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Brussels Sports Association celebrates 60 years of community and diversity
In 60 years, endless balls have been kicked, countless laughs shared and thousands of lives from across the world intertwined.
It all started in 1958 when James Sidgwick founded the Brussels Sports Association to provide baseball for the international community. At the time, the international schools had limited sports programmes. According to Chris Goodridge, a BSA parent and director of the basketball programme, even now there is not a wide variety of options available.
"I am very glad BSA is here because it does provide sports that [my son] Marshall would not get at a different level,” Goodridge says. “It is rec and my exposure to sports outside of here is that they're really serious and I'm not sure I can make three practices and a game every weekend. It's been a good way for Marshall to stay active in sports and it kind of feeds into the International School of Brussels’ next level so he will do school sports next year,” he adds.
Since 1958, BSA has expanded to include football, lacrosse, basketball and, as of this year, cricket. The organisation is entirely volunteer based and for children aged from four to 12. Teenagers are often involved on the coaching staff as mentors for the younger children on their technique.
With children from over 40 schools and over 30 countries, the coaches build teams that are evenly distributed on skill level. Garland Green is a first year parent and says he especially enjoys the life skills his son can learn from his peers in BSA.
“The rules are the same, so you are automatically at the same starting point,” says Green. “So all the other stuff doesn't matter. If you have a different skin colour or different cultural background or whatever, at least for that period of time, it's the same. Different cultures working together is a literacy that's not in a curriculum book. You can't take 'New People 101'. We talk about international schools and international programmes, but when you can see international relationships just form so naturally, I don't know. It brings me hope.”
Kelly Willis, a BSA parent and coach, says the goal is to give every child a chance to play and learn from the more skilled players. Although all practices are conducted in English, Willis says it is not necessary for children to be fluent to attend.
“Of course you can still communicate, using your hands and demonstrating, but I've watched some children learn English over the years,” Willis said. “Three or four years ago they didn't speak any English. The other kids are so multilingual and can help out, but it's really fun to watch their English improve over the season and over the years,” she says.
The current director of the BSA, Craig Hinder, says the BSA is also a year-round organisation and an active donor of used sports equipment to underprivileged communities.
“Yeah, I don’t cancel,” Hinder said. “Even with snow, if the kids want to play we will be out there. But, we obviously have a lot of old sports equipment, that is still usable, but parents pay good money to be a part of the BSA, so we try and refresh the equipment whenever we can. Last year we gave a heap of soccer equipment, so balls, bags, pumps, jerseys, to an underprivileged community in Africa. This was to a community that had nothing and these kids didn’t have anything. Our next challenge is we have a bunch of baseball equipment, a pile about the size of a car, so we are looking for anyone who is interested on how to get rid of this stuff," he says.
The BSA accepts around 600 registrations per year. Elementary and middle schools who want to offer sports teams to their students are invited to register as well.
For more information, visit the BSA website