By Joanne Hill

The YMCA/Tennis BC’s Community Day took place during the final weekend of the Leith Wheeler Stanley Park Open. In the middle of the hustle and bustle of this huge public-park tournament, something special was happening beyond the tournament itself.

Strangers became friends

A spotlight on fun

It may not seem like a big deal—it doesn’t garner the advertising or the trophies or the crowds of fans that the competitive events do—but this event gathered a crowd of a different kind. As a coach on the court, I am familiar with the idea of fun and how important it is to keeping people playing—kids play and keep playing because it’s fun—but something that we often undervalue when we think about sport is actually something far more important—connection.

Over the nets, the barriers came down

Keeping the ball in play

The YMCA and Tennis BC have partnered up to bring tennis to everyone—and it’s changing lives. It may sound hyperbolic to say that—but it’s true. It’s incredibly tough to be an immigrant to a new country and even tougher to be a refugee–It’s hard to put yourself in their shoes—the journeys through life that some folks have to endure can be heartbreaking—I can only be empathetic and try to understand. Most of us will never face anything like what these folks have and yet they still have hope—and they are seeking to fulfill that hope here in Canada.

Tennis as a common language

Tennis BC and the YMCA’s Community Day welcomed everyone.  On the court that day there were people from all over the world—people who had been through far too much—and yet when we all took to the courts something magical happened.

Best selfie ever!

The barriers of language, ability, gender, age, culture—they all slipped away. What I saw and what I experienced was people having fun—and it was all because of a game of tennis.

I think we all get wrapped up in the glitz of sport—the focus is far too often on the big players—but the reason we all play is not so much about the game—I admit, it’s important—but the reason we keep doing it is because we make friends—we build community.

Every single person I met on that court has a story—a human drama that may make them feel like they don’t fit in in their chosen country—but for one magical afternoon, everyone was united.

Some of the program participants who now volunteer–with Lizette (middle) who works directly with Tennis BC to facilitate the New Canadian/Refugee program at the YMCA

And the magic? Did that magical spell end when we left the court?

The answer is an emphatic NO!  The magic continued and continues—people were making connections, making friends, finding hope, and finding themselves. It’s a small thing, a game of tennis, but it has so much power to create just a little bit of hope and joy that comes through human connection.

Keep the magic going: You can give back–and you don’t even have to leave your home! Buy a raffle ticket at the link below–you have a chance to win a prize but you are giving something far more valuable than what you could potentially get: you are giving hope, inclusion, confidence, joy, success, and community.

Odlum Brown VanOpen Raffle & 50/50 – Get Your Tickets!