Greeting visitors is probably more than half as much fun as traveling, and far more convenient.
Last Thursday offered a chance for a number of local folks to meet some touring teenaged Danish basketball players.
Thirty six players made the trip to Sooke from a school which was involved in a similar hoops exchange a couple of years ago. Last year they had apparently gone to Florida.
As well as taking in some spirited and sportsmanlike action, I had a chance to meet the touring players’ school principal and a couple of players from the girls squad for which, unfortunately, no team was available to provide competition.
These are the sort of experiences worth so much to students. In this case, a 16-day odyssey including stops in China and Canada. Before their Sooke games the group had made stops in Nanaimo and Duncan, and after here it was on to Vancouver and Squamish before a rafting side trip at Whistler.
The Danish boys were in fine form on Thursday, giving their hosts all they could handle and then some. As I recall the late game score was in the 80s for the visitors, in the 50s for the Sooke team assembled and directed by Trevor Bligh.
The Danish team toils under the direction of Canadian Craig Peterson who led the group here two years ago. A former college teammate of Peterson’s, Todd Kozinka who has also collaborated locally with Bligh, had been helpful in arranging the visit.
“I’ve been helping to organize the billets,” said Kozinka. “It’s a big job, there are 36 kids and we’re finding spots for them for two nights.”
Kozinka has also been instrumental in lining up other games nearby, like Duncan and Nanaimo, so the traveling Danes can make the most of their time here.
Generous and hospitable folks had answered the call and one local household even offered to put up all 10 girls from the group.
“The school is called Efferskolen ved Nyborg,” said principal Keld Schmedt from the sidelines on May 19.
“It’s the kind of school you only go to for one year, and these students come to us because they want to play basketball.”
Asked about the differences noticed between hoops as played on Vancouver Island, for instance, and by Efferskolen squads, Schmedt said they see a lot of outstanding athletes over here, but it’s the strong team focus that provides the Danes with their success for the most part.
Ida Franck Pedersen has been playing basketball for five years and her commitment leaves no time for other sports. That suits her, as the section of the school she and Christine Bruun Fackson attend has a strong basketball focus. There’s a variety at the school.
“Then there’s a house where you play soccer,” said Christine, and a house for music and theatre.” She said the last house specializes in art and worldwide cultural studies.
“I don’t really have a goal, specifically,” Ida concluded. “I just want to play it as long as it’s fun. If I can make it to the top I will do that. But it’s not something I have planned to do.”
Christine: “I want to take it seriously and be the best that I can, but still, I don’t want to play if it’s not fun. One of my goals is just to fit good with the other girls, we’re a good team and really close, and have one of the best years of my life.”
Sooke coach Trevor Bligh was pleased with the exchange visit, just like he knew he would be.
“It’s an awesome experience for our guys,” he said, “a great way to make friends from halfway around the world.” These efforts have been such a success there are young folks from both countries who have stayed in touch since first meeting during a similar visit three years ago.
Bligh is also sold on the chance for his players to face some high level competition,
“Some of the best in their country,” he said.