Teachers may walk off the job next week, but that won’t keep the G.W. Graham Grizzlies from taking to the court in their first game at the B.C. AA Boys Basketball Championships in Kamloops Tuesday.
"I've got a basketball team where 95 per cent of them are Grade 12s,” said Graham coach Jake Mouritzen to the Times in September when his union’s job action first began. “They started here in Grade 7. Their goal for six years has been to win the provincial championship this year. There's no way that I'm going to allow those boys to miss out on a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity."
Mouritzen’s vow, which earned him some heat from union colleagues, looks ready to be fulfilled despite the fact that teachers will be two days into a full-blown walkout when his team takes to the court.
B.C. School Sports decided to go ahead with winter season provincial championships in basketball, gymnastics and curling despite the strike for the sake of the 1,300 student-athletes set to compete--and because of the money that’s already be invested.
“There’s been a whole lot of money paid for all of these facilities and a lot of lead time and leg work that’s gone into it, so they’re going ahead as scheduled,” said B.C. School Sports executive director Sue Keenan.
Keenan said the association is getting “mixed messages” about the strike from coaches all over the province, with some teachers associations doing everything they can to facilitate athletes going to the championships and other local unions telling teacher-coaches they can’t go.
In some districts, administrators, community coaches and parents are stepping up to make sure teams get to the tournaments, said Keenan.
In Chilliwack, union officials have made an exception for the Grizzlies' provincial run.
“We won’t put aside a whole year’s worth of work from a team,” said Chilliwack Teachers’ Association president Katharin Midzain. “We’re allowing provincial basketball because [the strike] happens to coincide with the week that they are having the tournament. If it wasn’t, if the tournament was in a week or two, we’d be saying please cancel your practices.”
Midzain said the same exception will apply to union members who teach music and who were scheduled to bring bands and musical groups to events like the Chilliwack Lions Music and Dance Festival later this month.
“If [the strike] continues, they can still take their kids to that,” she said. “These are things that have been prepared for for a year.”