Montreal, April 29, 2019 – Some 1,435 young athletes descended upon the Complexe sportif Claude-Robillard this Monday, to start the 36th Défi sportif AlterGo’s school competitions. Among the excited young athletes were fifteen students from École Curé-Antoine-Labelle, who hit the soccer field alongside a group of devoted coaches, including Gabriel Barrette.

A gym teacher at the Laval school for the past 15 years, Gabriel Barrette is pleased to be supporting his students for a 13th year at the Défi sportif AlterGo. Barrette can still remember his first-ever Defi sportif AlterGo, and since then, the springtime competition has become the highlight of the school year at École Curé-Antoine-Labelle. “The Défi sportif AlterGo caps off the year in gym class for us. It provides students with incentive to stay active all year long in class, and also helps promote a healthy lifestyle over the long term,” he explains.

As luck would have it, the teacher discovered both the competition and the school very early on in his career. “I feel privileged! I came to the school by chance, but staying here was definitely my choice,” Barrette notes.

“What’s great about special-needs education is that you can have the same students for a dozen or so years. You get to create links, get to know students – their strengths, where they can improve. There’s a real sense of family in our school, and I personally find that really motivating.”

At the teacher’s first few Défi sportif AlterGo appearances, only École Curé-Antoine-Labelle students with intellectual disabilities participated. Since then however, students with emotional issues and with dysphasia have joined in the fun. Those in action at the Complexe sportif Claude-Robillard this week are representative of the school’s diverse student body. “We’re able to compete in mixed athletic events with the variety of students we have, and it works really well. It’s fantastic that it’s an inclusive competition overall, because it enables youth with different types of special needs to come and participate athletically without judgement.”

At this unique event, the results aren’t tallied, and everyone gets a medal. “The students become closer to each other when they’re participating in sports; it fosters friendships and that creates a really positive atmosphere.”

Whether it be in soccer, baseball, mini-marathon, basketball, hockey, swimming, volleyball, track and field or CrossFit, over a hundred École Curé-Antoine-Labelle students get to experience the thrill of the Défi sportif AlterGo, accompanied by twenty-some teachers and educators.

“It gets bigger and bigger each year! It’s great that other teachers are also interested. It’s a big project, but when you can work on it collectively, with the involvement of everyone as a school-team, it’s possible to make it happen for everyone,” notes Gabriel Barrette.

Passing the torch

Over the past few editions of the Défi sportif AlterGo, École Curé-Antoine-Labelle student Prinzy Des Sources was an enthusiastic participant. This year is a little different though: instead of being on the field, he’s watching and cheering from the sidelines.

Even though his desire to compete on the soccer field remains, this year Des Sources has been given a significant responsibility by his teacher – coach’s assistant. “He’s a strong student and athlete, so we asked him to help out from the sidelines this year with soccer, that way he can pass on his knowledge,” notes Gabriel Barrette.

“I really like helping everyone on my team, and we just won our match, too. I’m super happy, because everyone was assisting each other out on the field. Cheering them on during the match and coaching them makes me quite proud,” states the 17-year-old.

In order to ensure the games go off without a hitch, other older student-athletes also have important jobs to do this week. “They love it – they just love the responsibility of it, and it motivates them to take part in the project overall,” concludes Barrette.

At the École Curé-Antoine-Labelle, the next generation are ready to take the helm!