Return of Kappa Classic from Covid break deemed a success
In some activities, events and quarters it is only rumoured cliché that “absence makes the heart grow fonder”. However this year’s Kappa Classic held at the National Sports Centre again gave fact to the expression.
After a 2½-year hiatus because of the Covid-19 pandemic, the youth football extravaganza returned as a preseason spectacular, rather than in its normal position as an end-of-season, crowning event — hosting fewer teams, but harbouring no less enthusiasm and enjoyment for those involved.
Excitably relieved to have been able to help in having Kappa Alpha Psi engage the community service component of its mandate, chairman Ray Jones noted this year’s production as slightly different in its manner and time of delivery, but just as true to the original intent at its conception, despite Covid-influenced alterations.
“As we know, the whole world woke up to find out that we had Covid, which caused many things to change, including Kappa,” said Jones, who has long worked with youth in various football coaching capacities. “So there’s been two years that we were unable to host the event, but now that we’ve been told that Covid is something we have to learn to live with, we’re happy to be able to have it once again, be able to deliver what we promised in 2020 to the sponsors and have it as a preseason event, as opposed to the end-of-season event it usually is.
“For the clubs that were ready to go, this was an opportunity. I wouldn’t say that it’s been easy, but it is a labour of love for us and the smile on the kids’ faces is the paycheque and reward for us.”
He added: “We’ve had some issues, but once we got started it was beautiful. The young people have demonstrated good character and sportsmanship. For the most part, everybody — the parents and children — have expressed their appreciation of Kappa being back.
“It’s a calendar event that people have grown to expect year over year and we’re thankful that we can again provide it.”
Saturday saw most of the preliminary matches take place, with several finals the feature of Sunday’s action.
“We’ve had as much as 168 teams registered previously, which translates to 1,300 kids and each year we try to push the envelope a little further, so that more can share in the positive experience others have,” Jones added. “This year we had 50 teams, so we’re hoping to raise or even surpass the numbers we’ve had before.”
There is also likely to be a greater level of female involvement in the future, as organisers look to continue to promote the product’s growth.
“The BFA is really growing the girls game, so we’re looking to give greater access to them and have the girls added to the product, have more players overall exposed to the event and possibly even make it a four-day tournament — Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday,” Jones said.
Negotiating a changed landscape and pivoting into a new concept as a preseason event versus end of season did not come without its challenges, according to Jones, who confirmed Kappa will be back next spring.
“From the outside looking in, people don’t see the logistical issues, just the end product and parents can be impatient and from this express frustration,” he added. ”But, to your point, the kids just want to play, and if all the things are in place, then let them play and receive the enjoyment and growth factors that come with being a part of what we regard as a positive outlet and platform for them to engage in.
“But let me be clear, while 2022 is presented as a preseason event, 2023 will see Kappa once again return as an end-of-season event and we’re working with the BFA to see what their end dates are and then we will announce the details of the 2023 event at the end of the season. We try to work with the BFA to avoid any clashing with what they’re trying to do for the sport in Bermuda.”
Still, the Classic was said to be not merely about football, but the positive attributes and skills useful to laid growth sport often provides.
“What’s most satisfying for me is being able to expose our young people to a positive, competitive environment because we don’t tolerate antisocial behaviour or when parents overstep their boundaries,” Jones said. “We would stop a match and ask the coach to go and manage his parents or, if not, forfeit the match.
“Still, even as we provide a positive, family event, it’s competitive and we don’t believe competition at their age takes away from our kids, but teaches them how it’s going to be in many areas of life.
“At the end there will be a winner and a loser, but both can offer takeaway effects that help to build character and highlight some of life’s characteristics that will be encountered as one grows up.
“To be able to have a tournament that at the end of the day produces a champion, yet makes for a win-win situation, that’s the joy and satisfaction we get.
“One of our mandates is community service, so this ticks that box tremendously. Every year we try to figure out what we can add, how we can improve and grow the product to its peak.”
Similar sentiments were echoed by fellow fraternity member and prominent booster of young people, Freddie Evans, who is the president of the Bermuda National Athletics Association.
“We believe in achievement in every field and endeavour, and to do that you have to inspire young people to do things,” Evans said. “So our intention was to create a community environment, to ensure that there was integrity to the game itself and make sure that the community can come together and see role models doing things for young people, and just have a spirit of camaraderie which is what we do as Kappa brothers.”