Ottawa Citizen Article

A summer of volleyball – and a lesson in Canadian values

In a culture that values competition and success, Volleyball Ottawa teaches cooperation and fun.

Author of the article: Tim McCauley
Ottawa Citizen
Publishing date: Aug 25, 2022

Whatever your skill level, you can play.

During the dog days of summer, a motley crew of people of different cultures, religions and ages gathers three times a week for recreational volleyball. Faithful volunteers set up the nets in a park along the Rideau River.

Certainly there are ample opportunities to play outdoor volleyball in Ottawa in the summer. But I dare say this group is unique, and may demonstrate some important values as reminders for all of us.

In a culture that values competition and success, Volleyball Ottawa teaches cooperation and fun. Some young, inexperienced players cannot serve from the baseline. They have permission to stand closer to the net. If the serve fails, you hear a chorus of voices, “Re-serve! Re-serve!” In today’s society, many children are raised in an environment of intense pressure to compete and succeed — for instance, through high grades in school preparing for a distinguished career. Volleyball Ottawa? No pressure. Just hit the ball as best you can and let it go where it will!

We also live in a culture that glorifies youth, and often dismisses old age and seniors. The eldest player at Volleyball Ottawa is 87. He is not a champion spiker, but is certainly a talented player. The youngest player is 11. Simply by having fun playing a sport, people of all ages mingle and naturally come to appreciate each other.

Another important aspect of Volleyball Ottawa is the understated but instinctive respect for all cultures. This is a true Canadian virtue on display on the volleyball field. Iran, Egypt, Mexico, Brazil, Nigeria, Lebanon. Different cultures, religions and mother tongues with distinctive English accents. One could say that all of us are united by the Canadian tradition of welcoming into our country people of all national, ethnic and religious backgrounds. Volleyball simply offers another venue to display and reinforce these values.

I had not played volleyball in 20 years. I am reasonably coordinated, but not very tall — an average player. But every once in a while, I will make a dive to keep the ball in play. They cheer me like a hero! Let us admit that it is satisfying to win, but that is not the priority in Volleyball Ottawa.

In a sense, this small group of players gathering in the sunset by the meandering Rideau River showcases the best of Canada: a spirit of cooperation, tolerance, respect and enjoyment. And of course the quiet resolve to make the summer last as long as possible.

Tim McCauley is an English tutor in Ottawa.