Rural Living and the Fine Sport of Basketball
The last two years have seen me dive head first into the sport of basketball. I would describe that dive as resistant yet ruled by curiosity and a good measure of love. You see, my husband, Chris, was asked to volunteer as the coach of our local boys basketball team at Fatima Academy, our small but mighty K-12 school - student population 65. With fellow rural dweller, Point Lance councillor and teacher, Chantel Nash acting heartily as assistant coach, they have taken the world of high school basketball by storm.
When Chris heartily agreed to coach (having been a dandy player himself and tied to community life), he, like the parents, staff and community, were excited that the team would and could keep going. And so it did. In a big way.
Two years later, this little school, initially deemed as 1A due to the small number of students, has won countless medals, banners and accolades. On their way to winning the provincial 3A banner in March, they won games against schools with populations many many many times the size of theirs. In April, provincial sports authorities insisted that they not be permitted to compete with smaller schools in the Under 17 tournament (yes, they are a small school) because of the remarkable success they'd known.
While I am tempted here to go off on a tangent about David and Goliath, I won't and instead, I'll stick to my original stream of thought....connecting Fatima's wins to vibrant rural living. It's not a stretch....
At least a few times each year, that same predictable discussion about rural Newfoundland and Labrador pops up and starts to gain some traction. Radio stations ask "Should we continue to provide services to rural communities?" This leads to colourful and sentimental segments on the news about what our communities looked like in the heyday of the cod fishery. From Open Line to Open Hall, everyone seems to have an opinion on what we need to do with/for/to rural Newfoundland and Labrador. There is one common thread throughout all of these discussions, though, a thread that is as predictable as a foggy morning in SSW winds on the southern Avalon....and that thread is this - that these communities are on their way out.
I am wore out from it. For me, this conversation started in the 90s when I was a teenager and the cod had seemingly disappeared. There was a strong sense then that we were in trouble. How would these places survive? Who would support that survival? What would survival even look like? But survive we did. We are still here and living well. In Branch, Point Lance and on the Cape Shore, new homes are going up every year, fueled by a remarkable sense of place and community, not to mention the the millions of pounds of crab landed here every Summer. Councils are being elected, not acclaimed. Volunteer groups are adding vitality to communities. We even hosted our very own Cape Shore Community Radio in May, broadcasted live from Cape St. Mary's and led by an innovative 26 year old town councillor from our all-female council. New businesses have sprung up. Surfers are moving in. And little teeny tiny basketball teams are winning all ahead of them.
So here's the connection....Fatima is winning and rural communities are living and breathing and growing and changing (yes, changing) because we want to be here, we're inventive, imaginative, fiesty and in total love with where we live....
I remember the first time Chris approached the coach of one of the most successful teams in the province. He quietly leaned into this esteemed coach and meekly said, prior to the game, "Go easy on us". I also remember when he approached that same coach this past Spring, head up and eyes shining, to simply say "Good luck."
When the Fatima boys put on those royal blue jerseys on Friday, November 11th, they'll do it with a pride of place and a mind set that says "We can do this". We are doing this.