East York Basketball Club enhances community

At Cosburn Middle School every Saturday, more than a dozen volunteer coaches teach basketball to kids from grades 1 through 10.

But more than just giving kids the opportunity to develop skills, the East York Basketball Club serves as a way to bring the community closer together.

“I’m a fan of all sports in terms of letting kids play because I think it brings kids together that wouldn’t necessarily be together otherwise because of socioeconomic or cultural reasons,” said Chet Wydrzynski, one of the volunteer coaches. “When you put a team together, everyone just plays together regardless of who they are, where they’re from, or what their parents do.”

Wydrzynski primarily coaches the two youngest age groups: tykes (six-seven year olds) and novices (eight-nine). While he helps out with the house league every Saturday morning, Wydrzynski also started a rep program for the novice level that will allow kids even more exposure to the game at a more competitive level and will allow them to play teams around Ontario.

Wydrzynski, a former University of Windsor and Ottawa basketball alumnus, admits the biggest motivator for the program was to give his son some more competitive basketball playing time.

“I do it [coaching] mostly for my son, absolutely,” he said. “I played basketball my whole life, played university, played afterwards for a little bit. And every friend I’ve ever made in my life, almost, has come through basketball and I want my son to have the same opportunities I’ve seen all through North America for basketball.”

Giving kids the opportunity to play is something East York Collegiate junior basketball coach Stacy Ganogiannis fully supports. With 16 years of coaching at the high school and a lifetime of playing while growing up in the East York area, Ganogiannis is proud of the growth of the sport in the area and the level of commitment to make it happen.

“I just love the East York basketball program,” she said. “We have dedicated volunteers, so many help out and they don’t get paid, but they wake up every Saturday morning.

“We don’t get paid to do this, we do it because we want to help our children and we want to boost up the community.”

Ganogiannis has two daughters in the program, Aeleni (novice) and Yianna (tyke), keeping up the basketball tradition in the family.

Like many parents who stay behind to watch their kids practice, Ganogiannis keeps a sharp eye on her children’s play while mingling with fellow parents from the community.

Her oldest daughter, Aeleni, shares the same passion as her mother, and is the only girl on Wydrzynski’s novice rep team.

Aeleni, to no surprise, credits playing with her friends and having fun as the reason she loves basketball. But with an answer that shocked even her proud mother, the energetic eight-year-old had a rather grown-up response when asked what she thought was the best part about playing the game itself.

“Doing my crossovers!”

Aeleni’s mom could only beam with pride. Basketball indeed runs through the veins of this family, brought out by a community that nurtures its sporting heritage.