From Sports Illustrated covers to number one draft picks, the level of attention on the Canadian basketball scene is at an all-time high. Basketball is by far Canada’s fastest growing sport and this trend doesn’t look to be slowing down anytime soon. With all the attention, emerging talent, increased youth programs, enhanced coaching and the start of a professional league in the NBL…has Canada solved its basketball problems?
Watching the growth of the game has been remarkable and exciting at the same time, but with all the hype one has to question …What’s next? Will the prospects of back-to-back number one selections, multiple picks in each draft, and elite level Canadian events become the standard to which we measure our success? Are there underlying issues within the Canadian system that need to be addressed and debated? Or have we come up with the new blueprint?
This series is an attempt to spark discussion on some of the issues I consider critical in the world of Canadian basketball, issues the casual basketball fan, may be totally unaware of.
The biggest challenge facing Canada in the next 10 years will be the lack of basketball training facilities.
This isn’t to say there has been no attempt in finding new facilities, but to point out that the issue of insufficient space and time needs to be addressed from a broader perspective.” Let’s use Ontario for instance. For a province the size of Ontario, home to Canada’s largest city (Toronto) and what’s been referred to as Canada’s “Epicenter” for basketball, the only spaces available are often high school or middle school gyms that were neither built or designed for basketball which very importantly as well, is a spectator sport.” To make matters worse, not only is there a lack of gym space, but the facilities are too small to accommodate the athletes and team sports that are presently offered in high schools and middle schools.”
This trend continues outside of the schools as well. One of the reasons basketball is such an international game is because much like soccer, it does not require a whole lot to begin with. It can be played by one or in different team settings, (2×2, 3×3, 5×5) and for the most part, it can be played indoors and outdoors. These unique circumstances make the game appealing to players from every demographic.
The removal of most of the outdoor hoops throughout Toronto has killed the very ground where basketball creativity is developed. I grew up playing outside, and it’s safe to say that the majority of my basketball instincts, toughness and competitive spirit were probably developed there as well. Some will say that access to outdoor space should not be highlighted in this point, but consider this: China, in preparation to deal with the dramatic increase in participation in basketball by hosting the USA “Dream Team” for the 2008 Beijing Olympics constructed a plan with the help of the NBA to roll out more than 800,000 outdoor basketball courts. That is more hoops, whether indoors or outdoors THAN one can find in all of Canada. History has taught us time after time that people are ready to leave to find what they want. Well Canadians have definitely moved, resulting in one of the most controversial discussions in Canadian basketball, as almost all of Canada’s elite talent have moved to the US in order to pursue their basketball dream.
With a culture deeply rooted in sports and entertainment, the USA is home to more athletic facilities, public or private than any other country in the world (China is catching up). Resources bring opportunity, develops coaching, and allows for increased competition and training. If true growth is to take place it must on all levels, including facilities. We cannot continue to depend on old space provided by our schools. This is essential to the long term growth of the game in Canada.