More than 120 eager and energetic young athletes found a way to stay out of the cold Wednesday competing in the Yukon Schools Athletic Association (YSAA) 3-on-3 early-bird basketball tournament at the Canada Games Centre.
The Grade 7 tournament was an opportunity for the young athletes to get a start on the sports season in the new year after some time off since the volleyball season wrapped up in November.
The tournament saw a total of 40 3-on-3 teams from the 11 Whitehorse elementary schools, 21 boy’s teams and 19 girl’s teams, take part in the day of games that focused on learning basketball skills rather than the scoreboard.
YSAA executive director Peter Grundmanis said the tournament was the first chance for the young athletes to return to the school sports scene in the new year and work on their basketball skills before the regular season kicks off Monday.
“Most elementary schools don’t get started with their basketball until after Christmas break,” he said. “Volleyball has come to an end and there’s Christmas concerts and stuff so they really re-gear when they come back.”
He said the reason for the early-bird tournament being formatted as a 3-on-3 competition is to allow the players to get in on the game more and allow for more passes and shots for each player.
The games were played in a half court style using only one net allowing for a quicker pace and more involvement for each player.
“Rather than sitting on the bench kids are playing 3-on-3 usually with a team of four,” Grundmanis said.
Since this style of play was also new to most players, as regular-season games are played 5-on-5 on full courts, Grundmanis said coaches were able to intervene on the games and provide advice and assistance.
“There was some coach intervention because it’s new for a lot of kids so it was really a learning atmosphere,” he said. “The skill level of the basketball certainly picked up during the day and what the coaches were reinforcing was catching on by the last games so I would say it was successful.”
All teams were guaranteed five games, but other than that there was no formatting in terms of standings or even keeping scores, with the focus on having fun.
“It was really a learning atmosphere,” Grundmanis said. “There was a lot of fun, it wasn’t competitive there was no pressure. Just learning what the whole basketball scene is about.”
The regular season for the Grade 7 competition will begin Monday with games happening at the elementary schools in Whitehorse. Each team will play a total of five regular season games throughout January and February before the Yukon Championships.
On the high school side, Grade 9/10 junior games scheduled for Wednesday night at Porter Creek Secondary School were postponed due to the frigid cold spell over the city.
The weather conditions were preventing cars from starting and so Grundmanis said the school made the call to postpone the games to a later date still to be determined.
Regular season action will take a week hiatus and continue Jan. 25-26 with the first senior basketball action of the season with Porter Creek hosting the first series of Super Hoops.
Both the girl’s and boy’s teams will play host to the F.H. Collins Secondary School Rams Thursday before taking on the Vanier Catholic Secondary School Crusaders Friday.