Over the winter break, the Airdrie City View was able to catch up with Mike Sera, Bert Church High School's athletics coordinator and the head coach of the Chargers' senior boys' basketball team, for this month's Qs with the View interview feature.
Sera is a well-known figure in Airdrie's basketball community, having coached the Chargers since 1999, when he began teaching at Bert Church. With nearly a quarter-century of teaching and coaching experience under his belt, Sera spoke to the City View about how high-school basketball has developed in Airdrie throughout the last two decades and what makes it special.
City View: How did you get started as Bert Church’s basketball coach?
Sera: I started teaching at Bert Church High School in September 1999. When I first got to Bert Church, Allen Gallup was the head coach of the senior boys’ basketball team. I assisted for him for a couple years, and then took over the junior boys’ basketball program after that. I guess if you do the math, this would be my 23rd year at Bert, and ever since I’ve been there, I’ve coached in some form or capacity, whether the junior team or the senior team.
City View: What was your motivation to start coaching?
Sera: As a kid, I was always involved in sports. I grew up in southern Alberta so played a lot of basketball down there, and I also played a lot of baseball. I always loved sports and wanted to be around sports. That was one of the reasons I went into education – I enjoyed working with kids, I enjoyed sports, and I wanted to give back in some way. I felt coaching would be the best way for me to do that.
I grew up in Coaldale, so I played against the Raymonds, the Magraths and the Cardstons. If you go down to southern Alberta, there’s a different attitude when it comes to sports, especially basketball and football. As a senior boys’ basketball coach, I try to take my teams up north each year so they get to experience Edmonton-area basketball, but I always make sure we go to at least one tournament down south. You have Raymond and Cardston as 2A schools competing at the 4A level and finding great success. In Raymond, they have seating on both sides of the gym and on one side, you actually have to buy your seat. That’s how avid the fans are down there.
City View: What’s your favourite thing about high school basketball?
Sera: Over the years as I’ve coached, it’s been the relationships you develop with your players – and their parents, for that matter. I’m not going to sit here and lie that I’ve had an excellent relationship with every single kid I’ve coached. That wouldn’t be true. But you spend a lot of time with these young men and over the years, at Bert, we work with these kids potentially from Grade 9 all the way to Grade 12. We watch them grow and mature, not only in sports but in life, and then we stay connected with them as alumni. That’s probably been the highlight of my coaching career, seeing where these kids come from and where they’ve gone.”
City View: How would you say the Chargers basketball program has changed over time?
Sera: I think there’s been a lot of influence from the NBA. The game has changed itself – it’s a lot more fast-paced, and kids like the outside shot. They like the 'razzle-dazzle,' and that’s been influenced by those they try to emulate on the NBA teams they cheer for. I’m not saying that’s a bad thing or a good thing, it’s just different.
The rules and the game itself have changed a lot since I’ve been coaching, and you have to make sure you keep up with it. As a coach, you have to be willing to adjust and make changes.
City View: Are there are any years that stick out to you as being particularly memorable?
Sera: I don’t know if there are any years that stick out, to be honest. Every year I’ve coached, there is always something you remember, whether it’s a road trip, or certain things that took place. When you sit down and talk about experiences and things that happen, certain things come up, whether it’s a certain play or a kid who went on to be successful. But I don’t know if I can identify one thing.
City View: Any last words on high school basketball in Airdrie?
Sera: There is definitely a rich history of Bert Church basketball. There was a rich history before I got to the school, whether with the boys’ program or the girls’ program. You look back at some of the coaches who have been involved. I mentioned Allen Gallup, but some people in the community would probably remember Doug Wilde, and Andy Kirk has been around a long time.
And then you look at the other schools in this community. George McDougall has been around for years, and some of the coaches who have gone through that program and how it’s progressed. Now you have W.H. Croxford as another school in Rocky View Schools here in town, and the efforts they’re making. It’s great to see there are individuals in these schools who are willing to put in that time and effort. I really hope it continues – that passion to coach and to make students better, and give them an opportunity to progress in a different area. I hope that never leaves the schools.