To the average teen, learning and having fun don’t always mix.
But students at Runnymede Collegiate Institute received a crash course in how the two can work together to create positive and lasting change from Right to Play.
Olympian Tionette Stoddard along with a Right to Play team made up of prospective Toronto teachers gave an enthusiastic and interactive assembly about the organization.
The international organization uses the tools of sports and play to tackle issues of war, poverty and disease in areas of need.
Leaders in different countries across the world engage youth in daily team and partner-based games that use minimal to zero sports equipment and would allow all children to participate.
Each game is concluded with what the organization calls RCA – reflection, connection and application. Through this system, youth are taught lessons that enable them to create positive social change in their communities.
And of course, the assembly wouldn’t have been complete without the students getting a chance to play a couple of games themselves.
As the teens played, laughter and excitement filled the auditorium.
Stoddard, the team’s athlete ambassador, shared her stories and experiences as a backdrop to the organization’s mission.
The Australian born, New Zealand Olympian originally played competitive rugby in Queensland.
But after suffering from a knee injury that limited her to being able to run straight lines only, Stoddard had to find another athletic outlet.
The passion and fire in her belly for sport led her to skeleton racing — a sport even Stoddard admits no one could have paid her enough money to try.
But her husband, Angus Ross, a three time Olympian bobsledder, inspired her to try the crazy sport.
At the age of 28, Stoddard started late in the game but she went on to lead a successful career.
She qualified for the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver and finished 14th in the women’s finals.
Although she was disappointed with her race results, Stoddard quickly found herself looking for the next best thing.
She ended up on the Right to Play website.
“I struggled with my own inner conscience,” Stoddard said. “That I had all these opportunities that other people didn’t have.”
After learning about the organization, Stoddard became inspired and eager to work for them.
“I always knew when I finished competing I want to find a way to give back to people who weren’t as fortunate as me,” she said.
“I want to help empower people to realize that they are actually capable of so much more,” Stoddard said. “That’s what I learned through sport.”
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