‘The experience of community was incredible’
When Hamilton District Christian High School (HDCH) hosted the Ontario Federation of School Athletic Associations (OFSAA) boys AA soccer championship last weekend, it was an opportunity for the school to extend its hospitality to the 20 teams participating.
The June 4-6 championship was the first time the school hosted an OFSAA event. Planning was in the works for two years.
“When we as a school chose to really go for this, we really wanted to put a distinctive Christian stamp on hosting this,” says Harry Meester, HDCH director of recruitment and advancement, adding they wanted to treat their guests with honour, respect and care.
The organizing team and many volunteers went the extra mile for their guests to have a great experience. This included hospitality tents, a gift package for participants, Powerade at the benches, Internet streaming and showing the games at the local Kelsey’s for teams to enjoy. They even had ladies volunteer to wash uniforms Thursday night so they were clean the next day.
“From the minute that they checked into the hotel to the way that we treated the refs and the coaches all the way through all the games to the awarding of the trophy at the end … we wanted to let all the teams, all the players know this was done with respect to enjoy the game and whether people won or lost didn’t matter,” says Meester.
Convenor of the event and HDCH athletic director Ron Oppertshauser says for the participants, this wasn’t an ordinary tournament.
“The experience of community was incredible,” says Oppertshauser. “I have witnessed the strength and support of community in so many ways in this last couple of weeks that will have an impact on me for a long, long time.”
The games were played on three fields at Mohawk Sports Park and one field at HDCH, with the Saturday final games at HDCH.
HDCH’s boys soccer team, The Knights, qualified to play in the tournament, adding an extra dose of excitement to hosting the event. Many students came out to watch their team play June 5. The Knights finished in fourth place, losing the bronze medal game 3-2.
“There was a buzz in the school,” says Meester.
Coach Nathan Siebenga says it was amazing from both sides — hosting and coaching in the championship. He says to be able to coach at an event you are hosting provides the opportunity for the whole community to experience the event, rather than just the players on the team.
“What’s most beautiful about hosting is it’s the community that has supported me so many times to go out, when they’ve sent me with their blessing, (this is) the same community that sits and cheers us on in the event that we host,” Siebenga says.
“The ability to have that experience for the guys and for our community and personally for myself, in a lot of ways it’s overwhelming and not one that I am going to forget.”
Since the event the school has been receiving a flood of e-mails from other coaches and parents, thanking the organizers for their work and efforts. One coach wrote that this was his seventh OFSAA event and was by far the best he has experienced.
“These tournaments where you are an example to 450 other boys and the coaches and their communities of what it means to be a community I think is just an amazing witness,” Siebenga says.
Oppertshauser says it was a really positive community building experience, and they succeeded in their desire to make the event special and different for participants.
“It represented our school well, but I really felt we brought a perspective that was glorifying to God which I really liked, people sacrificed and it made an experience.”