St. Raymond Community Centre: Paving a way for aspiring basketball players

St. Raymond Community Centre: Paving a way for aspiring basketball players

By Desirée Zagbai

It is a gloomy Tuesday evening, and the sound of laughter is echoing throughout the basketball court. The players at St. Raymond Community Centre are excitedly warming up for their weekly basketball practice.

The St. Raymond Community Centre is part of the youth organization Comité Jeunesse in Notre-Dame-de-Grâce. The center offers activities for the youth, such as basketball, badminton, volleyball, and soccer. It also holds workshops such as cooking and team leadership. The team leadership program helps high school students and student athletics with their time management.

Rahim Hutchinson is the animator of the S.O.I.R program at Comité Jeunesse. It is a basketball-driven program for boys between 18 and 25 years old. The women’s basketball program is on Friday nights. It is from ages 18 years old and up.

Hutchinson realized that he was a talented basketball player at nine years old so he kept practicing. He became involved with the basketball program at the age of 14 and he had the opportunity to work as a basketball coach when he was 17 years old.

Hutchinson emphasized that, as a basketball coach, it is important to give out positive energy to the players, and they have chants that they use to make everyone feel united. Although it is a joyful environment at St. Raymond Community Centre, it is still a place where players challenge themselves.

“It’s all fun. But at the same time we take it as if it were a championship,” Hutchinson said.

Some players have had the opportunity to go on to the university basketball level, play at the AAA inner city basketball, and some have become leaders.

Nathanael Dinku is the coordinator of sports leagues at Loisirs Sportif in Côte-des-Neiges–Notre-Dame-de-Grâce. He also works at Les Jeux de Montréal, where he is in charge of basketball, ping pong, volleyball, and badminton. He occasionally collaborates with St. Raymond Community Centre and provides activities for the youth.

Dinku sees the St. Raymond Community Centre as a home for the young players. He thinks that the best thing to see is when kids grow up at the center and get to experience a positive impact in their lives. There are players who go to the center after school or during the weekend because of its welcoming environment.

“You can see a whole 180 in their whole lifetime. It’s beautiful to watch, and those are the moments for people that work in these centers that we look for; you know, that’s beautiful to see,” Dinku said.

Dinku explained that anyone can go to the center and practice the sport they desire; there is no judgment, and the staff is involved with the youth. Every player is valued, and some have gone on and played high-level basketball. One of his dreams is to build a basketball team. He believes in their players’ talents and he hopes that they could collaborate with other centers in the neighbourhood to make it happen in the future.

Akim Davis, 21, is a basketball player who started playing as a six-year-old. The basketball program helped him in his private life and as a player. He was able to build connections, develop his basketball skills, watch other people his age play and learn from them, but also always have someone to turn to.

“Whether it was during the year or even during the summer, this place was always the second home to me because it was always open,” Davis said.

Davis sees the St. Raymond Community Centre as more than a center. The players are able to build a bond with the basketball coaches on and off court, get advice from them, and speak about their concerns.

The coaches always push them and make them trust their own skills. The players have the chance to improve, despite any doubts they may have about their physical appearance or experience.

Basketball has also helped Davis develop leadership skills and build his confidence, dedication, and discipline. Showing up to practice every day also helped him immensely as a player.

Davis emphasized that the center is for everyone who wants to stay healthy and become better at anything they would like to do. Despite their age, no one is too old to join the community center; they are always growing as a community and are open to bringing in new people. He believes that their basketball program can help him achieve his dreams, such as joining the NBA and any other opportunity that aligns with his path.

The St. Raymond Community Centre is a place for the youth to explore their passions, get mentorship and excel in any sport they want.