By Kirk Starratt
They’ve all witnessed or experienced it, and enough is enough when it comes to bullying. That message rang loud as clear as a local girls basketball team donned pink socks and uniforms to stand up against bullying by hosting the first Kentville Bantam Wildcats Anti-Bullying Basketball Tournament Nov. 24 and 25.
The six-team tournament at Evangeline Middle School was already arranged about three weeks ago when coach Russ Payne and his daughter, 14-year-old assistant coach Emily Payne, were driving in the car. They heard on the radio about the tragic loss of 15-year-old Amanda Todd of Port Coquitlam, British Columbia. She took her own life, the result of being victimized by incessant bullying.
The Wildcats have hosted Christmas basketball tournaments in the past, but not with a theme. Payne said he wanted to do something to honour Todd’s memory and Emily suggested an anti-bullying theme for their upcoming event.
“I haven’t seen it a lot, but everyone has been bullied to a certain degree,” Emily said.
She said anti-bullying hasn’t been used as the theme of any of the tournaments they’ve attended to date and thought it would be a good idea to help raise awareness around the issue.
Morgan Lutz, a Wildcats team captain, said they want to show support for people who have been bullied and help those who have been in that situation. It’s a reminder that “a lot of people go through stuff like this,” she said.
“I hope people leave thinking they’re going to make a change to help others stand up,” Lutz said.
Payne pointed out that kids growing up in his generation had schoolyard bullies, but now, there’s a whole new realm for young people to contend with: cyber bullying. The evolution of the Internet and social media has presented an entirely new forum for bullies.
“People can hide behind a computer and say a lot of stuff they’d probably not say to your face,” Emily added.
Lutz said she has noticed cyber bullying becoming a lot more common.
“I think some young people are using it (the Internet and social media) to bully people,” she said.
Students at Central Kings inspired a pink anti-bullying movement a few years ago and the Wildcats want to help carry it on. In preparation for the tournament, the girls dyed their socks pink. They already had some pink attire on hand, uniforms from a couple years ago they now have very good reason to wear.
The other teams were invited to also wear pink socks and each team made an anti-bullying poster to display along with their welcoming poster in the gym.