Last Saturday the Britannia Bruins captured the 2012 AA Provincial Senior Girls Basketball title in Kamloops. While their fans and their school were ecstatic, this result punctuated another important fact: their senior girls were now champions ON and off the court. Britannia is a small secondary school by Vancouver standards: in 1972 Britannia had a capacity of 1500 students; now about half that amount reside within its historic walls. Ensconced in the heart of Vancouvers Downtown East Side, the school and the surrounding ethnically and culturally diverse Commercial Drive community resonate with pride and passion for the local high school that dominates the Britannia Community Services Centre site. While there may be some in Vancouver that cast aspersions at the DTES as an area that is filled with high crime and reduced opportunities for youth, a visit to the oasis that is Britannia Secondary will demonstrate that hope, pride, community spirit and academic success are alive and well at that institution. Filled with extremely committed educational practitioners and support staff, the halls and classrooms at Britannia are filled with vibrant and dynamic students who are engaged, ambitious, goal-oriented and who clearly recognize that a successful high school experience will prepare them not only for a wide range of post-secondary opportunities and careers but will also provide them a chance to be a leader and to give back to their community. At Britannia, the concept that to lead is to serve is embedded in the culture of the school.
The Britannia Senior Girls team are proud to be ambassadors for their school and take their role seriously. They represent everything that is good about the concept of the student-athlete: Success and commitment on the court but undertaken in concert with a focus on being strong academically and even stronger in their commitment to being good citizens. This group of young ladies take their leadership role in the community seriously and recognize that they have a duty to not only reach out to help others but also to be role models for youth in the DTES. Every group needs a mentor and the Senior Girls coach Mike Evans has been providing a significant contribution as an educator and coach to Vancouver students for 40 years. Mike Evans captures the essence of what we seek in our high school coaches: the ability to teach basketball skills in concert with life lessons in order to instil in his players the drive and discipline to succeed in school, to give back to the community and to embrace lifes challenges and to see them as opportunities. Without question, Mike Evans understands that the skills and lessons that are learned and displayed on the practice and basketball courts are directly transferable to life: dedication, initiative, perseverance, commitment, loyalty, self-confidence and team unity and spirit. While Mike Evans is unquestionably proud of the accomplishments of the 2012 Britannia Bruins team, what sets him apart is his willingness to dedicate the time to create well rounded student-athletes eminently capable of making strong contributions as citizens. What seems most evident is that while the AA Provincial Championship Banner will be raised proudly in the upcoming week at Britannia Secondary, these girls were champions before they ever took the court! Well done, ladies, well done!!
Jim Ion is a Vancouver school principal.