LANGLEY — Canada’s first-ever national girls club basketball championships will tip-off in about six weeks time, right here in B.C.
The Langley Events Centre will play host to the inaugural National Club Basketball Championships from Aug. 4-7, an event which its organizers hope begins a swell numbers at the grass-roots level for a sport which is losing so many of its best athletes to other more seasonally-organized club sports like volleyball and field lacrosse.
“We did the numbers, and there are 900 club volleyball teams that play in this country,” begins Anthony Beyrouti, one of the event’s organizers, of a rival sport which has grown ever-increasing mass participation throughout its highly structured club system.
“In this country, we send one team from each province to a national championship, and I stress here that Canada Basketball does an excellent with that,” Beyrouti continued. “But what happens to the thousands of other kids that are playing? We hope this will help grow the game across the country, because kids are picking other sports before they get to us.”
The four-day event will likely feature somewhere in the neighbourhood of 50 teams spread across U-13, U-15 and U-17 age divisions, and Beyrouti assumes about half of that number will be club teams from across B.C.
Although every province won’t be represented this year, the debut event has sparked enough late interest that its return to the LEC in 2018 is expected to come as a much deeper event, one which will also add a boys division.
The addition of a national club championship to go along with traditional provincial high school championships is essential, says another of the NCBC’s organizers, because it will give young athletes and their families a much more defined season of play.
“We had a meeting for all of the clubs the other day and I asked them ‘What do you consider the start of our season?’” relates longtime coach Paul Langford. “We had 12 clubs there and I got nine different answers.
“Look across the country and we’re not like any other sport,” he continues. “Softball, volleyball, hockey… you know when the season starts and when it ends. What we’re trying to do is make a calendar and start it with a national championship and then build around it.”
How does Langford know that the best athletes are choosing other sports?
“We have 10 girls in Grade 10 at Riverside that are all on the B.C. provincial lacrosse team for their age group,” begins Langford of the Port Coquitlam high school at which he has coached the senior varsity girls basketball teams for years. “They are the best athletes at our school but they haven’t played basketball. So we’re hoping this helps to change the climate.”
Beyrouti, the girls coach at North Vancouver’s Argyle Secondary, was thrilled to have the tournament played at the LEC, which is already the hub for provincial high school basketball and volleyball championships.
“Jason Winslade and the entire staff at the LEC have been so supportive and great to work with,” he said.
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