Left to right: Sardis Falcons basketball players Kyler Anglehart, John Tillo and Ethan Buchanan may not have been able to play games during the COVID pandemic, but they benefited from regular workouts in the Sardis secondary gymnasium. (Submitted photo)

Sardis Falcons basketball program continues work during pandemic

Kyle Graves and his players stayed motivated with talk of returning to provincials in 2022

Ryan Shea will be so happy to see COVID-19 go.

The pandemic took away an entire season of basketball for the Grade 10 student, who missed the competitiveness of pickup and high school hoops.

“The rush of getting a big bucket to tie or clinch the game was a feeling that you can’t possibly feel during COVID ball,” the teenager said.

But for Shea and others who took advantage of the opportunity, Sardis secondary basketball coach Kyle Graves did his best to keep them active and engaged in the sport they love. Last October, a group of 15 regulars (in Grades 9-12) hit the court for skills workouts. Some days there were 20-plus players in the Sardis gym.

Early in the pandemic, before case counts started to rise and restrictions were put in place, players were allowed some physical competition within four class cohorts, playing one-on-one or two-versus-two mini-games. When restrictions kicked in, Graves shifted the workouts to individual skills like ball-handling, finishing moves, shooting and fitness development.

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In March,players started training five days a week — three times on the court and twice in the weight room — following training plans devised by former Basketball BC and BC Lions Strength and Conditioning Coach Aaron Chew.

“The best part about our workouts was being able to support and motivate each other,” Shea said. “When I wasn’t really feeling like working out, my teammates pushed me to get in the gym. And when I was in the gym, we brought energy to make each other go harder and get those extra reps that I wouldn’t have gotten without it.”

Josiah Prang, a Grade 9 student-athlete, said the workouts saved him from boredom and motivated him to “get up each morning with a positive mindset.”

“My teammates also motivated me because I always want to be better than them, so I kept coming to practice with the mindset of beating my teammates in everything.” said Prang, who dreams of going to university on a hoops scholarship. “The workouts were very fun, and I loved the chance to get one step closer to have bigger muscles and better skills.”

Graves was proud to get through several months of training with zero COVID cases connected to the basketball program.

“COVID made us realize we had to take it week by week, and we kept stressing how lucky we were to have any type of basketball when many teams and programs weren’t practicing at all,” said Graves, who will re-claim his role as the senior boy’s b-ball coach at Sardis this fall after a seven year absence. “If you had told me early on the amount of time and commitment these players were going to show, I would not have believed it.

“There have been days when I didn’t feel like coaching and being in the gym, but this group of young men kept wanting to work. Throughout all of this, the boys and myself have been motivating each other with a shared goal of returning Sardis basketball to the Langley Events Centre and provincial championships.”

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