Brennen’s family came to Toronto for a short visit this week. His dad was attending a conference, so they decided to get away from their home in Prince Albert, Saskatchewan, and make a family trip out of it. They had fun exploring the beautiful gems of the city, but Brennen got to live an experience that most tourists don’t.
At 6:28 pm on Tuesday July 26, as Brennen’s mom scrambled on Google to find an activity for him to do, I was nervously making my way off the subway, across Christie Pits park, to the first pickup basketball game I’ve ever run. My primary concerns were: will the court be empty and will people show up?
To my relief, a good friend of mine was already on a court shooting hoops, and a few more adults started to come through. Phewww!
But then something out of the ordinary happened, as the first 3v3 game was about to start. I was tapped on the shoulder by a man standing next to a young kid: “My son is here to play”.
😯Your Son? Um, are you at the right place? Did he sign up? How old is he?
“He’s thirteen, and yes his mom just signed him up. Look, here’s his name on the list!”
*📱Pulls up OpenSports app to show me.*
I couldn’t help but think about how open minded this family is. Because really, who signs their young teenager up in a city they are unfamiliar with, for a pickup basketball game with adults?! This is not a frequent occurrence!
Despite my initial apprehension, I thought, his parents seem overjoyed and he doesn’t seem bothered at all. “Well okay then… if you’re comfortable playing with a bunch of adults…join us!”
Over the next hour and a half of fun, sweaty play, there was no such thing as age. It was all passing, faking, shooting, and sweat.
I took some opportunities to chat with Brennen’s parents, who were watching the game from a distance.
Dad: “Laurie and I put him in a spring basketball league, and we were just saying that he’s learned more in this session than he’s learned all league.”
😂I laughed out loud.
Mom: “They’re coaching him, they’re helping him, they’re cheering him on! This is great…”
“…he loves it here. This is wonderful, so this is from your app? It’s great…and it’s so easy to sign up for, and then we come, and he’s on your list already...”
I proceeded to tell them more about OpenSports, and how we’ve been focusing on growing the pickup soccer community, and are now diving deep into the Toronto basketball community. I told them about how my affinity to the “connect people through sports” idea sprung from when I played pickup soccer every morning in New York while on a short holiday. I met so many people and felt so much more connected to the city and the people, through sports. In this particular moment with Brennen’s parents, I was brought back to that trip, and was so happy to be in the presence of people who are also open to playing recreational sports while traveling.
Brennen’s mom continued to tell me about how this experience overshadows their entire trip:
“We’re doing some amazing things [in Toronto], you have a beautiful city, you know, we saw the CN tower and all that, but I know Brennen is going to talk about this game as his favourite thing, don’t you think Gordie?”
This is going to be his favourite thing he did in Toronto.
We went to the Jays game last night, but it will be all about this game tonight.
I’ve never met such genuinely open minded, kind, warm, enthusiastic people, and I loved every second of chatting with Laurie and Gord.
A place where the locals can connect with the newcomers, the travellers with the city dwellers, and most recently, the old(er) with the young(er). The diversity of our city is no more strongly emphasized than it is through pickup games.
Stories like this keep us so motivated to keep making an impact. Every day, we imagine creating a Toronto where there is always a game to play, for everybody :)
As OpenSports continues to get to know the basketball community, we are hosting games throughout Toronto. We are looking for more game organizers who can post games, too! E-mail firstname.lastname@example.org if you have any ideas!
See you on the court!
Alicia and the OpenSports Team ❤