KABADDI has really taken off in Enver Creek Secondary, Tamanawis Secondary, L.A. Matheson Secondary and Panorama Ridge Secondary in Surrey.
And it’s all set to spread its excitement to other schools in Surrey after a highly popular and robust season that saw hundreds of students and parents turning up at each game.
In most of the schools involved, there are more spectators at the kabaddi matches than other high school sports, including basketball.
On Tuesday (June 6), in the semi-finals, L.A. Matheson and Tamanawis kabaddi teams will be playing at 2 p.m. at L.A. Matheson; and the teams from Panorama Ridge and Enver Creek will be playing at 3:30 p.m. at Panorama Ridge.
The finals will take place the following day (June 7).
A Tamanawis Secondary raider in the Panorama Ridge Secondary team’s territory.
Mandeep Dhaliwal of Tamanawis Secondary, who coordinated the league matches and coaches, told The VOICE that he looked around for teachers in the Surrey school district who would be willing to run kabaddi at their schools if he got them the support needed for it. Ramen Bedi, Marik Sandhu, and Sarb Atwal told him that if he got them the help, they were ready to do it.
Then he went to the kabaddi community to get coaches and Jessy Sahota, Karn Johal, Dal Aujla and Lakha volunteered. Each high school had a teacher and a community coach that worked with the boys. And as the season progressed, the teachers also learned how to coach.
So next year, the plan is to move the coaches to other schools.
Some of the spectators at a match between Tamanawis Secondary and Panorama Ridge Secondary teams.
The kabaddi teams are made up primarily of senior students, many of whom have a wrestling background. The school teams competed with each other over a period of one month, with the semi-finals and finals scheduled for next week.
All games are played outdoors on sunny days with many modifications from traditional kabaddi for safety. For example, players have to wear mouth guards and knee pads, and tackling and tagging cannot be above the shoulders.
Dhaliwal noted: “One of the pleasures has been the parents who come out to support their kids and are reminded of their youth. It has also been a medium for Indian-born and Canadian-born Punjabi kids to do something together as often they hang around in separate groups. We also have Asian and Caucasian kids playing. To have our game become a fabric of the public school system speaks to the athleticism and skill of the game – if it lacked those, it would not have student participation nor would it have any spectators.”
Dhaliwal added: “We are also excited that we are introducing a part of Punjabi culture to a new group of people. Some of those are Punjabi kids who have seen the game but never played it. Others are non-Punjabi majority schools and non-Punjabi students who are being introduced to a game they have not seen before. Because of the game’s skill and athleticism, it should be seen as a source of great pride to the Punjabi community that our game is being adopted by non-Punjabis.”
Dhaliwal said that they are also looking to expand their referee pool. If anyone with kabaddi experience is interested in a paid referee position and becoming certified, email Mandeep Dhaliwal at Dhaliwal_mandee@surreyschools.ca for more details.