By Darren Lum
Published by July 12 2016
Away from the beating sun and the oppressive heat of the afternoon several youth dribble to the hoop looking to takeoff from the correct foot and use alternating hands during a layup drill in the gymnasium of the local high school under the watchful eye of volunteer coach Gordon Cochrane and his two helpers Dan Lapierre and Jane Grieves.
The retired lawyer and passionate basketball fan who is nearly a year-round Highlands resident with his assistant coaching duties with the Red Hawks boys’ senior basketball team the past few years watches intently looking carefully for missteps and instances to praise the young participants of the Drop-in Basketball offering he started five years ago.
In the beginning it was outside on the tarmac court and he had two participants. The past two years with the help and support of Dysart township and its recreation co-ordinator Andrea Mueller he holds the workouts in the local high school gym since an agreement was reached to cover liability and associated fees with Trillium Lakelands District School Board which is the authority over the school facility.
The 71-year-old who barely looks a day over 60 appreciates the opportunity to work with young people passing on the passion for basketball.
“We started with two. Last year we had over 30 different people come out during the summer because you don’t get any better if you don’t play. I’m really glad I’m able to provide this for them” he said.
One girl he said from Bancroft has signed up to join the workouts Wednesdays and Fridays from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. It is open to boys and girls from 11 to 18 years-old with no cost. Registration forms are available at the gym and participants under 18 require a parent’s signature.
The workouts break down into learning the basics of the game such as layups shooting passing dribbling and playing defence. After the drills the group is organized into two groups arranged mainly by closer age ranges for fun scrimmages.
Cochrane has been coaching and teaching basketball for many years but he played for most of his life including collegiate basketball from 1963 to 1967. In his senior year he was a Minnesota Intercollegiate Athletic Conference men’s basketball all-conference player averaging 17 points per game as a guard for Macalester College in Saint Paul Minnesota.
He said getting to see the result of the participants’ hard work is rewarding.
He’ll never forget the incident that reinforced why he continues to hold the workouts. It was two years ago during a high school game when he was helping coach.
“I remember one of the players on the team … he raced down the floor and shot a left-hand layup. He came over to me [on the sidelines] thanks for teaching me how to shoot a left-hand layup Gord” he said. “It feels good. You get your reward from that kind of [appreciation] from the kids.”
Still an avid player Cochrane is stuck on the sidelines until September recovering from arthroscopic surgery on his right knee. Whenever anyone asks him why he doesn’t take up golf like other retired lawyers he says there isn’t enough aerobic activity for him.
When he came to the township for help with taking the workouts inside it was not if but how.
Mueller said helping Cochrane gain access to the gym two years ago was easy in light of how much effort he and his helpers have put forth in starting the workouts five years ago. The township essentially covers liability for the use of the gym at HHSS.
His dedication and efforts motivated Mueller to go to bat for him with TLDSB.
“He’s already given up so much of his time. We’ve got to make this work” she said.
This kind of offering fills a necessary void and is one example of many more needed for youth she said.
“I think that’s what we’re lacking the most is in youth programming and having something that interests everybody. Not everyone wants to jump on a skateboard or a bike or be part of a dance class or hockey so basketball is another avenue. It’s a physical activity and a safe place to be and interaction with others. I think that’s important” she said. “Not everybody wants to be outdoors or can tolerate the heat outdoors so having an indoor option is beneficial to some people.”
Generally volunteers are essential to what gets accomplished here she said.
“I keep saying it over and over again. Our volunteers are amazing. They make so much happen” she said. “If it weren’t for them so many of these things wouldn’t exist.”