Bert Bowes grade 8 boys competed at the Coach Goulet Provincial Basketball Tournament in Surrey, B.C., this past weekend. Bowes dominated the Zone Championships to earn their way to Provincials but, having never faced any competition from the south, they had no idea what to expect. The result was an unforgettable learning experience for the entire team.
Their first game was a tough start. Seeded last, Bowes was matched against the top seeded team in the province. Odds were stacked even more against them when they discovered that the ball being used at this tournament was smaller than the one they’d been using all season. A smaller ball forced the boys to adjust their shots and was an Achilles heel throughout the competition. The No. 1 ranked team came out hard and fast and it was a blow out. The loss put Bowes in the B side of the tournament. The boys were not prepared for the speed and athleticism and had a lot of mental recovery to deal with after the game.
The second game brought them up against the 9th seeded team. Bowes was more prepared for the intensity but they struggled to make buckets and ended up losing by 19 points. Bowes faced the 12th seeded team for their third game. The boys came out strong and took an early lead. They worked hard but ultimately ended up losing by 7. The team lost their last game on Saturday morning.
My thoughts as a coach: If the tournament was only about winning and losing, then it was a waste. But this tournament was so much more than that. It was humbling. It was inspiring. It was a learning experience. It was an opportunity to grow.
We beat every grade 8 team we ever played before this. We were the best grade 8 team from Vanderhoof all the way to the Yukon border. A good slice of humble pie is healthy now and then. It puts things into perspective. Sure, relative to our situation and what we’d faced, we were an excellent team. But put us in a different pond and suddenly we became small fish. That’s okay. It’s a reality check and everyone needs that now and then.
What we did see was what grade 8 boys are capable of. We thought we were good and then we saw what they could do and realized how much better we could be. Every single player on my team came back from this tournament hungry to get into the gym to work on their game. They have something to aspire to. Something to work for. And that will only make them better players in the long run.
The boys had to adapt on the fly. They came into each game better prepared than they were for the game before it. This experience forced them to do things they’d never done. They had to learn and grow in the moment. This is the kind of real life training we all need! How often does life throw us curve balls where we end up in situations we’re unprepared for that don’t go as we expect? All the time. The boys were beaten and could have chosen to give up. Honestly, it was a battle not to give up. But ultimately they pushed through as a team, they played as hard as they could and did not give up till the final buzzer rang. That life lesson was one that will stick with these kids forever.
Giving our boys this experience in grade 8 has set them up for success in the future. The next time they earn a spot at Provincials, they won’t be going in blind, they’ll know what to expect. And now, they have four more years to work on their game to be ready for it. The life lessons, growth, and inspiration from this are what sports should be about at every level. Yes, the financial cost for a team trip to Surrey is a lot. Next to us, the furthest teams away from the tournament were from Kamloops and Vancouver Island. But I strongly believe our northern kids deserve these opportunities just as much as any other kid in B.C. I am deeply thankful to our amazing community for rallying behind us. For now, having our Bowes boys be one of the top 16 grade 8 teams out of over 250 schools in the province is a distinction we can all be proud of.
A massive thank you to the amazing businesses and individuals who sponsored and supported our team!