The stands were packed at the Bert Church High School gymnasium Dec. 4, as the Chargers junior and senior boys’ basketball teams kicked off the 2019-20 Rocky View Sports Association season with games against the George McDougall Mustangs.
According to Bert Church head coach Mike Sera, Airdrie has shown its passion for high-school basketball in recent years, with high attendance at most games.
“I think the community support for those teams is awesome,” he said. “That’s great to see, and you want to see that. You don’t want to walk into a gym where it’s dead. I credit the community as a whole in supporting all the Airdrie schools.”
The senior boys’ game has kicked off, and it’s 2-2 about a minute in. pic.twitter.com/tA9FIGadYN— Scott Strasser (@scottstrasser19) December 5, 2019
In the senior game – which ended 106-61 in favour of Bert Church – more than 150 family members, friends, classmates and former players cheered raucously whenever their team sunk a basket.
Sera said he always enjoys when past players he’s coached come out to support the Chargers.
“There’s nothing better than seeing alumni,” he said. “I didn’t look in the crowd too much, but I know there were some kids there who have graduated who were at the game.”
It’s not only past players who continue to support the team. One fan said she has been coming to Chargers basketball games for eight years, despite her children having all graduated from high school.
On the girls’ side, the Bert Church senior team’s season-opener Dec. 3 also saw a packed gym, when the Chestermere Lady Lakers came to town and won 61-43.
Andrew Kirk, head coach of the Chargers senior girls’ team, said staff and faculty at the school have been focused on improving school spirit and pride among the student body, and the school’s athletic accomplishments have made that easier.
“We’re really working hard on school spirit and supporting one another in all the different programs,” he said. “We had a great year in football, a solid year in volleyball, and our girls’ soccer team won zones.”
Sera said the players notice the energy of the crowd when the stands are packed, and it often elevates their performance.
“They feed off of that,” he said. “[Against George McDougall], it was pretty balanced in the stands. There was a lot of support for George Mac and a lot of support for us. The kids like playing in front of a big crowd, and it does boost the adrenaline a little bit.”
Support for high-school ball in Airdrie can even extend beyond city limits, according to Sera, who said fans will often travel to Chestermere, Cochrane or Springbank to cheer on the teams against local opponents.
18-7 now... pic.twitter.com/Qe50Rw4p6D— Scott Strasser (@scottstrasser19) December 5, 2019
He added the Chargers competed at a preseason tournament in Edmonton in November, and a few former Bert Church players, who now attend universities and colleges in the capital, came to check out their successors.
“That kind of support is what we try to explain to the kids,” Sera said. “That’s what it truly means to be a Bert Church Charger – once you graduate and you’re no longer playing, you’re still a Charger for life.”