Players get a jump start with community help
When Evangeli Anteros' family immigrated from Kenya nine years ago, she'd never bounced a basketball, spiked a volleyball or run on a track. But the opportunities created by participating in those sports and others helped propel her to university and fueled her ambition to help kids around the world realize the same kind of possibilities.
Within a few days of her family's arrival in Burnaby, Anteros was plopped into the fifth grade at Edmonds community school. She didn't speak english, she didn't know anybody.
"Everything was different," says Anteros, who's originally from South Sudan. "It took me some time to adjust to my new environment."
Part of that adjustment was made easier when she joined the school's track and field team, says Anteros.
"My experience with the team was outstanding," says Anteros. "I have always been a very shy person, and joining sports teams helped a lot to be able to communicate with people. I made a few good friends."
The next year, she joined the basketball team even though she'd never played the game, didn't know anything about it. But with the help of her coaches, she learned the rules, the strategies, how to play.
"I loved everything about it, the friends I made, the people cheering me on and telling me I was good," says Anteros. "I received a lot of attention doing something I loved."
But playing competitive sports often comes with a price. There's equipment to buy, registration fees to pay, expenses for trips to out-of-town tournaments. As Anteros' family continued to find its way in their new home, keeping up with those expenses wasn't always easy.
That's where organizations like KidSport Burnaby are able to step in to help. Partnering with companies like Canadian Tire's Jumpstart program they provide awards of up to $200 to local kids to be able to participate in sports activities.
"With the cost of living so high in Burnaby, many families don't have the extra funds to pay for their son or daughter to participate in sport," says Lawrence Ryan, the chair of KidSport Burnaby. "Sport has so many benefits for children including the benefits of physical health and healthy habits that can last a lifetime. Sport builds personal skills including leadership, decision making, critical thinking, hard work, dedication and self-confidence."
Anteros says the things she learned playing basketball, volleyball, track and field, netball and soccer, traveling to other provinces on the provincial U-15 basketball team, also helped her keep her focus in school and opened the door for her to be able to pursue post-secondary studies.
"Coming from a poor family, the only way I could afford further education after high school would be to take time off and work to make enough money before I attend university," says Anteros, who elected to accept a full basketball scholarship at Concordia University in Montreal after her high school playing career at Byrne Creek secondary school ended.
"That is exactly why KidSport was created," says Ryan, who's also an educator. "We want kids to have the opportunity to pursue their dreams not only in sport but in life."
For Anteros, those dreams include being able to work towards a degree in psychology and then eventually to pass on the positive guidance and mentorship she's received from coaches, supporters and teammates to other youth who have to overcome barriers to be able to play sports.
"I enjoy helping others because so many people spent their time helping me," says Anteros, whose playing career has been temporarily sidelined by a knee injury that required surgery. "I'm very confident, focused and determined. Playing sports taught me that anything is possible."
That's like a slam dunk for groups like KidSport and the Jumpstart program.
"Sport is of benefit to all of us," says Ryan. "We know that not every child will be a superstar at their sport, but they can gain the self-esteem and the work ethic that will help them shine in life."
Anteros says she knows she wouldn't be studying in Montreal, plotting a future of endless possibilities, without the help she got from the sidelines.
"Playing basketball had a huge effect on the person I am today," says Anteros. "I have been very lucky and I'm very thankful for the amazing people who have been there for me. Without them I don't know where I would be."
To learn more about KidSport Burnaby, go to www.kidsportburnaby.com
To learn more about Canadian Tire's Jumpstart program go to jumpstart.canadiantire.ca