R.D. Parker Collegiate’s representatives at Basketball Manitoba’s graduating all-star games in Winnipeg March 16 weren’t on the winning teams on the floor, but the Trojans didn’t come back empty-handed, with varsity girls players and the coach receiving recognition at the awards banquet.
Adrianna Proulx was named the female AAA high school player of the year for the second year in a row and her teammate Caitlin Fennell, who played in the A/AA/AAA female graduating all-star game along with Proulx and Brianna Bourguignon, was one of five players selected to the first A/AA/AAA all-Manitoba team.
“She’s just been a fantastic player to coach,” said RDPC varsity girls’ basketball coach Sara Gillis in presenting the award to Proulx. “I’m coming to the end of my high school coaching for awhile anyway and it’s just been a great pleasure to coach her for four years in a row. She’s helped create a little bit of a dynasty at R.D. Parker. It’s so great to see her move on at the next level of basketball. I’m sure it’s her dream. She deserves it. She‘s a hard worker. I’ve watched her grow from a basketball player from about the age of seven or eight or 10 right up until being the great young woman and basketball player that a lot of people envy.”
Proulx, Bourguignon and Fennell were up at the podium to present their coach the final award of the banquet – the Mike Spack Lifetime Achievement Award, which goes to a someone who has made significant contributions to the growth and development of basketball in Manitoba over a sustained period of time. Their speech focused on the ABC’s of Gilli’s coaching contributions.
“The A stands for altruism,” said Proulx. “Over her 26 years at R.D. Parker, Gillis has devoted countless hours to the senior girls’ basketball program at the expense of her personal time. The hours spent in the gym to practise, to making sub plans, to packing med kits, to organizing tournaments, could fill another’s lifetime. All this was done while juggling time with her own boys and their activities. Often the only time Gillis could dye her hair was at 1 a.m. before a road trip.”
“The B stands for belief,” said Bourguignon. “Gillis always believed that a team from the north could compete against teams from the south. She purposely picked tournaments that would challenge her teams to become the best they could be. If this meant travelling every weekend, so be it. That belief extended to her opening her new home at the lake to us so we could attend a camp this summer so we could improve our skills. Living with eight high school girls for a week? That’s really crazy. Gillis believed in the three of us as Grade 9s and convinced us to play on the varsity team. We were petrified but, as you know, the rest is history.”
“The C is for commitment,” said Fennell. “In our Grade 10 year we travelled 2,400 kilometres in one weekend. We played in Swan River, Brandon and Minot, North Dakota. Gillis made all the arrangements and did all the driving. This year we travelled 16,000 kilomtres to play in the Czech Republic. Again Gillis was the driving force behind the fundraising and organizing. The total time we spent travelling was 260 hours on top of the 110 hours of practice. If that’s not commitment, I don’t know what is.”
“This is truly a fantastic way for me to celebrate my basketball past and present and it’s certainly got me thinking about all the great things that have happened in my life because of basketball involvements, basketball endeavours and involvements that I chose freely, have never ever regretted and loved every minute along the way,” said Gillis in her acceptance speech. “I’m grateful that all my basketball involvment has resulted over time as a contribution to Basketball Manitoba. I have to admit, though, with a little bit of guilt, that my involvement in basketball has often been without contribution in mind. I often set out to do something because I want to, I like it, I want results, I have a goal, it’s fun, it keeps me on my toes, it keeps me young, stimulates me. I guess in a sense my relationship with basketball is a reciprocal relationship. I get as much out of basketball as it gets out of me, I guess, if not more. It is just so great that I can do something that I love to do and not look selfish doing it.”
Gillis also noted that her accomplishments were not achieved alone.
“Over 29 years – 40 years if you count as a player starting in the seventh grade – never ever have I done anything basketball-related alone,” Gillis said. “I’ve always had help, an assistant, a sidekick, a mentor, a role model, a friend or a team right beside me. Basketball is a team sport and from what I see, all of you hardworking passionate people sitting right here in this room are one of the best Manitoba teams going. Your contributions are huge and so much appreciated. Thank you again for this wonderful recognition.”