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A team of grade 7 girls in yellow jerseys hoist a trophy while standing excitedly on a volleyball court.
  • Athletics
  • Junior School
Michael Payne, Director of Athletics, Wentworth (Bridge, Winter 2024 Edition)

Upon my return to Wentworth in 2018 after a 15-year hiatus, what immediately struck me was the disparity in athletic opportunities between the girls’ and boys’ programs. While the boys’ soccer and basketball teams regularly attended national tournaments across Canada, the girls’ program lacked the opportunity for similar experiences. Tournaments are an amazing experience for our student-athletes that provides them with a unique opportunity to bond and grow as teams while competing for Collingwood School. Recognizing the challenges of initiating something entirely new, we set out with the objective of providing our girls’ program with a comparable experience to the boys’, even if it initially fell short of a national tournament.

We started with a basketball trip to Whistler, which eventually led to a volleyball excursion to California. Then, just as we were gaining momentum, the onset of COVID-19 restrictions disrupted everything, including the boys’ program. As we emerged from the pandemic, we prioritized reinstating these experiences, even though the boys’ CAIS tournaments hadn’t yet resumed. This presented an excellent opportunity to send both girls and boys on an athletic trip, emphasizing the importance of such experiences for our students, especially considering the missed opportunities during the pandemic. In 2022, Lower Canada College graciously offered to host us, organizing two mini-tournaments. The boys’ soccer team and girls’ volleyball team journeyed to Montreal, immersing themselves in the city’s culture and soaking up the spirit of athletic competition.

With things moving in a positive direction and the impending resumption of CAIS tournaments, it was the right time to set a plan in motion that would establish a U-13 girls’ tournament that rivals the boys’ experience at CAIS tournaments. Identifying the right sport was challenging due to the misalignment of athletic seasons across provinces. Despite these challenges, we decided to create a volleyball tournament, starting modestly with hopes of gradual growth over time. Leveraging our network at other independent schools, we were able to secure participation from eight schools this year, with others expressing keen interest in future tournaments. Representing both British Columbia and Ontario, the participating schools were Collingwood School, Saint John’s School, West Point Grey Academy, Meadowridge, York House School, Stratford Hall, Aberdeen Hall and Ashbury College.

“It was so special. The whole weekend. Just seeing the girls come together the way that they did and experience the kind of success that they had in that environment. It doesn’t happen very often at the Gr. 7 level. Everybody just felt so fulfilled. It was like a movie. They were crying. I was crying.”

Samantha Tone, Wentworth PHE
Teacher, Volleyball Coach

As a bonus, Collingwood’s Gr. 7 girls’ volleyball team actually won the tournament. In front of a sold-out lower bowl of about 200 people, our student-athletes demonstrated their school pride and positive team culture in the finals with a hard-fought victory over West Point Grey Academy. Our vision for this tournament is to expand its scope, potentially rotating to other schools across the country each year. We believe it will serve as a platform for schools to showcase themselves and will continue to provide our student-athletes with valuable experiences that are not otherwise possible at this level of competition. We look forward to hosting the U-13 Girls’ Canadian Invitational Volleyball Tournament again next year, with the anticipation that another school will take the reins in the third year.

“Over the past few years, we have been very deliberate about developing the Wentworth volleyball program. We have been offering development camps in the spring and promoting club volleyball opportunities in the off-season. The new Canadian Invitational Volleyball Tournament is another opportunity to highlight girls’ volleyball at Wentworth and promote volleyball at our School. As a coach, it is wonderful to see the team cohesion and competitive spirit that arises from a tournament. It is also a powerful experience to play in front of the school community and let the athletes feel the support and energy of the crowd.”

Lisa Humphries, Wentworth Inclusive
Education Teacher, Volleyball Coach

A team of grade 7 girls in yellow jerseys hoist a trophy while standing excitedly on a volleyball court.


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