Basketball battle brewing as program gets postponed

A Basketball BC program that was set to arrive in Chilliwack this fall has been put on hold by the school board.

The Basketball BC program that was due to arrive at GW Graham middle-secondary school this fall has been put on hold.

Killed, if you talk to some people.

Postponed if you talk to others.

“It is with great sadness and disappointment that I announce that the Basketball BC School District program that was supposed to begin in September has been postponed/suspended due to a small group of people in the community pushing for it not to take place,” GWG athletic director Jake Mouritzen wrote in an email Friday morning. “These people took their thoughts and beliefs to the school trustees and school board and have had the program suspended before it could begin.”

Mouritzen’s email was confirmed by Chilliwack School District assistant superintendent Rohan Arul-pragasam later that day.

“First and foremost this is a great program that will benefit all students,” he wrote. “We have reflected on the implementation plan and timelines and feel it is best to take some additional time to consult and collaborate with all middle and secondary schools regarding all aspects of the program, and to build a business plan prior to formalizing the program in Chilliwack. In the meantime the implementation plans regarding the program are on hold.”

Mouritzen was under the impression that the program had been fully green-lighted in early May after the school district’s senior administration looked at it in an information session.

However, Arul-pragasam says that wasn’t the case.

As far as he’s concerned the program isn’t suspended because there’s nothing to suspend. It’s still in the planning phase.

“It was not presented at a school board meeting, and I think that’s where a lot of the confusion has come from,” he said. “Generally what happens with a program like this is that senior administration, review the program information and provide feedback regarding next steps. The next logical step is to consult and collaborating with all middle and secondary schools regarding all aspects of the program to build a plan prior to formalizing the program such that all students in the district can benefit.”

With wires apparently crossed, a public information meeting/forum was held at the school May 20 and a skills evaluation session was scheduled for early June. The program was billed as one that would be available to players district-wide.

“We really believed that we had worked hard with Basketball BC to provide an excellent opportunity for all student athletes across the district that were interested in continuing to pursue their dreams in basketball,” Mouritzen said. “We believed we were going to be able to provide an elite unique learning opportunity that could have benefited every school in the district.”

There are two sides to this.

There’s the sports side, with opponents saying this program could benefit GW Graham’s basketball program to the detriment of all others in Chilliwack.

The other issue is how the program was presented. As it looks now, it still had some bureaucratic hurdles to clear before being rolled out.

Chilliwack secondary school senior boys basketball coach Joe Mauro voiced concerns on the sports side. The idea that the program would be available to students district-wide was the big one.

In theory it sounds great.

Chilliwack basketball players gather at GWG for early-morning practices before heading back to their own schools.

Mauro doesn’t think that’s grounded in reality.

“Parents are in a chaotic state as it is, getting kids where they need to be and then getting to work,” he elaborated. “They’re going to do this for a month or two, they’re going to look at this and say, ‘This is crazy. My life is upside down. I have enough problems getting my kids to their own school.’ Are you going to stop parents if they decide they’re just going to stay and enroll their kid at GW Graham? We have open boundaries with our middle and high schools, and who are you to tell me I can’t send my kid wherever I want?”

There’s validity to that argument, even if it is speculative.

Mauro’s second point is more concrete.

“Why weren’t we consulted? Why weren’t we told? That’s where it got sticky because we felt like we were never talked to,” he said of the lack of communication. “It was basically, ‘This is what we’re doing. We’re going to take, hopefully, a couple kids from your school, a couple kids from AD Rundle and all the middle schools and we’re going to develop ball-players.’ Well that’s like a slap in the face for us. There’s a process that should have happened and didn’t.”

Chilliwack secondary school senior girls coach Joe Ogmundson said he didn’t hear a word about the program until it was announced, and agreed that a little communication could have gone a long way.

“If our friends at GW Graham want to work a little bit harder and do a little bit more, I commend them for it,” Ogmundson said. “But if this were really clearly thought out, we would take a nice central school like AD Rundle, which needs something, and pour the basketball program into it. Put it into Grades 7-9, take the (course) credits away from it and let the kids focus on the skill development. I’m sure we’d end up with a huge advantage like they do in North Vancouver. They have their academies in Grades 7-9 and it’s paying off in huge dividends.”

Ogmundson is less concerned about the recruitment issue, although he can see his school losing talent long term.

“After 10 days those kids are going to be saying, ‘I’m tired mom. Can’t I just go to school here?’” he noted. “That’s why it makes more sense to get behind something that’s centrally located.”

Still, he considers that a drop in the bucket compared to what’s already going on.

Ogmundson says french immersion alone takes 25-30 students away from his school every year.

“The systematic recruiting that’s already taking place in our district to pour scholarship and leadership and band and active, athletic kids into Sardis secondary school at a rate of 100 kids a year — we’re competing with that already,” he said. “The one worry I have is when someone’s trying to get a decided advantage, because once you start coalescing all the best players onto one team, everyone else quits, and soon you’re a big fish in a really small pond.”

 

See Friday’s paper for a follow-up article, including parent reaction.

Also, join the conversation online at theprogress.com

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