Sweet Success on Centre Court
By: Marianne J. Dupre
Cantón Bella Vista girls’ basketball team come up winners
What child can resist playing with a ball? We discover that joy early in life as we learn to bounce, catch, kick, throw, and chase after them in pursuit of fun.
For a group of 10 to 12-year-old girls in Cantón Bella Vista, Guatemala, the pursuit of fun and basketball has led to champion status in their community, and they have the Compassionate Eye Foundation to thank for getting the ball rolling.
In 2010, a group of teachers in municipalities surrounding the small, remote community (25 schools in 25 communities) sought to find interesting, skill-building activities for their students. They pooled their energies into hosting regular sporting and cultural events and for the past eight years, these events get underway every Friday from June through August.
One of these events is a regional basketball tournament, an activity supported by teachers to foster the development of psychomotor skills, teamwork, and friendly competition. It’s through this tournament that the young girls of the Cantón Bella Vista school achieved their prized second place standing and became darlings of the community.
Thanks to the generosity of a private donor, CEF funded the construction of a playground and concrete basketball court in Cantón Bella Vista. And it’s become a real game changer for the community.
Before the tournaments, the concept of sports wasn’t well-defined in Cantón Bella Vista. Children were active enough, but playing ball consisted mostly of small groups of girls or boys tossing or kicking around a soccer ball. They played in a dirt playground by the school, kicking up dust in the summer and mud in winter. There was no concrete surface on which to properly bounce a ball, no hoops to sink a basketball, and little understanding of the game.
Fredy Matias Lopez, an instructor and project coordinator for the Cantón Bella Vista school, remembers how the playground transformed the community. “When the basketball court was built, it was a great joy and curiosity for parents, teachers, boys, and girls,” he said (via translated email correspondence.) “The environment was improved…children started playing during recess hours, and the parents of family and young people also played in the afternoon on the court. It was a new environment for the school and the community.”
As the popularity of the tournaments took off, it opened an exciting new world for the children. “The students, parents, and teachers are so proud of having a sports field and taking second place in girls’ basketball,” said Fredy. “It demonstrates to the other 24 schools that the girls can play well. The students are proud to receive congratulations, medals, trophies, and mentions in the media through radio and television. In 2017, the girls even received congratulations from relatives in the United States who saw the news on Facebook.”
Pride in the success of the girls’ team is shared by the entire community, and enthusiasm for the game has spurred greater participation on basketball teams for both genders. The children gain skills through competitions with peers in neighbouring schools and as they succeed in the game, they share their skills with other children. To commemorate the team’s success, the community is working together to establish a space to display team trophies that mark proud moments in the history of the school.
“Other school teams know that the Cantón Bella Vista school can win and are afraid to face our team,” Fredy boasted. “Parents collaborate to cover some expenses during sporting events because they know there will be favourable results for the school.”
By far the team’s greatest success is instilling healthy ideas into young minds. “The successes obtained [through practicing basketball] are strengths that each of our students has, and they will carry the idea of eing successful in life,” says Fredy. “Our school must be a model of what can be achieved.”