Community engagement is the name of the game on the gym floor at Churchill. Over the past seven years the school's seen a growing number of alumni coming back to help their former teachers coach a number of athletic teams. Currently the Churchill athletics program is benefitting from around ten alumni students coming back to coach.
So far Churchill's juvenile girls, junior girls and senior girls basketball teams are the primary beneficiaries.
"These students along with countless others have made the decision to get involved, engaged and connected with their learning community. These volunteers have done an amazing job being role models and mentors to students at Churchill," says Rick Lopez, the Athletic Director at Churchill. "I would be so scared if these girls weren't here."
Two of his longest serving coaches, Jennifer Eng and Gideon Lin are also budding educators. Lopez says Eng just finished her education degree and has recently applied to the VSB. Lin is currently a TOC in Richmond and Surrey and has also applied to the VSB.
Lopez says he's been coaching for 20 years. During that time he notes it's often tricky to find coaches like Eng and Lin who are able to commit the time to the teams. He says the fact that the school is benefiting from ten alumni at the same time is as unusual as it is wonderful.
The time being devoted to the teams is significant. At the juvenile girls level, coaches Rachel Bulteel, Keani Pratt and Catherine Riopel run practices three to four days a week.
At the junior level, head coach Gideon Lin and assistant coaches Jennie Redston, Ruby Dhaliwal and Karen Cheng are also practicing three to four days a week with additional time devoted to meetings with parents, play book development and even study sessions for players. Ditto for senior girls head coach Jennifer Eng and assistant coaches Myvy Truong and Julianne Chen.
The hard work is paying off.
When the alumni coaches started, the juvenile girls hadn't won a game and were losing to other teams by 50/60 points. Now they're winning games. At the senior level, Lopez says that since the volunteers began working with the girls seven years ago, basketball at Churchill has evolved into a popular and well-respected program.
The athletic director notes that one can easily see how the alumni coaches' positive influence and leadership has rubbed off on younger players as many of them come back to help coach once they have graduated. Indeed, the alumni have even motivated several current Churchill students to help coach the school's Grade 8 basketball team.