Photo by Markus Spiske on Unsplash

Photo by Markus Spiske on Unsplash

COLUMN: COVID-19 has created some challenges for coaches

Pandemic has impacted vital athletic programs

By Ken Herar

With students now having been back in school for the past six weeks, COVID-19 has not only changed learning inside the classroom but also impacted vital athletic programs. Uncertainty still lingers about the future of school sports as we have known them and currently most activities continue to be shut down pending further governmental guidance.

This has created some real challenges for coaches and their programs to find ways to stay connected with players who’ve been away from their school teams since last March. COVID-19 has truly challenged motivation techniques particularly with senior athletes who are being asked to find ways to train and prepare for a season that may never happen.

In speaking with the former 1981 Mission Roadrunners basketball star Bobby Braich, who is currently the senior girls coach at Yale Secondary, Braich said, “I continue to receive many texts and emails from players desperate for solutions to be able to return to the gym. I know some of the girls are feeling anxious, even depressed as they see the year slipping away.”

With the lack of activities and mental stress surrounding a possible season lost, Braich took action this past summer and created a club program which then rented a local private college. He said, “It was the best thing I did for the players I was networking with as it gave them a much-needed outlet.” Braich is adhering to the times and following strict COVID-19 protocol and new interactive procedures as provided by the various sport governing authorities.

“The student/athlete experience and school connection is critical and it just can’t be replaced. If you are in your senior year, there is no tomorrow,” he added.

Flashing back to my previous column published on Feb. 12, which pitted two former rivals in the round of 16 to celebrate the BC High School Basketball’s 75th Anniversary Special Fantasy Draw in 2020.

Abby/Mission being one of the best matchups spanning decades of glory for both teams on the basketball floor faced off with the Abby Senior (1983) BC Champions playing against Mission Senior (1954) in the round of 16.

Experts got together in a room and gave the W to Abby with a 79-64 victory. Having been a Roadrunner and a Panther, I was fine with either team moving forward to the final eight.

This is where it hurts a little – our legendary Abby (83) lost to the Kelowna (2016) team 77/73. As much as I hate to say it, I will have to agree to disagree on this outcome. The Nanaimo (78) defeat the Richmond Colts (88) 84-83 in this year’s final. Two explosive teams with amazing offence and backcourt players. A dream matchup.

The interesting pattern from the past 75 years in BC basketball history is the ‘70s and ‘80s teams performed exceptionally well in the draw. Braich said, “ In my heart of hearts I’m happy for the Nanaimo team as they were from my era and saw them through the eyes of my late brothers Herman and Jim. Although I believe we are producing superior athletes today I am not sure we are producing better basketball players. The previous generation may not have been as athletic, but I think they could be considered more fundamentally sound and cerebral … in other words, the basketball IQ was a bit higher. Remember, we didn’t have a three-point line back then. That likely is why the teams from the 1970s and ‘80s got so much respect.”

Surinder Sarowa, who was a second-team all star in ‘83 shared his thoughts, “High school basketball games in the ‘80s were a community event. Playing in front of packed gyms throughout Abbotsford was amazing. ‘The Pit’ was the place to be if you wanted to see the best team in town and the province in 1983. Coach Bradley and Vandermeulen believed in our team from day one and did a great job in putting a game plan together for the whole season. Our team had big men, shooting guards, speed and defence to stop our opponents.”