Huntsville High School: Honouring True Sport Youth Champions

John Cowan wasn't a fan of the ugly attitude developing within school sports. The current Huntsville High School physical education teacher, who was then-athletic director, says he noticed a lack of appreciation for officials, opposing teams and coaches.

École Jeanne-Sauvé

"There seemed to be a lot more emphasis on the outcome and results, as opposed to the experience of enjoying the competition," he says.

Cowan says existing athletic awards at the high school rewarded for students demonstrating sporting excellence, but did not necessarily select those who were promising leaders yet not necessarily the best athletes. "There was a 'me' generation that needed to be dealt with quickly, in a way that was positive," says Cowan.

About five years ago, he launched the True Sport Scholarship Award, recognizing senior students who exemplified the True Sport Values -- inclusion, fairness excellence and fun -- and the True Sport Principles. Based on all the coaches' recommendations to the athletic director, all coaches would vote for the best candidate.

In its first year, the program rewarded a senior student with a scholarship valued at $1,000. But the following year, the scholarship was split into two so that a male and female student athlete could be recognized. Local businesses; the Tim Hortons (Muskoka) and Algonquin Outfitters, believe in the importance of True Sport. Both generously fund this scholarship program.

The 2007 recipients of the True Sport Scholarship Awards are two student athletes -- Jared Hoo and Julia Kaye -- who are part of the honour society at Huntsville High School.

Graduating student Jared Hoo has been part of the high school basketball, soccer and track and field teams for the past four years. He has been selected to play in juvenile and junior development programs in the OBA system, and has been dedicating his time to referee house league basketball.

Hoo has also been a leader in the school's athletic association, and has attended several OFSAA high school championships. He is a force to be reckoned with on the floor, but he certainly appreciates competition. "He tries to be the best he can be, and continues to work hard."

Julia Kay, also a Grade 12 graduate, is an alpine skier, basketball and soccer player who is heavily involved in the school's athletic association. She has gone to OFSAA for alpine skiing. "She realizes when she has to encourage her own team members to pick up their socks," says Cowan, adding that Kay knows how to set goals and achieve them.

The school, attended by 1200 students, also established a True Sport program, recognizing the efforts of junior student athletes. It is named after a former school principal -- Bruce Reain -- who was an avid athlete, as well as coached at all levels of various high school sports.

At Huntsville, which happens to be the only high school in the town, teams are coached by volunteers from school staff. And Cowan says he has seen how student athletes apply lessons learned --such as school spirit and leadership -- beyond the courts, fields or slopes.

"Sport is learning about yourself. The athletes become leaders in the school," he says. "They show aspects of respecting each other, and encouraging cooperation in the classroom."

When schools commit to the True Sport Principles, students and staff commit to the belief that good sport can make a great difference. By using sport intentionally to promote positive athletic and student participation, schools are taking steps towards sport that is healthy, fair, inclusive and fun.  As of August 2014, 386 schools from across Canada have joined True Sport.