By Andrea Weber, IB/Senior School Biology Teacher. Senior Varsity Girls Volleyball Coach
It's 7:00 a.m. on a Tuesday morning and the sounds of sneakers on the floor and athletes calling for the ball drift out from the Sandy Heard Sports Centre. It's not just any normal Tuesday, it's the first day of school in September and the gym is filled with about 30 students working hard and having fun together for volleyball team tryouts, before classes have even started.
Tryouts begin with a talk about the selection process and its most important criteria — citizenship. From Elementary Sports clubs, through Middle and Senior School teams, each team has its own style and expectations; but at the heart, it is about creating a sense of being a part of something bigger than themselves — belonging to a team.
Experienced players like Megan Norris '19 not only set the tone of the tryout and the team, but also help everyone feel like they belong; this creates a truly collaborative environment, not only fixed on improvement of specific player skills, but also on a deep sense of cooperation to achieve goals. With this leadership, players new to STS are able to integrate easily.
Team before me — this is the mantra of the Senior Girls volleyball team. The girls were rewarded for this sense of belonging at the Western Canadian Independent Schools Volleyball Championship ("Westerns") where they were awarded the Spirit Trophy, chosen by the other teams. This trophy has not been won by STS since 1984, and has only been awarded to STS four times in the 48 years that the tournament, started by STS in 1972, has been running. Being chosen for this award demonstrated that the spirit of 'team before me' was recognized by others as well.
A sense of belonging doesn't just reside with the Senior Girls team. The Senior Varsity Boys coach, Mr. Dale Roth, emphasized belonging in his coaching approach — no starting line-up; everyone plays each match and the lines are equally balanced — a successful strategy for the boys in the past number of years. "Equal playing time created a sense of belonging through welcoming all skill sets. Each player is able to practice their skills during games, creating a sense that everyone has the aptitude to further the team," agrees Julian P.L. '20.
Belonging cannot be taught. It is a feeling that must be built with trust, compassion, and a true love for the sport we play. It is with pride, and a sense of citizenship and belonging, that players talk about their experiences on a STS team. It's why we coach. The relationships we have with our students, and how they bond with each other, helps build our multi-faceted community of athletes, debaters, singers, speakers, students, teachers, etc. These relationships are the foundation of our own sense of belonging to the STS community: team before me.