WHITE ROCK, B.C. – While multi-sport athletes aren’t unique to White Rock and South Surrey, a recent collaboration between community coaches certainly is. Initiated with support from Peace Arch Hospital Foundation’s Healthy Communities initiative, the Move for Life project brings together local recreation and sport clubs to better integrate and deliver safe, inclusive, and effective physical activity programs for all. 

As part of this innovative collaboration, local sports clubs have had the opportunity to participate in an online sport retention system, aimed at connecting their clubs and helping to reduce the number of scheduling conflicts amongst a variety of sports. Additionally, coaches have been undergoing customized sport education training aimed at increasing support for athletes in sport environments. 

For South Surrey athlete Neil Zhou, the partnership between coaches has made all the difference, allowing him to participate and excel in multiple sports throughout his youth. Originally from Richmond, BC, Neil grew up participating in community sports at a high level. He was involved in soccer, basketball, taekwondo, and swimming. Early on, each sport commitment remained small, but as the years went on, the overall workload and scheduling became daunting. 

From an early age, Neil’s parents encouraged him to experiment with different sports. They felt it was important to try many things early on, and always looked for solutions to support the logistics of their son’s growing level of passion and skill. 

“I wanted to be the best in all sports, and to be consistent in my efforts,” Neil Zhou says. Juggling specialty sports training sessions and competition schedules was becoming increasingly challenging. That is, until positive change was affected upstream by coaches who participated in the Move for Life partnership. 

All three sets of Neil’s current coaches are mindful of the demands placed on youth athletes like Neil. “The secret ingredient to supporting a multisport athlete like Neil is the cooperation and understanding developed between all of his coaches,” Neil’s mother says. 

Ben Geary, one of Neil’s swimming coaches on the Pacific Sea Wolves agrees. “It’s physically beneficial to be a multisport athlete, and more importantly, we don’t ever want youth like him to lose their love of sport due to scheduling conflicts.”

“Back in the day, youth — including my own children — were forced to choose between sport commitments,” says Jeff Stasiuk, President of the Pacific Sea Wolves Swim Club. “We’ve come a long way and we are incredibly proud to see local coaches getting together around the same table to discuss the many ways we can all support our talented local athletes who are passionate about engaging in sport.” 

Today, Neil continues to excel in multiple sports. In water polo, he performs at a national level. On his hockey team, he has won provincials and took part in elite invite-only tournaments in Alberta and Quebec. In competitive swimming, he has set national records for relay in the 4×50, 4×100, and 4×200 freestyle events. He’s currently ranked 1st in Canada in the 50m and 100m freestyle. 

Most importantly, Neil’s multisport success has taught him great life skills, resilience, teamwork, gratitude, and a positive can-do attitude. As Neil says, “It’s possible to excel at multiple sports, and have incredible fun while doing it. I always want to do more than one sport!”

With passion for participation and collaboration between all coaches making it all possible, he’s bound to achieve great things.