By Dan Plouffe
With school back in session, it won’t take long before fall tryouts and practices are taking place at high school fields and gyms across Ottawa.
And for many city student-athletes, that new sports season begins with the chance to create some lasting memories in their hometown with the national capital association set to host OFSAA championships for four different sports in 2011-12.
“It’s kind of like their Super Bowl,” says new national capital athletics coordinator John Labrosse, who replaces Rick Mellor as one of the association’s two directors. “It’s a big deal. The kids just know that and obviously the coaches do too. Depending on the sport, it’s quite a great calibre of competition.”
Some high school sports don’t always attract the province’s very best athletes since they choose to play with their community clubs instead, but that isn’t the case at all for the set of top-notch Ontario championships coming to Ottawa.
It kicks off in a barely over a month with the OFSAA girls’ golf festival Oct. 12-13 at Loch March Golf and Country Club.
Then cross-country running takes over the Hornets Nest on Nov. 5 when roughly 1,500 athletes compete in the six OFSAA categories.
The ‘AAAA’ boys’ basketball championships go March 5-7 at several locations including Ridgemont, and then the capital plays host to both the ‘A/AA’ and ‘AAA/AAAA’ girls’ rugby tournaments June 4-6 at Twin Elm Rugby Park.
National capital coordinator Laura Gillespie notes that all of the championship convenors have previously run the show at OFSAAs, which makes the probability of pulling off a great spectacle that much better considering the enormous organizational task it can be to welcome thousands of participants for many of the events.
“It’s a massive number of things you need to do,” Gillespie describes. “You start doing some of those things sometimes two years ahead. And one year ahead, you’re into full swing with that.
“You show up and everything runs smoothly, but most people don’t have any idea of the work it takes to get it to run that way.”
Working purely from memory on the spot, Gillespie listed off duties such as creating a proposal letter and recruiting sponsors, booking banquet facilities and playing venues, lining up a merchandise provider and creating a logo, providing banners for each team, finding a host hotel, a treasurer, student and teacher volunteers, deciding on who will provide first aid services, getting letters from dignitaries for the tournament program, picking a host hotel and finding someone to update the web site with results.
With that kind of time and energy going into the events, it certainly shows that there must be something special about the high school provincials for so many individuals to step up and say they want to do it.
“It’s a lot of work to do the OFSAAs, but it’s also exciting,” Gillespie says. “When you have the best of the best coming from across the province, and to see these games, it’s fun.”
The teams and coaches who reach OFSAA also put in a large amount of dedication and commitment – work that begins right away on the first few days of the school year for many teams.
“They’re used to focus and hard work,” Labrosse explains. “Those teams that win local championships usually worked hard to establish a good program. Rarely does it happen out of the blue.”