While a career in the military can be challenging, sports provide an outlet to decompress
By Jeff Gard Total Sports Media
Sports are often a key part in any young person’s life and can continue well into adulthood. That doesn’t have to change when choosing to sign up for a career in the military. In fact, the opportunities in sport for Canadian Armed Forces full-time members and reservists are incredible.
Intersection sports give members an opportunity to play sports in a recreational way and base team sports offer a chance to represent CFB Trenton in a competitive way at a regional and national level. Elite athletes may even represent the Canadian military on national teams at CISM (International Sports Military Council) competitions.
While a career in the military can be challenging, sports provide an outlet to decompress, gain additional fitness and interaction with others from across the base.
The intersection sports include golf as well as curling, rugby, slo-pitch, hockey and squash. Teams from different units square off in recreational competition.
“It’s definitely an opportunity for the units to build that morale and team camaraderie and get outside the workplace and enjoy themselves,” said military sports coordinator Ryan Meeks.
There is noon hour hockey at the RCAF Flyers Arena for the lower to medium skill participants. Some competitive players also take part, but assume more of a mentorship role, Meeks noted.
“In the evening, we have the Wing Hockey League and that’s more competitive,” he said.
Curling runs in the afternoons and is designed for recreational and competitive players to enjoy games on selected days at the Trenton Curling Club during the season.
The Rugby Noon Hour League is for recreational players to head to the pitch during the lunch hour to enjoy some rugby action while also learning more about the sport. The league, which is non-contact, is played with a two-hand touch format.
Slo-pitch is run in the evenings and members can register individually or as a team to compete at the RCAF ball diamonds.
Squash, which is available at the South Side Gym, is available to recreational and competitive players to enjoy the sport, which is great for fitness.
Recreational and competitive golfers head to the Roundel Glen Golf Course, located right on the base. It was the only sport that was able to eventually start running in the early part of summer 2021. Skill level doesn’t matter and often golfers of different skills levels are partnered with a best-ball format used.
“It’s something where there’s not a lot of pressure,” Meeks said. “You’re supposed to enjoy yourself. It’s not all about the competition.” Meeks says at PSP (Personal Support Services), it’s about fun, morale and welfare. “Military life can be super hectic and stressful on the members, so sports in my opinion provide an opportunity to escape from that fast-paced busy lifestyle,” Meeks said. “It could be a hectic day at work and you’re able to enjoy that sport that you love, get that team cohesiveness, that camaraderie.
“Intersection is more of recreation for fun with a little bit of competition and for those who want the higher competition, that’s where the base teams come in.”
As the military sports coordinator at CFB Trenton, Meeks is responsible for 20 base sports teams. Base sports include badminton, ball hockey, basketball, grappling, curling, golf, hockey, rugby, running, slo-pitch, soccer, squash, swimming, triathlon and volleyball.
There are both men’s and women’s entries in hockey, slo-pitch, soccer and volleyball while hockey also had an oldtimer’s team.
Base teams and athletes compete regionally against other bases in Ontario. “You get to go away for those four or five days and play the game,” Meeks said. “You get to connect with people you’ve served with in the past. That’s usually the first thing the members do.” Full-time CAF members often end up representing different bases during their military career due to getting posted, sometimes every three or four years.
Meeks said there’s a misconception where people think being in the military requires constant relocation. Reservists, meanwhile, are part-time members who stay at the same base unless they ask for or support a move. “There’s reservist opportunities where you can stay at one base for your entire career and play sports,” Meeks said. “There’s so many opportunities to get involved and there’s new sports that are coming out and being tested.”
Grappling was new to the base sports scene a couple years ago, he said, noting there’s talk of instituting obstacle course races and powerlifting is a possibility to be added as well.
Some military national championships for individual competitions are held within public events such as the Ottawa Race Weekend and Gatineau Triathlon. “It’s pretty awesome the military has a piece of that and they get to experience that with the civilian side as well,” Meeks said.
For team sports, the winners of regional championships move on to compete in the national championships that include qualifying teams from four regions in Canada: Atlantic, Quebec, Ontario and Canada West. “Traditionally in the past it’s been at Borden, but now they’re sharing host sites,” Meeks said. “It’s definitely really good competition when you get to that level and definitely exciting. It’s good to represent your base or wing at that level.”
That’s a good opportunity as well for national team coaches to see athletes from across the country to represent Canada on the world military stage.
“It’s essentially the best of all military players in Canada comprising one team to compete internationally. Using basketball as an example, you have the best 12 players getting together and being able to go to places like China, Germany, Brazil (the last three hosts) to be able to compete internationally,” Meeks said.
“It’s an experience these girls and guys do not forget. It’s such a privilege to represent your country and compete with the sport you love.”
One key thing to note, Meeks said, is you don’t have to be an athlete to be involved in military sports.
“So many people think about playing sports and that’s all that comes to mind, but with base teams, even intersection, CISM, all those opportunities to play, there’s also opportunities to coach, to officiate and to be a trainer,” Meeks said.
Interested individuals can get the required certifications to be a coach, trainer or official and have those costs covered. “Not only can they do all those three things at a local level, but they can do that at the international level as well,” Meeks said.
Meeks, who is a civilian employee, recalled being surprised about the sports opportunities in the military when he joined the PSP organization. He certainly wants to promote those opportunities to the broader community and would even like to promote them more in local high schools.
“I just think it’s an amazing opportunity that this is a part of your workday,” Meeks said.