By Geordie Michell Belleville Spirits Basketball
I wake up on a beautiful sunny day and can’t wait to go play some ball. I call up my buddy Barnzy and tell him I’ll meet him at the Kinsmen courts. We don’t need to worry about calling anyone else because we know that there will be a number of other kids doing the same thing.
When we arrive, there are a bunch of younger kids playing on the lower hoops, a group of teens playing a full court basketball game and some smaller groups working on their skills on the other available hoops. We mingle with a few familiar faces, organize a team and I yell out to the group playing the game, “We got next!” We then play basketball for the next 3 or 4 hours until we can barely walk.
The Kinsmen courts were a huge part of Belleville area kids being able to develop their individual game, and play with others from all over the city who loved to play basketball as well. There was also the court on Montrose, the hoops behind Moira and, later on, the court at the old ballet school on Octavia Ave. Now none of these courts are usable or exist anymore. Any of the school yards that do have somewhat decent hoops are deemed private property and tend to be fenced off to the public on the evenings and weekends.
Our indoor court situation is not much better. Again, many who grew up playing basketball here will have fond memories of playing pickup basketball at the YMCA. Now the YMCA has half a court that is shared with multiple other programs and costs $10 to drop in. We did have the Wellness Centre before COVID restrictions, but basketball gym time is limited, or it will be a shared open gym time. If anyone has ever been there for an open gym time on the weekend, they’d have seen 60 kids in a gym hoping to get a bit of time on one of the hoops. Meanwhile, they are trying to avoid the ball hockey or soccer game that will at times spill over onto the court causing collisions.
In a society that is grappling with getting kids outside more, keeping them active, reducing technology use, and supporting their mental health, our community is not providing enough viable opportunities. It’s understood that COVID makes things difficult, but this scarcity was a problem long before the pandemic. I commend the groups who have taken the initiative to build community rinks like the one at Easthill Park, and there are pockets of people in the basketball community who are doing what they can to support basketball as well. I know of a few families who allow community kids to play on their driveway hoops because they just want the kids to have that opportunity. There are other groups who are just looking for a community space that they can crowdfund for, and use donations to get a community court built. Ideally such a court would be big enough to support the other forgotten court sports in our community as well, like tennis and pickleball (see the image to the right). This is an initiative that needs to happen sooner rather than later for the kids in our community!
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The Belleville Spirits Basketball Club strives to assist our players in reaching their maximum potential, both as basketball players and citizens of our community.
Our players will learn that they can achieve more than they ever thought possible. They will learn to win with humility and lose with grace. They will learn to see opportunities instead of obstacles. They will learn that nothing worth achieving comes without hard work. They will develop the self-confidence to take on any challenge that will face them, both on and off the basketball court.