Holmes made major mark in minor hoops

Kenn Oliver
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Volunteer helped start Melville Stars Minor Basketball League

Happy Valley-Goose Bay phys-ed teacher Ed Turpin, a sort of Mr. Everything to sports in the town, had been taking high school and junior high basketball teams to compete on the island since the late 1980s.

But since the curriculum doesn't introduce basketball until Grade 9, it put teams at a disadvantage.

"By the time they graduated high school they really weren't where they should have been technically," says Turpin, a son of soccer mad St. Lawrence who found an equal passion for hoops.

Cathy Holmes dedication and hard work paid dividends in Melville minor basketball. Submitted photo

Happy Valley-Goose Bay phys-ed teacher Ed Turpin, a sort of Mr. Everything to sports in the town, had been taking high school and junior high basketball teams to compete on the island since the late 1980s.

But since the curriculum doesn't introduce basketball until Grade 9, it put teams at a disadvantage.

"By the time they graduated high school they really weren't where they should have been technically," says Turpin, a son of soccer mad St. Lawrence who found an equal passion for hoops.

That changed five years ago when Cathy Holmes arrived in town after husband Joe began work as the concentrator manager at Voisey's Bay. With children Cameron and Elizabeth, then 12 and 9 years of age, the family moved from St. John's where they had lived for two years.

Before leaving however, Holmes had to ensure Cameron, who had developed a strong interest in basketball through school, MUN camps and Erica Coultas' City Stars program, would be able to continue playing.

Upon learning there was no programming until her son changed schools in ninth grade, the stay at home mom took matters into her own hands.

"Before I left St. John's I took the coaching courses, volunteered with Erica and learned everything I needed to start a program," says Holmes.

Once word got out through Turpin, the response was almost immediate.

"They came out of the woodwork," she says, "I had 10 people at my dining room table that first night."

With coaches in places, space secured, and a few community businesses on board with money for equipment, the Melville Stars Minor Basketball League was born in January of 2006. After starting out with 30 kids, the program's registration hit a five-year high of 100 participants this past January.

Turpin says he can even see a difference in the first batch of players coming into the junior high ranks.

"Their skill is where it should be and we're starting to become competitive.

"That's the difference this league has made to any of the successes Labrador is having in basketball. They're starting earlier and developing more of a love than an interest."

Needed partner

Holmes, who insists nothing would be possible without Turpin as her partner and idea backboard and the commitment from parents, coaches and players, believes, "they needed somebody to get the ball rolling and to oversee things."

Having never played basketball through life, or any teams sports for that matter, she left the technical aspect to Turpin and focused on pretty much everything else.

With the luxury of some free time during the day, Holmes took on almost any task related to the league from registration, planning three-on-three tournaments, ordering uniforms and equipment, scheduling league games and practices with coaches and players, travelling with teams, billeting visiting players and chauffeuring kids to and from events.

Holmes, who also volunteered at Mealy Mountain Collegiate and Queen of Peace Middle School in a number of roles, even went so far as to put their tiny league on the map by signing on for programs offered by Basketball Canada, the Steve Nash Youth Basketball League and the NBA's Toronto Raptors.

"There was never a child who could not join Melville Stars because of a lack of money," explains Turpin.

"Cathy was the type to secure grants through the Canadian Tire Jump Start program and write cheques to their parents for the purchase of shoes or registration so they could play in the league. She made sure the opportunity was there."

"She's so easy to work with and communicates so well with people, that's the main reason for the success of the league," says Turpin.

Holmes estimates she'd clock about 30 hours per week between administrative work and time spent in the gym, where she did eventually become comfortable teaching the new Grade 3's and 4's the basics of dribbling, passing and shooting.

"I was really energized by the kids and their enthusiasm for learning and doing better."

"It started with a personal need to keep my son happy in the sport he loved and after that I wanted to give all these other kids who are really enjoying it the opportunity to continue playing.

"I'm very proud of the program and what we all did."

Much to the dismay of Turpin and the Central Labrador basketball community, the Holmes' recently bid farewell to town they called for home for five years when Joe took on a position at a potash mine near Sussex, N.B.

In her absence, it will take a team of five parents who have agreed to step up and take over her duties within Melville Stars.

"Hopefully the people who have come on stream to take her place will show the same enthusiasm, interest, motivation and commitment Cathy did," says Turpin.

"I don't know if she'll be involved in a league in New Brunswick, but she'd be a huge plus to any organization."

koliver@thetelegram.com

Organizations: Voisey, Melville Stars Minor Basketball League, Peace Middle School Steve Nash Youth Basketball League NBA Toronto Raptors

Geographic location: St. John's, Happy Valley, Goose Bay Sussex New Brunswick

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Recent comments

  • Rosemary Rhodes
    July 22, 2010 - 11:07

    Congratulations Cathy! __ I can't think of anyone who deserves it more. You are such a great worker and always do everything 150%. Happy Valley, Goose Bay lucked in when you moved there. I wish you all the best. Aunt Rosemary

  • tpaine
    July 22, 2010 - 09:17

    So good to see such a quality, caring individual recognized for her work in our community. She will be sadly missed in all areas of sport and volunteerism. Trevor Paine (Prov Govt. Recreation and Sport Division)

  • Peter
    July 20, 2010 - 13:03

    So proud to hear that Cathy has been recognized for her dedication to the youth of of Happy Valley Goose Bay. Then again I may be a little biased. :)

    Peter MacLean (Cathy's brother)

  • Gerard
    July 20, 2010 - 13:02

    This is a nice story. This lady has set the trail for this program to succeed. Ed, its great to see you offering up effort and time. You surely have a lot to offer these children. Good luck with your program.

  • Jonathan
    July 20, 2010 - 13:02

    Great story for a nice lady. With Ed Turpin at the helm, I'm sure she has learned a lot. You go Cathy!