By MIKE ELLIS
What does a soccer tournament have to do with a sense of community?
The Robbie International Soccer Tournament has been a fixture on the local scene since 1967.
It was established to promote soccer, and to donate proceeds to Cystic Fibrosis Canada. Cystic fibrosis is a genetic disorder, ultimately fatal, that makes breathing and digestion extremely difficult. From $47.52 in that first year, donations are now almost $2-million.
“Sense of community is a feeling that members have of belonging, a feeling that members matter to one another and to the group, and a shared faith that members’ needs will be met through their commitment to be together.” (McMillan, 1976).
The Robbie ticks a lot of “sense of community” boxes.
Membership: a sense of belonging. The volunteer organizers and participants share a passion for soccer. Their participation makes a difference in the soccer community and in the community committed to finding a cure for cystic fibrosis.
Influence: a sense of mattering. Referees, organizers and field convenors have always volunteered. Why? To give back to community and to grow soccer.
Integration and Fulfillment of Needs: Robbie volunteers know that unpaid participation makes for larger donations for CF Canada’s support for research education and treatment. Median lifespan has increased from single digits to mid-50s since the Robbie began.
Shared Emotional Connection: a story and shared experiences forming a long-lasting connection. In this, The Robbie’s history is full.
“I played in The Robbie.” We hear it all the time.
On a cruise ship a passenger saw the Robbie logo on the sunglasses of a youngster and said, “I played in The Robbie”. A van caravan of a team from Tennessee crossed at the Peace Bridge so players could see Niagara Falls. When the CBSA agent heard their visit to Canada was for The Robbie, he waved them through, saying “I played in The Robbie”.
The sense of community for The Robbie is not just local, it’s international.
This years’ tournament runs Canada Day weekend. Local fields in use on June 29 and 30 include the Cherry Beach Soccer Fields and Monarch Park Stadium. On Monday, July 1, Birchmount Stadium will host championship games.
Birchmount Stadium is a strong part of The Robbie’s connection to the community. For years a sign “Birchmount Stadium, Home of The Robbie” hung over the entrance.
A member of the Barenaked Ladies played in The Robbie and knew the sign. The phrase is the last line of their song One Week. When asked their favourite iconic Canadian reference in their music, they tweeted back a photo of the old sign.
A few years back the original sign was lost during renovations. Now, however, there’s a new sign at Birchmount Stadium for all to see.
I welcome everyone to become part of The Robbie community. You can learn more at www.therobbie.ca. You can also share your Robbie stories at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Mike Ellis, Chair of The Robbie International Soccer Tournament, is proud of what The Robbie has done for soccer and cystic fibrosis.