Fredericton, NB – Not many basketball fans or sports fans in Canada know the story of the Edmonton Grads. A female high school basketball team that stayed together after their final year in 1915, coached by J. Percy Page. The original Edmonton Grads team consisted of seven, yes seven players on the team, later was a roster of eight, and throughout their career they went 412-20 between 1915-1940.
The Grads played Internationally as well defeating teams across Paris, London, Amsterdam and Berlin. Not only did they defeat teams across the globe, but they also went on to sweep four consecutive Olympics between 1924-1936, outscoring opponents 1863-297. The Grads won all 27 Olympic matches, however their achievement was unrecognized on the podium because women’s basketball was not an official sport until the Montreal summer games in 1976.
As the Second World War started, the Grads disbanded the team in 1940. By then the Grads held 108 local, provincial, national and international titles…the undisputed champions for 17 straight years which lead to high praise from Canadian and basketball inventor Dr. James Naismith saying they were the “finest basketball team that ever stepped onto the floor.”
Lets fast forward to 2012-2013 girls high school basketball in Fredericton, New Brunswick. Head Coach Peter Kelly, along with his assistants Jennifer Black & Juan Perez and his Fredericton High School Junior Varsity team had a decent chance at winning everything after returning five players from last years team, as well as six new members. After a rough struggle to last years season, Coach Kelly and his returning players were aiming to do better and improve on the season.
This years team was bigger compared to the rest of the province, and their game plan was simple, “If we could get the ball inside we would cause a lot of trouble. Later in the season teams found out we were equally strong from the perimeter,” explained Coach Peter Kelly. What more could a coach ask for, a strong inside presence met with an equally strong perimeter, a coaches dream.
Early into the season the girls started a streak of their own, going 5-0, then 10-0 and even 15-0, but Coach Kelly wasn’t thinking too far ahead, simply taking it one game at a time and not allowing himself and the team to get ahead of themselves.
“You still feel as though you could give up a game along the way. Your hope at that point in the season as a coach is that it doesn’t go to your team’s head. I put a strong emphasis on our goals ahead of us and tried to keep the girls focused on the end goal – to finish top four and qualify for the provincial tournament, and be in the final.”
At 20-0 and winning the Bernice MacNaughton Tournament Coach Kelly realized his team was the team to beat, they now had the bullseye on their back, and he was starting to see that his team could actually go 30-0 and crack the history books. However he kept it business as usual, didn’t let each win get to the girls heads, it started with a 12 point deficit being erased in the fourth quarter to win the game, and it let the team and coaches know that they were vulnerable.
The stage was now set, all the practices, game preparation, player match ups, have come down to one single game, 40 minutes of basketball and a 29-0 season on the line, and you’re on the road.
As a coach, you’ve been here many times what do you say to your team in a situation like this, how can you keep your team focused? Kelly went back to basics and kept it simple.
“We are prepared for the game – we need to trust each other on the floor, it’s time to go out and take what we had spent our whole season working towards. We’ve achieved a lot this season, and that one game won’t dictate our success this season. We are playing in Bernice MacNaughton’s gym, against them, in front of their crowd, and it will be a battle. We need to quiet their fans early or it will be a long game. We are here to do one thing. Win a Provincial banner.”
As the final buzzer sounded, reality set in for Coach Peter Kelly, his coaching staff, his team and the school community. They were Champions, New Brunswick Provincial Champions, and high school record holders! All the blood sweat and tears, the disagreements and successes, all the planning, coaching and practice hours put in to do one thing, paid off in full.
This type of season does so much for a team, but the way it can effect a coach is not seen by the general public.
“This experience meant a great deal. It gave me confidence in myself as a coach, and I needed that. The girls worked so hard for me all year, even though I was a first year head coach. The support from the school was great. I received a call from Kevin Daley (former FHS coach & mentor) as well as the school Athletic Director Jeff Currie. Without support from other coaches and community supporters I wouldn’t have been able to do it.”
After an amazing run through the season, not only did Coach Peter Kelly and his Fredericton High School Junior Varsity girls team go 30-0 but they set a school record, no team had gone undefeated for an entire season in the girls program, and well, it only took them 40 years to do it! There was one more thing for the team to do. The hard work and success caught the attention of someone very important to the city, Fredericton Mayor Brad Woodside.
The opportunity and experience to meet the Mayor is one that will stick with Coach Kelly and his team for many years to come, and it shows the support that the community has in its athletics.
“It shows how much the community really cares about the success. This experience was all about the girls, they deserved it – they were the ones who put in all the work and executed throughout the season. The fact that women’s sports does not alway receive the recognition it deserves, meant a lot that the Mayor took the time.”
The FHS Junior girls did not do what the Edmonton Grads did throughout their career, but what they did manage to do in one single season was unbelievable, some would even call it impossible. When you put a group of players together, that have the same goal in mind, and a coaching staff that gives them the tools and skills to accomplish that, impossible is possible!
It will be tough for another team to redo what this team has done, it is hard enough to go 10-0 in a season but to cap it off at 30-0 and go undefeated is an achievement that not many teams can do at any level. For the girls its an experience and a season they will never forget, but for Coach Kelly its a short time to enjoy the year, but its always time to prepare for the next season!
Congratulations to the 2012-2013 Fredericton High School Girls Junior Varsity team on an undefeated 30-0 season, putting their mark in the history books, and hoisting the New Brunswick Provincial Championship banner.
Fredericton High School Roster
Peter Kelly – Head Coach
Jennifer Black – Assistant Coach
Juan Perez – Assistant Coach