Tim Palanca loves basketball and he loves volleyball. He's part of a large team of committed boys in Grade 6 and 7 who attend Grenfell Elementary. Last semester Palanca and his friends on the volleyball team captured first place in the city championship. It was a big win for a small eastside school, which put Grenfell on the top of the charts ahead of 72 other school teams.
For Nathan Hum, the school's coach, the victory was all the more sweet because he says Grenfell was always the underdog.
"They were the underdog story. We weren't supposed to win," he says. "During the last two points of the game our two strongest players were on the bench."
The win was more a result of heart than (all important in volleyball) height.
"It was such a scrappy little team," remembers Hun. "We had one tall kid and bunch of really short kids."
The Grenfell volleyball and basketball team is big for the school's size. There are currently around 20 kids involved. For many of the student athletes, being able to play volleyball or basketball is the carrot that keeps them academically on track.
Palanca says a big part of the team's success is because of Hum.
"He is a good coach. If we don't push ourselves, he makes us push harder. He teaches us more things. He's very committed to the team, says Palanca. "He is only strict if you don't bother listening to him."
Grenfell principal Rosemary Love concurs. But she adds that teacher coaches like Hun have as profound a role on the lives of their players in the school halls as they do on the court.
"One of the things I noticed the first few days [at Grenfell], is that the 6 and 7s are really polite and friendly. Some of that comes from Nathan and his teachers," says Love who is new to the school.
Grade 7 student Brandon Obuyes says his coach has taught him all the fundamentals, but also good habits.
"Mr. Hum is a bit unusual. The way he teaches is he is really fun and he makes lots of jokes," says Obuyes. "He is not mean or strict. Kids feel relaxed and connected."
Click on the image below to check out our Flickr album for more photos.