After a dozen years of hosting Surrey's premier female high school sports event, the Surrey Firefighters are still amazed by the kids who suit up for their annual Goodwill Basketball Classic.
One of the features of the tournament, which runs from Jan. 8 to 12 this year at Lord Tweedsmuir Secondary, is the eight scholarships awarded each year to participants who not only stand out on the basketball court, but in the classroom and in the community as well. This year the firefighters have allotted $5,000 for the scholarships.
Todd Schierling, the treasurer for the Surrey Fire Fighters Association Local 1271, said the panel that selects the scholarship winners has a tough time every year.
"The quality of the applications with all the things students are doing in the community is really impressive," he said. "It's great to see the humanitarian efforts that are being made by these student athletes and the time they are committing to volunteerism in the community. We're always happy to see that but it makes it hard to make decisions when there are so many good applicants."
It turns out the scholarships aren't the only application forms being filled out by the basketball players. At the tournament awards ceremony each year, tournament chair Nancy Innes, herself a former star basketball player at SFU, addresses the players and talks about a future with the Surrey Fire Department."
Apparently, the players are listening. "We have a couple of former players who have applied to become firefighters and they're currently going through that process," said Holy Cross Crusaders coach Steve Beauchamp. "When Nancy talks to the girls after the final game about career opportunities with the fire department, the girls are listening closely. It's great to see that they get a bit of exposure to a career many women don't consider. Seeing someone like Nancy there and hearing her speak really connects with the players. It definitely rings true with the girls."
The tournament will feature 20 teams this year competing in two divisions. Twelve teams will compete in the Ladder Division with eight more pooled together in the elite Axe Division.
The Crusaders are the clear favourites to win their third straight Goodwill Axe division title this year. Holy Cross is ranked No. 1 in the province among class AA schools but should be challenged by strong teams from Fleetwood Park and Panorama Ridge.
"This tournament has always been a big deal at our school," Beauchamp said. "The amount of effort, energy and resources the firefighters put into it makes it a special tournament for the girls. It's the first tournament after the Christmas break and you're playing against all of the teams from Surrey so there are some bragging rights involved.
"The girls love to be a part of this tournament and because there are only a couple of other AA teams involved, most of the games are against AAA schools so it's a good test for the girls."
For more information, log onto www. surreyfirefighters.com/basketball.
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