For a Vancouver boys’ basketball team, an off-court problem sparked the final summer of the season
A Vancouver boys’ basketball team’s hoop dreams have turned into a nightmare.
Parents, athletes and coaches on Kitsilano Secondary School’s junior basketball team are devastated that the team’s successful season was cut short over a player eligibility issue.
The team, made up of 14- and 15-year-olds from Grades 9 and 10, had a perfect 5-0 record to qualify for the Vancouver Secondary School Athletics Association (VSSAA) playoffs. Including tournament and exhibition play, her record was 24-8.
However, due to one player’s ineligibility, they were removed from the citywide playoffs – which ironically were being played at Kitsilano Secondary – and dashed players’ hopes of playing in a province-wide best-on-best tournament at the end of the month.
“It feels awful,” said Joshua Cheer, a 15-year-old point guard. “This is our passion. We love to play basketball. And they just got rid of it for us.”
Kirsten Meekison, mother of one of the team’s players, said the decision was unfair.
“[My son] said, ‘I’m angry and sad,'” Meekison said. “As a mother, I could really hear the defeat in his voice.”
The story provides a glimpse of the passion that high school sports instill in athletes, parents and coaches — particularly basketball, a marquee sport in many communities across BC — and the anger felt when that passion is quenched.
It also illustrates what are fairly ironclad rules for school sports in the province aimed at ensuring a level playing field.
Application for exemption, appeal rejected
It’s about a player who moved to Kitsilano from another school at the beginning of the school year.
An athlete who practices a sport at his previous school within 12 months of transferring to the new school may not practice that sport at the new school for 12 months after transferring.
Exceptions exist for reasons of hardship or mitigating circumstances.
Because he played basketball at her old school, he wasn’t eligible to play at Kitsilano.
With Kitsilano playing him all season, they broke the rules and VSSAA knocked them out of the playoffs “to make sure all schools and teams have a fair opportunity to play and compete”.
“We didn’t recruit that kid. He moved into his elementary school, I didn’t know him in October,” said coach Kenny MacIntyre.
“He’s not Michael Jordan. He’s not Kobe Bryant. He’s just a neighborhood kid who wants to play basketball.”
In January, Kitsilano applied for a waiver from BC School Sports, the province’s governing body for high school sports. It was unsuccessful, as was an appeal.
That resulted in the team being suddenly removed from this weekend’s citywide playoff tournament.
MacIntyre thinks the rules are being enforced too harshly. He asks why no compromise can be found that lets his team continue playing.
Clear rules, says the umbrella organization
But BC School Sports says the rules for transfer players are clear and accepted by most North American high school sports.
“It’s really just aligned with the educational values and intentions of school sports,” said Jordan Abney, executive director of the organization.
“In a way, it is intended to discourage sportingly motivated transfers. That’s not what school sport is all about for us.”
Abney said under BC School Sports policy, the team will lose the games in which the ineligible player played.
MacIntyre says playing the ineligible athlete was an accident.
Parents and athletes generally contact the school administration.
A district spokesman says its staff had to follow rules set out by BC School Sports on the matter.
“Due to privacy concerns, we cannot go into the personnel implications,” the district wrote in an email.
Cheer says no matter who is to blame, it’s the team that loses.
He says no one in the dressing room blames the player in question. “He deserves to play here too,” he said.
“It’s so unfortunate because we’ve put so much work and effort into it.”