SYDNEY, N.S. —
Becky Hanna was a standout on the soccer pitch as a member of the Cape Breton University women's team.
But the Howie Centre resident credits playing a variety of different sports as a kid with helping her develop into an all-star defender on a Capers team that won four AUS banners and took home silver and bronze medals at the nationals during her five years with the squad.
"I played pretty much every sport under the sun growing up. I played soccer, basketball, volleyball, tennis, track and field, softball, and I really do think that playing all of those sports growing up really did build these fundamental movement skills and made me the soccer player that I am," said Hanna, 23. "If I didn't play those other sports, I don't think I would have gotten to as high a level as I did with soccer."
Now, Hanna is helping young children do the same as one of the lead coaches for Capers in the Community, free four-day activity camps for kids ages five to 12.
From July 2 until Aug. 8, Hanna and nine other professionally trained coaches will travel to 12 different communities across the Cape Breton Regional Municipality where they will use state-of-the-art equipment to help kids build their physical literacy and fundamental movement skills. There's no pre-registration and parents and guardians can drop off their children, sign them in, then pick them up two hours later.
CBU men's soccer head coach and Capers in the Community program head Deano Morley said the camp — which is a partnership between CBU and the Cape Breton Regional Municipality recreation department — is the first of its kind in Canada. He said the multi-sport approach is about developing "more well-rounded kids and healthier kids and healthier communities."
"If you look at top-level athletes in Canada alone — you look at Sidney Crosby, you look at Steve Nash — and they'll be the first to speak of the importance of a multi-sport approach and putting the hockey stick away and developing skills and co-ordination by playing different sports that empower you to become a better athlete in whatever it is you choose to dedicate yourself to. I think it's really important that we develop youth this way. We see a major dropout in sport in the early teenage years — especially in girls — and it's through burnout, it's through injury."
Kayla Walzak, who will receive her community studies degree in sport and physical activity leadership this fall, is the other lead coach for Capers in the Community. She said the camps are a chance for her to see many of the theories she studied in the classroom put into practice.
"Now I get to implement it," said the 25-year-old New Waterford resident, who plans to become an elementary school gym teacher.
"This is going to be the rest of my life. I just want to help kids, I want them to be able to come and have fun and learn and see how important it is to be physically active."
Like Walzak, who coaches high school basketball at Breton Education Centre, Hanna is also giving back by mentoring young athletes. She and former Capers teammate Chantal Caron are coaching the under-17 girls Cape Breton Football Club and she teaches tennis.
"Especially as a Capers athlete, the slogan is 'creating champions,' so they want us to be champions not only in the classroom and on the pitch, or on the field, or court, but they want us to be champions in our community, too, and bring all these values that we learn as athletes back to those communities that we come from and that are supporting us," said Hanna, who twice received the President's Award as CBU's top academic student-athlete while earning her business degree then adding a post-graduate diploma in supply chain management.
"I'd like to stay at home, I'd like to find a job here, but at the same time, I'm never going to stop volunteering in sport, whether it's a job or not. I've always loved participating in sport and I hope to continue doing that. I'll definitely continue coaching and volunteering in the community."
In addition to helping people like Walzak and Hanna become local leaders, Morley said Capers in the Community will hopefully inspire young athletes to one day suit up for their hometown team like Hanna.
"This is about building connection, inspiring kids and youth in our community. We want Cape Bretoners and we want Cape Breton kids to associate with being orange, with being CBU, with being a part of our university, and we want our university to be a major part of this community," he said. "This is domestic recruitment. This is building relationships. And we want to be part of that journey. The earlier that we can get to these kids, the earlier we can have them look up to these great role models and the great opportunity they have. We have a great university that offers great education, we have great sporting programs, and we want kids to know: CBU is here for you."
Capers in the Community
- 10 a.m.-12 p.m. — Neville Park, Whitney Pier
- 2-4 p.m. — BEC Field, New Waterford
- 10 a.m.-12 p.m. — Wolfe Street Field, Louisbourg
- 2-4 p.m. — Queen Elizabeth Park, Glace Bay
- 10 a.m.-12 p.m. — Coxheath Recreation Park, Coxheath
- 2-4 p.m. — Membertou Sports Field, Membertou
- 10 a.m.-12 p.m. — Atlantic Street Field, Sydney
July 29-Aug. 1
- 10 a.m.-12 p.m. — Hawks Field, Dominion
- 2-4 p.m. — Carmen Young Track, North Sydney
- 10 a.m.-12 p.m. — Pitt Street Field, Sydney Mines
- 2-4 p.m. — Brookshaven Hall, Prime Brook
Note: There will also be a camp in Eskasoni with the date and location to be determined