The Shuswap is teeming with talented athletes of all ages, spanning numerous sports in communities that encourage active living through all four seasons. While there is a community surrounding nearly every sport, some in the area think these organizations have a lot to gain if they band together.
This is the idea at the core of discussions surrounding a sports council for Salmon Arm and the Shuswap, put forward by Shuswap Selkirks Swim Club head coach Barry Healey.
He thinks that pooling the resources and connections of local sports organizations will make co-ordinating events and equipment easier, while also allowing communities to attract bigger and better events by showcasing a united front of athletic organizations.
“The whole goal of that is to try and bring all the sports groups under one umbrella,” Healey says. “We all have the same problems in small communities. At the moment every group is working on their own, but collectively that group has a bigger voice together, it’s massive.”
Healey says he has seen sports councils in several larger cities, and in his experience the co-ordination they offer between many smaller groups is a benefit to all involved. By pooling the resources, volunteers and connections from each of the smaller sports clubs in the Shuswap, Healey thinks it will be easier to organize events for local clubs and more attractive for larger provincial events to visit and bring attention — and tourism dollars — to the area.
“At the moment, if we wanted to put a bid in for example, say the B.C. Seniors’ Games, we wouldn’t be able to do it. We don’t know how many volunteers we‘ve got, just key stuff like that,” Healey says. “It’s huge money for the community to host these events, Kamloops shows that. They have people on a council working on it and figuring out if they can get it, working out the amount of volunteers and coaches and fields needed for the event.
“You may figure that could bring about four to five million dollars into the community but the problem is, in Salmon Arm, you wouldn’t know where to start.”
So far, the sports council is in early stages, mostly just an idea and a framework for a plan. Healey is setting out to meet with leaders of local teams and clubs to gauge interest and sign up representatives, with the reception being warm thus far.
Rob Neid, athletic director and physical education instructor at Salmon Arm Secondary, agrees the idea of bringing together athletes and coaches with different backgrounds and interests could help elevate the sporting community as a whole.
“I am pretty supportive of what we’re talking about; I think the cities with the best situations tend to have all the groups working together,” Neid says. “We have some of that here, but to be honest, different groups and clubs rarely talk to each other here so this is good stuff.”
As an added benefit, beyond making it easier to co-ordinate and host events, Neid thinks it could be easier for young athletes to explore their sport options if they are a bit more centralized.
“One thing from a school perspective, is this might be making it easier for kids to go multi-sport and I think that is something we should be looking at,” he says. “We are just not big enough, we don’t have enough kids to really specialize and do well in any one sport, and it’s not good for kids to do that anyways.”
Roy Sakaki, administrator with Salmon Arm Minor Hockey, says:“I think it would be good if all the community groups got together and talked about needs and future planning. I think it certainly would be an asset to the community. We all might have common concerns or ideas and we can put our energy together and come up with a master plan or something.”
Sakaki compares the idea of a sports council to the Salmon Arm Recreation Commission which existed as far back as the 1970s, which he recalls as “the voice of recreation in Salmon Arm at the time.”
“I think the first step is if we get together and talk about our common concerns and vision, I think it would be really helpful and I think just a little more understanding of other groups,” he says. “If we got together to talk about things we could make this a real destination spot for a lot of sports activities.”
Shuswap Youth Soccer Association executive director Kevin Harrison says, “It’s obviously something we are hugely interested in. I don’t know too much about it at this point but I am excited it is happening and happy to be a part of it.”
Given his experience hosting national and Olympic training camps, Healey is confident a show of co-ordination and willingness to host events may also make the area more popular as a training destination for provincial and national teams.
“The coaches want smaller communities because you have less hassle in a smaller community. If we can trigger the thought that this place could be used as a base for training camps, we will win those bids because we have that uniqueness,” he says. “They don’t want them in big cities; it’s easier to come in to a smaller town. They can stay relaxed, the coaches and the support staff know that they are relaxed and there is less trouble, less distractions.”
Healey sees plenty of benefits, not only in terms of attracting larger events and camps, but also making it easier to host local sporting events because resources like volunteers, tents and generators would be inventoried and stored centrally for all to use.
Sports clubs, teams, coaches, and others interested in learning more about the project, can contact Barry Healey at 780-605-2910, or John.B.Healey@gmail.com.