The Empty Football Field

Bishop Marrocco/Thomas Merton Football Field

Why is this blurry picture of the football field at Bishop Marrocco/Thomas Merton Catholic Secondary School at the corner of Bloor and Dundas streets in Toronto that important ? Well because the field is not empty.

However, for most of the past 9 years that I have lived and watched the activities at the high school, that field has been empty. I have never seen a high school football game, soccer game, track+field meet or baseball game played on that field. I have seen on the weekend for the past 5-6 summers, soccer played between 9 and 12 on Sundays. I also have seen primarily after 5 in the summer people running or walking on the track – but they are from my apartment towers primarily – not students.

But in the past two years I have seen gradually more activity by students on the field. Three years ago it was in the Spring. Students would play softball, primarily in the afternoon. Students would also appear on the track at lunch time; but not for athletic activity. The past two years I have started to see student athletic activity in both the morning and the evenings. And its not just softball – but also some track and also some soccer.

Now I vote at Bishop Marrocco and so I have seen the corridors with pictures of basketball, track and other teams of the past commemorated. So I know there once was an athletic tradition at the high school. But it is gone – and the students are the worse for it.

In Pix of Canada, we highlighted here just over a month ago the exploits of the high school kids from Pemberton BC who won 7 of 9 gold medals (plus 2 bronze)at the World Dragonboating Championships here in Toronto. Something is being done absolutely well athletically in a town of 2200 in South Central BC. In contrast the students at Bishop Marrocco are being short changed.

Yes I know the Toronto School Board is short $50-80million in funds – and so the fact that outdoor PE activities have picked up in the past 2 years at the high school should be commendable. But somehow as Alex Bauman gets hired at Sports Canada for its $60 million Road to Excellence program, he has his work cut out for him because we have done one too many Bishop Marrocco’s here in Ontario. The evidence is not just available in Olympic sporting events but also in the health report card that Ontario is getting on its youth. Obesity is now a problem for 1 in 7 in Ontario. And the trend has been getting worse in the past few years.

Now I am not saying we have to re-instate competitive sports in the schools; but I am asking that we get a lot more out of the assets we have – no more empty sports fields. Also I am not implying that interscholastic competition is a cure all for the public health problem that is rising obesity. Although I played football, basketball, track and baseball in high school, the only one that I still engage in today is track. Running is a 3 times a week affair for me. But more importantly tennis, badminton, hiking and squash have replaced the other sports. In general, I consider sports and exercise a critical part of my well being. That is what has been lost on a generation of students at Bishop Marrocco. So any signs of a change in that trend are welcome indeed.

(c) 2006 JBSurveyer

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