“I was learning when I didn’t even realize I was learning,” Rhooms said. 

Rhooms and her father have trained together for years. He helped her work her way back to playing soccer after injuries and school kept her off the field for five years. The two are also quite competitive and he’s brought out her natural athleticism, she said.

“He’s the only one that will push me past my limits,” she added. “Don’t tell him I told you this, but he’s my role model.”

Rhooms and her father spread their family’s love for sport through their training. Delroy’s logo for his company, Prep4Pro Training, uses a photo of Alexia playing soccer, an image she also used for her first training business. She said this, as well as his devotion to helping her run her company, shows how much parents love seeing their kids play sports. 

“They love seeing you do what you love, and they want you to be happy doing it,” Rhooms said. “I think once I sat back and realized that, our relationship grew stronger.”

Unlike Fox, Bacal and Rhooms, fourth-year creative industries student Amanda Noor doesn’t have to play sports to appreciate the part they play in her family identity and dynamic. Her fandom of football comes from her father, who picked up the sport while working in Saudi Arabia with American colleagues during the ’90s. 

“When I think of sports, I think of my family”

While in high school, her father’s pastime eventually found its place in her life. She preferred to watch YTV, but with just one TV in the house, football was on all the time growing up.

Noor said though the sport started as a necessity to entertain herself, she is now “super into it.” 

“Football was there,” she said. “And so you kind of just start to like it as you learn the game.”

Football has helped connect the whole family, as her two younger sisters have also become interested in the sport, she said. The family gathers in front of the television to watch Buffalo Bills games and any others with three on the couch and two on the carpet. Despite their busy lives, they find time to watch and talk about football. 

“It certainly brings us closer as a family,” Noor said. “There’s something you can’t really describe when you’re there with your family and your friends watching the game.”

Sutcliffe said many benefits of a positive sporting environment are reflected in sports fandom, where the nice difference is removing the individual skill and
performance piece.

“They get to direct their critique or their praise to people on the television as opposed to people that are actually in the room or in the car,” he said.

Sutcliffe described how much it can mean for parents and their children to bond over a sports team.

“It can seem trivial to some that are not in sport, but really, when you get deeper into it, you can see that it’s very meaningful,” he said. 

“Sports teams have been a vehicle for positive family relationships for a long time.”

Fox had a similar experience to Noor’s. She said she didn’t think there was anything other than sports on TV when she was growing up. Her family’s television was constantly playing everything from hockey to wrestling to the Olympics to table tennis.

“That’s really just the big thing: the moments when we’re not at the rink and we’re actually all at home and find time to sit around and watch the sports and really just enjoy it together,” she said.

That relationship between sports and family will always be prevalent for her.  

“When I think of my family, I think of sports,” Fox said. “When I think of sports, I think of my family.” 

*Note: The source with the same last name has no relation to the writer, Mitchell Fox.

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