A Westview Academy student works on their dribbling. (Special to The News)

Westview Basketball Academy plays on during COVID

Despite not being able to play games, Maple Ridge HS players are keeping skills sharp

Despite the cancellation of official high school sports this year, student-athletes in the Westview Basketball Academy have ‘pivoted’ and continue to train and work together, despite the challenges of the global pandemic.

In the new quarter system put in place during this year, the Advanced Basketball Academy class has moved outside the timetable.

Every morning at 7:15 a.m., basketballs can be heard bouncing at the Westview gym, as it comes alive with activity.

Forty boys and girls in Grades 8-12 have committed to the Basketball Academy, and continue to train and develop their skills, despite there being little chance of official teams or games this year.

Kate MacLeod, director of the academy. said she was “pleasantly surprised.”

“I thought that moving outside the timetable to classes in the mornings would impact our numbers, but the student-athletes have demonstrated great commitment and dedication, and they come to work every morning.”

READ MORE: Maple Ridge exchange student playing pro basketball in Germany

In the past couple of years, the Basketball Academy has become a destination for many international student-athletes from all over the world. With travel restrictions this year, attendance is made up of mostly Westview students – though there has been a great deal of interest from students at other local high schools, who are looking for opportunities to be on the court.

The Basketball Academy is not a cohort, so the class is being delivered with strict health-and-safety protocols in place. The Return to Sport Phase 2 Guidelines are followed, which means student-athletes maintain physical distance, and there is no sharing of equipment. All coaches, and many student-athletes, wear masks during training.

“Each student-athlete has their own basketball, their own tennis ball, and their own space on the floor,” MacLeod explained. “At first, it was different and a little challenging, but we appreciate the opportunity to be in the gym, so we adjusted quickly to doing what we’re able to do.”

On court sessions are focused on building foundational athletic movements and developing individual basketball skills. Student-athletes have worked at building ambidexterity in skills, such as ball control, dribbling, passing, finishing and shooting.

Creative ways to compete provide challenge, and a variety of shooting games make it fun.

Yota Kimura, a Grade 11 student-athlete in his third year at Westview said it has been a good opportunity to develop skills. “We can increase our basketball knowledge as well, so we will be ready when we are able to play games again,” he added.

Off the court, weekly Zoom meetings keep student-athletes from all over the world connected, as alumni and former international students check in with this year’s student-athletes.

Hooper Zooms feature guest speakers, including alumni, SD42 staff, and college and university players and coaches, who share valuable wisdom, experiences and stories with the current student-athletes.

Trainer and WSS alumni Hank Wang recently discussed the importance of attitude in building resiliency, SD42 teacher Carissa Keenan-Stevens encouraged the athletes to focus on gratitude, and Trinity Western Men’s Basketball Coach Trevor Pridie shared his experiences with the Toronto Raptors Summer League team.

“The Basketball Academy continues to grow and thrive in these challenging times for education and sports, because it is more than a class; it is a community that offers a sense of belonging and connectedness in a time when all of us, and students especially, need just that,” said MacLeod.

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Gains in the weight room equal gains on the court for Westview Basketball Academy athletes. (Special to The News)

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