DARLINGTON - The Philippine Basketball Association of Montreal launched its winter season last weekend at the Centre Sportif Côte-des-Neiges on Van Horne Ave.
A total of 14 teams participated in the day’s games, officially starting the season that will run until April.
The league will operate every weekend at different gyms throughout the borough, including the Loisirs Sportifs Côte-des-Neiges and Westhill High School.
Special activities to kick-start the season included a presentation of national anthems, a parade to showcase each team’s new jerseys, and an award presented to the team with the best new uniforms.
“It’s a tradition to always have a big opening day like today,” said PBAM president Rick Aquino.
“It’s an opportunity to come together as a community and even to welcome new Filipino immigrants to the area,” he said.
The league is “bursting at the seams” this season according to Aquino, as demand to play is outstripping the availability of gymnasiums in the borough.
Any player who wishes to participate in the league must be of Philippine blood.
With 65 teams participating in the winter league, there are nearly 800 members of the Filipino community who will be involved one way or another this season. Aquino said about 90 per cent come from the borough.
Sunday’s opening day saw players as young as eight play games, while the over-40 category competed in the morning.
“We focus on the 17-and-under divisions, but there’s really something for everyone,” said Aquino. The league also boasts a division for players who are at least 50 years old.
Though basketball was the only thing on the mind of hundreds of kids taking to the court on Sunday, many of the volunteer coaches were aware of the special significance for many kids of participating in the league.
“Keeping them involved in sports is a way of helping kids avoid the wrong side of life,” said Roger Hernando, who coaches the FCA West Island 14-and-under team.
For Jex Mendiola, who coached the nine and 10 year-olds on the God Is Good team, basketball is a natural part of the Filipino community that he enjoys teaching to the kids.
“A lot of us don’t come from money, but as long as
you can get a ball, you can find a ring and you can play basketball,” he said.
Though playing in the league gives the younger players a sense of community, the sport itself also teaches them about the “outside world” when they go on to play for schools and city teams.
The PBAM’s winter season will culminate with playoffs in April. The association also plans on sending a group of all-star players to a tournament in New York City next year.