This summer, an exciting sporting event will take place in our very own backyard. Laval will host the 55th Finals of the Jeux du Québec featuring a whopping 3330 athletes from across Quebec. Participants are between the ages of twelve and seventeen, both male and female. They will partake in seventeen different sports, such as soccer, a triathlon, volleyball, archery and much more! To top it all off, Olympic medalist Alexandre Despatie will act as spokesperson. He dubs the event the future of sports here in Quebec.

“The Finals of the Jeux du Québec serve as a portal for today’s youth to discover who they can be,” says Despatie. Sports can bring a host of lessons and gifts. Those who partake not only benefit from physical activity, but can also improve their mental health, learn problem solving skills, cultivate perseverance, and increase their confidence. Team sports are also an opportunity to learn collaboration. These lessons are valuable life skills and don’t only pertain to the world of sports.

At the end of the day, it’s about more than just sports. It’s about activating one’s potential. This is the sentiment behind the Finals of the Jeux du Québec; to help build the leaders of tomorrow. “Sports helped me define who I am today,” says Despatie. “They helped me develop the drive to not only be a better athlete, but also, a better person, son, and boyfriend.” Sports may be a steppingstone that leads to other things.

Despatie participated in the 1993 Jeux du Québec when he was eight years old. He looks back fondly on those memories, and notes that he doesn’t necessarily remember the diving or the final results, but he recalls being part of a team. He distinctly remembers sitting with his teammates on the bus headed to Baie Comeau, playing rock-paper-scissors. The whole experience was pivotal.

Cut to thirty years later, and Despatie finds himself in a new and exciting position. “It’s a great privilege to take on this new role of spokesperson,” he says. “When I participated in the Jeux du Québec, it was such a turning point in my career. Now I have the opportunity to connect with the younger generation.”

Many participants no doubt look to Despatie as a mentor. Not just because he’s the most successful male diver in Canadian history, but because of his perseverance and passion. What message would he like to relay to today’s youth who are about to participate in the 55th Finals of the Jeux du Québec? It’s simple, though it may be challenging to execute. It’s to be attentive and stay in the present moment. It may be easy to get swallowed up by stress, but the key is to connect to joy. It’s important to enjoy the experience as it’s happening.

Despatie also advises to think beyond the results. Sure, being competitive is helpful because it pushes you to be your best, but that’s just one facet. Despatie should know; he’s been in countless competitions and four Olympic Games that felt like pressure cookers. The lesson he learned through these experiences is to put away distractions and simply focus on what you’re training for. Let go of any expectations. The moment you’re able to truly let go and realize that everything will be fine no matter what happens, the magic happens.

Another crucial factor is having a support network. As Despatie looks back on his own career, he's grateful for the unconditional support of his parents. They encouraged him and stood by his side, but never pushed him. Pushing your child may not be the best strategy, as it may backfire. The true motivation needs to come from the child, because after all, it’s their life. Again, it’s about connecting to joy.

Despatie is definitely feeling that joy as he looks forward to this year’s edition. The 55th Finals of the Jeux du Québec will take place July 22nd-30th, in over a dozen different venues across the city of Laval. And since Laval is his hometown, he’s happy to give back to the city, and to the next generation of athletes. Entrance to the various sporting events is free, but to enjoy the full experience of the opening and closing ceremonies at Place Bell, grab your tickets today!