“I define connection as the energy that exists between people when they feel seen, heard and valued; when they can give and receive without judgement; and when they derive sustenance and strength from the relationship.” – Dr. Brene Brown

From left to right: Hugh and Karen Keane, Donna Best, Sierra Shinn-Best and Ryan Reid, share their personal stories of how they support Raptors 905 players, Kaza Keane and Aaron Best. 

Last Saturday morning Let’s Get Together! in partnership with the Raptors 905 team hosted a parent involvement panel discussion. The Raptors 905 is the G-League affiliate of the Toronto Raptors. Families of two players, Kaza Keane and Aaron Best, sat on the panel sharing their journey of raising young professional athletes and offering advice to parents of inspiring athletes.

Services for parent support is a need in our community that has been identified by Alison Canning and her team from Let’s Get Together! Parents face ongoing pressures that can be a difficult path to navigate. Although there are a multitude of parenting blogs and magazines, creating human connections and finding ways to relate to one another allows parents to know they are not alone in their experience.

Today’s modern Toronto family looks much different than it did fifty years ago. We are seeing an increase in mixed-race, same-sex, blended, and even single parent families. According to a 2011 study, single parents head one in every five families. As well it was found that in 2016 almost a quarter are lone-parent households (88.5% of these are a female alone family) (Statistics Canada, 2016). Many parents have expressed that they struggle to connect with their family due to increased demands and expectations. As the work force modernizes with both parents working, there is less time to connect with their children. Parents also tend to have less family support as they no longer live within 5km of their extended family to share the responsibilities of raising a child. This is shown in the most recent census where only 3.7% of households in Toronto are a multi-generational household. (Statistics Canada, 2016)

Children are more stressed and are burning out faster than ever due to high expectations from school and extracurricular activities. This can intensify from distractions like video games, television, and social media. Children and parents are both experiencing high levels of stress that can take away from spending time with another thus leading to relationships that lack trust and understanding.

This disconnect between families is stressful and leads to difficult emotions. Youth have higher rates of anxiety, depression and suicidal thoughts than in prior generations. However, we do know that sports and play are a natural and healthy tool to combat many of these emotions. Playing through sports allows for human connection, it teaches youth social and problem-solving skills and encourages a more active lifestyle. Although it does take time out of an already busy schedule our parents know how important it is in their child’s development. As stated by UNICEF:

“Throughout the life of a child, sport and play can be valuable tools to promote health and prevent disease, both through sport itself, and through the participatory act of watching others play, with the associated communication, education and social interaction that games can produce.” (UNICEF, 2014)

Together with the Raptors 905 team and the parents of the players, a panel was created to give new parents support in the navigation of raising their young athletes. The intention of the panel was to enable parents to build connections with another to know they are not alone in their experiences. Throughout the conversation key messages included ‘Just show up’, ‘Build your tribe’, ‘Don’t get caught up in the bright light’ and ‘Family is everything’. Overall the common theme was the importance of family connection or building community with those around you. In addition, it was expressed how valuable it is to be present with your child both on and off the court to build a healthy relationship. The Raptors 905 parents shared and suggested some helpful routines that can propel a parents’ good intentions into practice. These suggestions included: home cooked meals, hosting study groups, holding therapy breakfasts and opening a family group chat.

Watching the panel discussion, the audience nodded their heads, resonating with the experiences that the Raptors 905 parents shared. There were emotional conversations of how to raise children as a single parent and the importance of building community beyond family relations. This discussion provided an incredible opportunity to build human connection for parents across the GTA and left many filled with gratitude and inspiration.

Moving forward, Let’s Get Together! will be partnering once again with the Raptors 905 team on March 10th for an event discussing a growth mindset. This presentation will provide powerful and inspirational messages from Raptors 905 players Aaron Best, Kaza Keane, Shevon Thompson and Kennedy Meeks on how they have developed resiliency and focus.

Visit our website at communitylearninghub.org for more information.
We hope to see your family there!


Photos/videos courtesy of Laura MakEdge Imaging, our volunteers and guests.

Kianna Dewart, B.A, MSc. International Development
Coordinator and Youth Ambassador with Let’s Get Together!
Email: kianna@letsgettogether.ca

Feel free to connect if you have any questions!