Trevor Bligh will host 18 guests this weekend – all under the age of 17.
But the coach of the Sooke Sonics boys’ basketball team will welcome the players with open arms – all for international goodwill.
The Sooke Basketball Club hosts a high school team from Nyborg, Denmark for a set of games at Edward Milne Community School on Thursday and Friday.
The Danish team has visited B.C. every two years since 2007, and on off years makes it way to Gainsville, Fla. This year’s trip itinerary includes Sooke, Courtenay, and Vancouver.
“It’s something we get super excited about when they arrive,” Bligh said.
The relationship between Nyborg and Sooke began more than 13 years ago when Sooke resident Todd Kozinka introduced Bligh to Danish coach Craig Peterson. Both Peterson and Kozinka were teammates at Simon Fraser University in Burnaby.
The relationship blossomed last year when Bligh was a guest coach when the Danes made their trip to Florida.
“I’ve never had a coaching mentor, so the opportunity to work with Craig Peterson and (assistant coach) Geof Kotila was inspiring and awesome,” Bligh said.
Bligh brought back the skills he learned in Florida and adapted them to the Canadian game.
“It’s a whole other basketball culture. European basketball is more soccer oriented where it’s ball distribution and sharing of the ball, not so much the North American ball hog mentality,” Bligh said.
Still, the international ball games are more for player development and creating goodwill between nations.
Both Bligh and Peterson said the success of the program has helped bring the two communities together.
And it’s not just about basketball.
“They create friendships that last forever,” said Bligh, adding several players have returned to visit both Canada and Denmark over the years.
“It’s great for the players to stay with families from this area,” Peterson said.
It’s a sentiment not lost on Bligh.
SIDELINES … The Sooke Sonics play their first game against Denmark at 4 p.m. Thursday (May 16). The two teams go at it again on Friday at 5 p.m. Both games are at EMCS … The Sonics played well in a recent up-Island road trip, going 3-1 against teams from Nanaimo, Courtenay and Comox. “I was really super happy with the kids,” Bligh said. “They played well.”