Hyack senior girls continue hoop tradition as they begin provincials
On her 16th birthday last November, Ariana Sider’s wish before blowing out the candles was for her New Westminster Hyacks senior girls basketball team to make the 2011 AAA provincial championship.
Although the Hyacks perennially attain that goal, this year’s berth wasn’t a slam dunk because it’s a young squad without a Grade 12 player.
So late last month, when they secured their spot in the provincials—which begin today (March 9) at Capilano University with the Hyacks taking on the South Kamloops Titans—Sider couldn’t help but smile. Her wish had come true.
Including going to the junior girls championship when she was in Grade 8, this will be Sider’s fourth consecutive year she’s been to a provincial tournament.
“I don’t know if the season would be complete without making the provincials,” says the Grade 11 sharpshooter.
Never been a tall team
History might suggest she shouldn’t have been so worried. The team’s consistency is uncanny. It’s a rite of spring in New Westminster as much as the blooming of the crocuses.
Between 1969 and 1998, under the guidance of Bob Gair, Bryan Ansley and Bob Grant, the Hyacks went to the B.C. championship 25 times, winning in 1974, 1992 and 1994.
Doug Woodward has maintained the tradition. Since taking over in fall 2000, his senior girls teams have reached the provincial championship nine times in 11 years. Only once, in 2007, did the team fail to reach the province’s Sweet 16 while in 2008 there weren’t enough players to field a team. Under Woodward, the finishes have ranged from fifth to 14th.
“I take pride in the fact that each year we’ve gotten there and the fact we’ve gotten there with the kids that we have. We’ve never been a tall team,” says Woodward.
Woodward’s lean limbs, wavy hair and shorts have been a fixture on the NWSS gyms’ hardwood for decades.
A teacher since 1974, he coached some junior teams in his early days as well as Douglas College’s men’s squad from 1978-80.
“He took the reins of the program and continued on the tradition,” says NWSS athletic director Peter Battistin. “Doug is a passionate coach. He knows the game in and out ... He knows how to get the best out of the girls.”
A trip to northern Japan with the girls team in 1979 ignited Woodward’s enthusiasm for coaching girls hoops. What he saw made his jaw drop.
“I couldn’t believe it, they had 50 girls on [a high school team],” says Woodward. “The good teams in Japan are just so impressive.”
Prior to 2000, Woodward coached his daughter, Krista, in Delta where they lived before the family moved to New Westminster. Krista went on to the University of Georgia on a track scholarship and an international career in javelin. She was the first in a long line of leading ladies for Woodward that included Mollie Stelmack, Norma-Jean Roberts and Kia Van Laare, who is having a breakout freshman season at Simon Fraser University this year. Along the way, he was assisted by Roberts’ father Norm.
Woodward says one of the keys for any program is for the players to hone their skills during the off-season. Woodward frequently has open gym for the players on weekends. He also keeps his eye out for talent during physical education classes.
Aiming for the top
He coaches the girls the same way he would boys.
“We tell them there’s no crying,” says Woodward. “I enjoy them better than the guys. They play hard and I don’t yell, I just tell them if they’re not working hard enough.
“I’m just honest with the kids, who’s doing well and who’s not, what they’re doing wrong and what they’re doing right.”
Battistin believes Woodward is one of a fading breed of high school coaches.
“This is not something he does routinely or at the last minute. He sets up schedules, he understands the level of play they need to get to and the challenges of being there,” Battistin says.
“He doesn’t compromise. He wants the kids that want to be there.”
When Sider was in Grade 8, her older sister, Rachel, convinced Ariana to try out for the senior team.
“I was a little intimidated [by Woodward], but by the end of the year, I was calling him Woody instead of Mr. Woodward,” smiles Sider, who is in her third season as a starting guard on the senior team.
“I really like Woody because he gives us structure, but on the court we do what we have to do ... Woody’s not a yeller, and that’s good because we have such a young team.
“If we make a mistake he’ll call us on it, but he lets you get over it, not just take you off the floor.”
Despite his pride at what he’s built over the last decade, Woodward does have a tinge of disappointment the Hyacks haven’t been able to finish better than fifth under his watch.
“You look at the size of our school (more than 2000), we should have more kids playing.”
Although Woodward views this year’s championship appearance as a dry run for 2012, “I think we’ll catch some teams by surprise.”