Basketball team gives Montreal students drive to succeed off the court

WATCH ABOVE: When a few teachers formed a basketball team composed of students from different English Montreal School Board Alternative Outreach High Schools, they didn’t expect this outcome. Elysia Bryan-Baynes has details.

MONTREAL — A group of Montreal students have found the hope and motivation to succeed on and off the basketball court.

On February 8, students from the Alternative United Pit Bulls  basketball team are going to Toronto to see the Raptors take on the Spurs – all on Gatorade’s dime.

For many of these avid basketball fans, it will be the first time they attend a live NBA game.

A few years ago, alternative schools had to enter the Greater Montreal Athletic Association (GMAA) division alone. Most of the schools barely had enough players and resources to field a team and when they did, they lost all their games. They still play all their season’s matches on their opponent’s home court because their facilities were not up to par.

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A group of coaches wanted to change that and make success for these students a reality. Coaches like Paul Berry, Colin Throness and John Devlin lobbied the GMAA to let alternative schools pool their basketball talent into a single team.

The GMAA obliged and shortly thereafter, Altenative United was giving private and public schools alike a run for their money. The team made the playoffs last year and have the requisite skill and team chemistry to put them in contention for the City Championship.

AJ Fields, one of the team’s star players, dreams of going to college on a sports scholarship. His older sister was recruited to play on the UCLA basketball team. Fields said that, to him, “win from within” – the name of the  campaign – is about overcoming adversity. He says that even if you have a learning disability, you have to find it within yourself to keep fighting and never give up.

“It reminds students that there is no door that is closed to them unless they close it for themselves. Our kids need to know that no matter what school you are in, if you put in hard work, it’s going to pay off in any aspect of your life,” said Berry, who teaches math and history by day and coaches by night.

Basketball also teaches these student about teamwork and discipline — life lessons which also seem to have carried over to their performance in the classroom. Because if they don’t do well in school, then they won’t get their shot on the basketball court.


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