Beverly Smith’s life has taken her on quite the journey through the world of sports.
A former star of Salmon Arm’s high school basketball team, Smith was among the first athletes to get a full-ride scholarship through the University of Oregon and went on to serve as an elite coach for varsity teams, professional clubs and the Canadian Olympic basketball team.
In March, Smith was inducted into the Pac-12 Hall of Fame for her record-breaking college basketball career with the Oregon Ducks – adding to an already prestigious career that saw her enter into the Canadian and Women’s Basketball halls of fame.
“I was lucky to grow up there, we had great teachers and coaches that helped you to discover who you are and what you are capable of,” Smith says of her childhood in Salmon Arm.
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After a lifetime of involvement in elite sports, however, Smith’s current role sees her heralding the benefits of an active lifestyle and participation in team sports for youth as the executive director of Kidsports, headquartered in Eugene, Oregon.
“An early, positive youth sports experience is part of the education that makes you become a better person,” she says. “I knew from my experience as a child how important that was and felt I would love to work with an organization that tries to do what is best for a child.”
Smith is a strong believer that living an athletic lifestyle and being part of a team has benefits that go beyond simply keeping fit and improving skills on the sports field.
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“I think there is so much to be gained from a positive youth sport experience. I think it’s more than winning a game or a trophy, there is a chance for teachable moments you can’t get in a classroom setting,” she says. “You learn to be a good sport, you learn to be a good teammate, you learn the importance of working together. It’s not just physically important but physiologically, it helps with mindset, attitude and focus.”
She notes that physical activity like sports or other outdoor recreation activities – even as simple as playing a game of tag – can provide moments where youth are encouraged to take ownership of situations and solve problems without relying on adults.
“There is so much more stimulation coming from TV, video games and online that sometimes we need to find a space and place for kids to be with themselves and make their own decisions with peers,” she says. “Those are cool moments for kids, and taking the adults out of the game as much as we can is important. Having kids play the game and have ownership of the game is important, and that is part of why technology appeals to kids, they have ownership of the space.”
Smith also encourages youth to try out as many sports as possible, comparing the experience to a well-rounded school curriculum.
“I see youth sport as a classroom: as a coach my classroom is my court so I am not only trying to develop one specific sports skill, I am trying to develop motor skills, teamwork skills and sportsmanship skills. That global development keeps them healthy,” she says.