Nothing but net or not, Conner loves the game

Conner had just completed the Centre for Autism Services Alberta’s popular Kickstart Soccer program, and he wanted more.  With a passion for activity and shooting hoops, Conner asked the Centre for a Basketball program.

Centre activity programs help kids with autism build self-esteem and confidence along with g ame fundamentals in a non-competitive, supportive environment.  “We were happy to accommodate Conner’s request, and glad we had resources to support a teen basketball program,” says Gail Stanford, Community and Family Services Coordinator.  “How could we not work to build this program, Conner’s enthusiasm was contagious, and him taking the initiative towards the creation of a specific program that he was passionate and excited about was fantastic!”

As Conner shares, “I asked Gail for a basketball program.” I was so excited when she came back to tell me it was going to happen! – I wanted to join in and play the game.”

“GoodLife Kids Foundation has been such an amazing partner, and a significant grant contributor making programs like Teen Basketball, and Basketballers for young kids possible,” says Deborah Usunier Allard, Executive Director of the Centre.  “They believe in helping kids with autism live happy, healthy, active lives.  We share a very similar philosophy expressed in the delivery of programs like this”

“It was good to exercise, and I made friends,” says Conner.  “I felt included playing the game.  I understand basketball better now.  I have developed skills like dribbling, passing, shooting, and working as a team.”

“Conner developed so many skills from the program,” shares his Mom, Sheryl.  “Having so much passion for basketball, encouraged him to ask for a program.  He felt supported and heard by Centre staff, and that made him feel that his ideas were valued.”

“Once the program began, his excitement for the game grew.  With support from peers, and skills broken down and taught at the groups pace, he got very strong in game fundamentals,” says Sheryl.  “Away from a competitive environment, kids could relax and be themselves without the stress of trying to fit in.”

“I’ll never forget the first game
they played, when Conner sunk
a basket. It was just ‘WOW‘.
Nothing but net.”

“Proud parents beaming, smiles all around.  With the competitiveness removed, we liked that it took sport back to the basics of fun, love for the game, and striving for personal best with an abundance of team spirit.”

“I liked seeing my parents and the other players cheering me on when I was out on the court,” adds Conner.

“The greatest thing for the kids, and parents too, is changing the message of “no he can’t, to you bet he can,” says Sheryl.  “In programs like this, kids get to experience what others do and be part of a team.  That’s a valuable life skill.  Celebration of accomplishments in the face of challenges and building mastery of the game is a big thing too.”

“We are grateful for funding from GoodLife Kids Foundation, and for the work the Centre did in building such a great program,”
comments Sheryl.  “Beyond sport and sportsmanship, the kids learn important values they take into other aspects of their lives.”

Conner has come a long way in his athletic endeavors.  There was a time, not long ago, when he was not allowed to go to his high school gym to shoots baskets, as time was restrictive to competitive play and intramurals.  With game prowess and communication skills developed in programs like Teen Basketball, Conner can now walk onto any court at the University or a gymnasium where people are shooting hoops and fit in with minimal support.  “To be able to join in at community basketball and succeed is a huge accomplishment, and we are so proud when we see him beaming with self-esteem and self-worth,” says Sheryl.

Besides basketball, Conner loves art, cooking, shopping, mowing the lawn, Centre camps and Teen Night, and his service dog Tulsa.  A big fan of Oilers hockey, he has met his hero Wayne Gretzky, who applauded him for his support of Racing for the Cure and other charitable causes.