A group of former elite basketball players have initiated a Sports Excellence Basketball Class, at Parkland School, with the hope of accelerating player progress, through extra coaching. The class takes place three-times-a-week, for players in the Junior and Senior boys and girls teams.
Parkland, home of the Panthers, once produced national-level players before its basketball program declined to where it was difficult to field a team. Recently, the school has steadily become more competitive, producing Uvic Vikes stand-out Kristy Gallagher.
Head coach of the class, Tara Beaucamp, was once the first female to play in a boys’ league, in a decision that went all the way to the Supreme Court and, as a teenager, once scored 56 points in a game. In a storied career, she represented Canada at the World Championships, was the Canada West Player of the Year and a three time All-Star.
The other basketball coaches at the school are former Vikes national champions Aaron Buckham and Lucky Walia, who are now the vice-principle and chemistry teacher, respectively. Russell Bennett, a Parkland graduate, and 30-year coaching veteran Larry Green, make up the rest of the coaching staff.
“By providing the Performance Class, if we can match their fire and drive then we can build for success,” said Buckham. “When you have students with their foot on the line at 7 a.m., you know they really want to be there. We want to honour and feed that fire.”
Parkland is a small school of 560, and 40 of those students have signed up for the 4-credit Sports Excellence class.
“We wanted to take the kids who really want to get better and show them what it’s like as an elite athlete.” said Beaucamp.
The inexperienced Junior Girls team, came second in their first tournament at Claremont School earlier this year, and all teams have recorded strong results in their leagues and tournaments.
Beaucamp has strong links with UVic, as she is married to Vikes head coach Craig Beaucamp and her daughter, Calli, is on the team. Through these connections, current UVic stars have guest-coached on the program and the Senior Boys played in the Vikes’ spring league.
“At first I wasn’t sure, but now I love it, it wakes me up and I pay more attention in class.” said Panthers player, Jon Cowley. Alexis van den Bulk says she values the program as it gives her a greater chance to one day play basketball at university. “I also like how a UVic player coached us, they’re current students so can talk to us about how to balance being an athlete and a student.”
In the competitive environment of education on the Saanich Peninsula, schools look to provide enrichment opportunities for their students. Stelly’s Secondary School offers a wide range of sports and Reynolds Secondary School has a Centre for Soccer Excellence.
Buckham is keen to meet the player’s interest. “We’ve put up banners around our gym for those students, from our little school, who went on to do something at a post-secondary level. Kristy Gallagher’s name is up there. She’s a winner. It’s something to be proud of.”