Back in February, the kids on the Cooper Koo YMCA’s basketball team were hard at work soliciting votes for the Ford Drills & Skills competition. Months later, their dedication finally paid off when they won the grand prize: a visit to the Air Canada Centre, where they’d have the rare opportunity to train like professional basketball players. Our winners spent the day participating in fitness, conditioning, nutrition, and skill-building sessions. They even got the chance to meet and speak with the Raptors Assistant Coach Rex Kalamian.
Amelia, one of the lucky winners, has been playing basketball at the Y for about a year now, and was very excited to visit the ACC. “It was the greatest experience of my life,” she exclaimed, adding that her favourite part of the day was “playing on the actual Raptors court. We got an amazing goodie bag and a new Raptors Jersey, and the assistant coach spoke with us.”
No one could have appreciated the prize more. Amelia loves watching the Raptors play, and her dad’s taken her to a game before. “My favourite Raptor is Jonas Valanciunas,” she said. “I have a t-shirt with his name on it — and he’s super tall, like me!” Amelia’s height is one of the things that make basketball fun for her: “I like playing because I’m tall, and that makes it really fun to shoot hoops.” It also gives her a competitive edge: “When I get the ball, I just keep it up high, so no one can get it!”
Amelia’s learned a lot in just one year. “I used to know nothing about basketball,” she said, “but now I’m really good!” Her instructors at the Y taught her how to do layups and jump shots, and helped her refine her dribbling technique. But Amelia’s favourite part of her lessons “is at the end, when we get to play a game against each other.” She also loves that she’s had a chance to make some new friends — in fact, she says other kids should join the team because “it’s really, really fun, and there are water breaks, so you can have a pause and hang out with me! Basketball rocks.”
Amelia and her basketball team were awarded the grand prize in recognition of their commitment to their communities. They’ve participated in neighbourhood clean-ups and food and supply drives for local shelters. The team has also fostered a safe, positive atmosphere through their acts of leadership and good citizenship. Finally, they’ve been involved in sponsoring and supporting Syrian refugee families as they settle in Canada. They’re proud to play together as a team every week, and excited to keep giving back to their community!