Sheylynn Paziuk (left) and Trinity Morrison of the Morinville Road Runners Mini Girls demonstrate their basketball skills during a practice at Ecole Notre Dame Elementary School. The Road Runners are entering their eighth season in the Edmonton Youth Basketball Association. – Stephen Dafoe Photo
Morinville – The Road Runners are about to launch another season of basketball, this time with more teams and players than ever before. After eight years of operation, the organization boasts more than 100 players and eight teams, all competing in the Edmonton Youth Basketball Association.
Road Runners founder and coach Serge Froment said three teams have been added to the mix this year, two more teams for girls and one for boys. Froment said the league has a maximum of 15 players per team. With 23 girls registered for the Bantam team, it was necessary to make two teams out of the children registered to play. Midget girls has a full compliment of 15 players, marking the first time Froment had to cut players from the team. The club has added a Midget boys team for the first time as well as another first, the addition of a Juvenile girls team for players aged 15 to 17. Froment said the Juvenile team has several Grade 10 players as well as a couple from Grades 11 and 12. Boys and girls teams are also in place at the mini level, players aged nine and 10.
Froment attributes the Road Runners’ longevity and growth to a core group of players and their parents. “To this day that core group is together,” Froment said. “That core group and those parents have provided all the commitment and passion and energy needed for other groups to get excited and follow.”
That level of commitment has allowed the Road Runners to win two straight provincial titles as well as the City championships for two years running. The success is earned from learning and implementing basketball skills and being able to develop those skills with team mates over several years.
He attributes the interest in basketball in Morinville to the fact it is a great sport that offers limitless level of learning. Beyond that, he believes the teams’ success is contagious. “I believe once you hit some levels of success there is a contagion that becomes something where people ask questions,” Froment said. “They’re very interested in finding out how we did and how we play. We definitely play differently in town here. Our team plays much different than many city teams.”
Froment said basketball offers a greater opportunity for players than baseball and soccer. “If you want to compare baseball and soccer and why they’re not taking off; they’re two month sports,” Froment said. “The snow disappears in April and you play until sometime in early June, maybe the end of May. Then you are done. How do you really build success and programs in two months. You need to have your poop in a group.”
By contrast, Froment said basketball is offering children six months of sport with roughly 25 practices and roughly 20 games a season. “With that you get a chance to really get inside that kid’s love for something,” he said.
Coaches have not only been getting inside their player’s love for the game. This season they have really been getting into their own. Coaches have recently attended a coaching conference in Edmonton where they had the opportunity to learn at the hands of Canada’s Olympic National Team coach and her assistant. “It was awesome for these coaches to see this, to experience how little we know,” he said. “These people can speak basketball at a level where we all wish we could get to.”
Eight coaches take to the courts this fall, including former Morinville Community High School player Brittany Wilson.
More than working hard on the court
Working hard is a requirement of being a member of the Morinville Road Runners both for players and coaches, but the work does not end when the game or practise is done. Froment assigns his players with what he calls homework, duties that have nothing to do with the game but everything to do with his program.
“Over the years, wanting to provide a better and better experience for the kids and expand this beyond basketball, I started assigning … homework,” Froment said, adding those assignments include thanking parents for taking them to games and practices, thanking them for providing meals. “Last week was to go and compliment somebody – the janitor at school, the lady who makes your sandwich. Something different. I tell the kids once they do do something like this, you might think you are helping that person because you put a smile on their face and made their day, but I guarantee these things come back and immediately feed you.”
The homework component was begun the first year the Road Runners took to the court and maintains to this day, an opportunity to build better people along with building better players.
Froment said parents and players both like the idea, but beyond the feel good nature of the homework, it builds a better team because players must report back on the homework. By sharing those personal stories with teammates, a cohesion is made on and off the basketball court.
“I hope that is the added extra that we provide,” he said. “It’s not necessarily only about being a good basketball player. If you can leave this and be a little bit better person or be a better student.”
Froment calls on his players to be a leader in their schools and communities by not countenancing bullying and by offering to mentor those who struggle. “You see a teammate whose having a problem at school or at home, be a good friend. Be a good teammate,” he said. “Other than your family, they are the most important person. Somebody’s having trouble in school and you do particularly well, tutor them.”
Above: Rousseau tries to intercept the ball from Melanya Misner