Pakmen Volleyball Camp is once again a full go

  • May 31, 2023


A game-changing idea can originate anywhere, anytime…from a boardroom to a classroom.

Such a plan, conceived by a Grade 8 student at David Leeder Middle School a couple decades ago, has been paying enormous dividends for the Pakmen Volleyball Club ever since.

David Leeder Middle SchoolWith the help of his fellow classmates, that initial project by Grade 8 student Sid Sawant has germinated into the largest and most successful summer volleyball camp in Canada.

Always one to challenge his young entrepreneurs, (now retired) teacher Kelly Smith invited his students to find a way to get the Peel District School Board to offer the use of its gymnasiums at an affordable rate during the summer of 2003 to usher in a camp for youngsters.

Sawant decided to shine a light on the Pakmen Volleyball Club’s diversity by presenting a collage of contrasting pictures.

“Honestly, I have a hard time recalling exactly how it started, but I do remember Mr. Smith approaching me with a project that he needed help on which was going to make some serious changes in the volleyball community,” recalled Sawant, who was 13 at the time and a member of the two-year-old Pakmen club. “I frequently worked on special projects, and at the time I didn’t know the magnitude of what we were about to do.

“The section of the presentation I remember being tasked with was gathering and creating the collage of photographs of all of the other teams in the (Ontario Volleyball Association), with our photo being the centre point. It showed we were the only truly multicultural team at the time.”

“I was a big believer in giving students real life problems to solve, incorporating the skills they were learning in class,” said Smith. “Students were involved, critiquing the website, researching, and writing articles (website content), even producing ‘how to videos’. I wanted to ‘prove’ Pakmen was the only multicultural club in Ontario and Sid came up with the idea of simply printing our team photos and then the team photos of the other clubs as well as the team photos of the men’s college and university teams.”

“At the time, I didn’t really understand the magnitude of the work,” said Sawant. “Looking back, it is extremely rewarding to be a part of the turning point for the Peel Region and volleyball community. To see a variety of POC (persons of color) players enter and excel in the league is such a humbling moment. I wasn’t really surprised that the reception was so positive because it was such a necessary step, I’m very glad that Mr. Smith asked me to be a part of it.”

The presentation was such a hit with Peel District School Board director Jim Grieve that the club was given a financial donation to get the camp off the ground.

“Mr. Grieve, was so impressed with the diversity of the club he helped us make it a reality,” said Smith.

Not only were the Pakmen able to teach the sport to youngsters, the club was also able to hire Pakmen players as coaches to help them pay their club fees.

“At the time, we were the only multi-cultural team or club in Ontario and almost all the players were Peel District School Board students.

“The camps started with the David Leeder location only (in the first year) and it was about half full the first summer,” recalled Smith. “The next summer we added beach volleyball courts outside and it took off — selling out each week the entire summer. The following summer we also rented out the adjacent  Meadowvale Village P.S.  Then, we expanded to Thomas Street M.S. and built beach volleyball courts there as well. Then we expanded once again to Canlan Sportsplex. Then to Erin Centre M.S. and finally Aylesbury P.S. in Brampton.

“We were pleased, but not surprised, with how fast the program grew, because the kids had so much fun and it is affordable. Most kids signed up for multiple weeks and those kids who only signed up for one week, ended up signing up for another week that summer. What made it especially appealing was how quickly each player improved.

“You may play a total of six to 10 hours of volleyball in gym class in an entire year,” explained Smith. “At volleyball camp you play 30 plus hours, an equivilant of three years of play in school. Even if you sign up for just one week, you will be a player at the end of the camp. I can’t tell you how many of our rep players came straight from Summer Volleyball Camp into rep for the first time.”

Unfortunately, the camp was brought to a sudden halt when the world was introduced to Covid in 2019 and everything shut down, including the camps.

But this summer, Smith is happy to announce, the camp will open in a number of Peel schools again.

“We just received word from the Peel District School Board that for the first time since Covid, they are reopening schools this summer so we can re-introduce our Summer Volleyball Camp.”

With camps a full go again, Smith wants to reiterate how grateful he is to Grieve and the school board for opening its doors to the Pakmen so many years ago.

“There have been a lot of changes at the board and I feel the higher ups don’t even know this story,” said Smith. “We’d like to remind them that Pakmen will forever owe the PDSB a debt of gratitude for being willing to go above and beyond to make it all happen.”

The Summer Volleyball Camp is open to boys and girls in Grades 3 to 9 (Born 2014 to 2008). Players of all skill levels are welcome to sign up for the camp with no previous experience required.

Smith explains on the club’s website that, “Volleyball is a great non-contact team sport that encourages kids to make friends, develop skills, problem solve and enhance their physical literacy. Our programs will give your child the skills and confidence to enjoy volleyball for life.

“Pakmen’s volleyball camp is designed with the aim of developing volleyball skills, promoting fitness, and most importantly, having fun playing alongside children their own age and skill level!

“Our Summer camp is filled with top-notch coaches who have a passion for teaching the game of volleyball! All of our coaches have years of experience being involved with our summer camps.”

Parents can choose to register their children for a one-week full day camp from 9 a.m.-5 p.m. for $250, or a one week half-day camp from $160.

The camp runs Monday to Friday — every week throughout the summer.

“The players spend the majority of the day indoors but everyone gets to go outside and play beach volleyball for about one to one-and-a-half hours each day,” said Smith. “If it’s too hot, or raining all day, we stay inside, but we are usually able to go outside every day.”

A typical day at the camp begins with morning sessions dedicated to learning two different volleyball skills through drills to enhance what they’ve learned. There will also be modified game play based on the skills taught that day.

After the lunch break the time will be dedicated to tournament play, with coaches organizing teams within the groups.

The second half of the day for full-day campers will be dedicated to non-volleyball activities varying throughout the week both indoors and outdoors.

The final portion of the day will be specifically for volleyball. Coaches will start with modified games to warm up the campers, which will lead to eventual tournament/game play.

“The Pakmen volleyball camp was so much more than just a summer program or something we did after school,” says Sawant, who was on the first-ever Pakmen team. “It was a community that was built which to this day, I continue to connect with players on my team.”

After graduating from David Leeder Sawant attended Cawthra Park SS, York University and Humber College where he graduated with a Bachelor of Applied ArtsActing For Film and Television.

Sawant currently has a contact creation studio in Mississauga named onUP productions developing marketing assets for luxury brands and developers. He also works with a food tech start-up named Tre’dish as the Director of Content.