Medals For All-In Basketball

2018 Ontario Summer Games

Roger Cumberbatch

Running that last suicide drill, hitting the free throws that end practice, diving for loose balls, all for what?  All of that was in effort by every basketball player on every team in the London 2018 Ontario Summer Games to hit their ultimate goal of getting a gold medal.  Every time a young female or male basketball player tugged on their shorts on Day 3 of competition, they should have felt pride for just getting to this point. True, we should celebrate the fantastic achievement of the Mountain Region in Girls' Basketball for gold, and the St. Clair (STC) on snaring the gold in Boys' Basketball.  How did these athletes get to the medal round?  Surely it was not riding the pure athleticism of the young legs running up and down the courts. It definitely was not the athletes that got themselves an opportunity to play for a medal in basketball. The gold medal games did not disappoint  either as each team fought like cats and dogs until the final buzzers. The names of the teams that won are not as relevant as the real story on this final day of b-ball. While congratulations should be given to the every participant in the finals, especially the gold medalists, a warmer greeting needs to be extended to the parents and coaches, without whom, none of the golden hoop dreams could ever come true.  

The responsibility of transporting players to and from games or practices has long been charged to the parents.  A seemingly never-ending amount of practices, many held beyond the reach of public transit, force parents who already live busy lives to include their child’s schedule into their own.  After school, going from school to the courts, is physically and mentally draining. The parents of these young men and women make sure that their son or daughter is properly hydrated, fed, and rested before they hit the floor.  So while we marvel at the raw athletic ability of the fresh young legs that jump before us, let us pay homage to the individuals who have to manage all of the players’ exploits on their backs.

We do, however, need to reflect on the resiliency of these young men and women.  From as early as September of 2017, until the medal round in basketball, these players have been running, jumping, and exerting a tremendous amount of energy.  Physically and mentally draining themselves with the aspirations of having a medal placed around their neck after three days of competing. Repeatedly getting knocked to the floor or dealing with a call that did not go their way is a burden that a lot of adult athletes can not handle.  These young individuals are no shrinking violets. They have been raised properly and have engrained in their brains how to stay healthy through the battles. By the time the medal round came around, every player was now a seasoned veteran. It was now time to just play basketball. Each person knew that they had a job to do, and if they did their best, the results would take care of themselves.  Forming bonds that will last for years is also how best to deal with pressure. Basketball is a fun sport and even though this tournament is for the opportunity to win a gold medal, no player lost in these Games. Selfies, hugs, cheers, and dances, were not only confined to the winning teams. Many players have battled each other well before the London 2018 Ontario Summer Games, so familiarity bred a mutual respect.  It was these unforgettable memories that will outlast the shine of any of the medals awarded on Sunday.

Why fight through fatigue, injury, cramps, and mental exhaustion, if winning is not the most important thing?  The answer can be seen in the photos, on the faces, and heard in the voices, of everybody who was involved over the last three days of basketball excellence.  Fanshawe College played host to what was an exciting round robin exhibition of Canada’s future in basketball taking shape. Medals were handed out, but no shame was expressed or was visible by those who did not get hardware on Sunday afternoon.  Instead of focusing on their own emotions, many ballers showed that they were still children when they greeted the people that have been supporting them this whole time. Parents slid to the background as their sons and daughters received all of the accolades.  The physical, mental, and financial sacrifices of the parents was respectfully addressed by the coaches of every team. A special congratulations should also be given to the coaching staff who never let the players feel that they were bigger than the team. 2020 will be the next year for the Ontario Summer Games and they will be again held in London.  If the last three days are any indication of what is to come, the future looks bright for basketball in Ontario.