Youth sports can be expensive for parents looking to enroll their kids, but a Calgary dad is volunteering his time to make it easier for other families.
Angel Martinez coaches the Calgary Bulls basketball team almost every weeknight – and he doesn’t make a dime doing it.
“Yeah, it’s a lot of work, but I love this game,” Martinez explained.
“I can see the results, so that’s my salary for me. It’s the money.”
Not only does Martinez spend his time teaching the U16 team for free to players, but he also strives to make other aspects of the sport cheaper.
He painted the lines on the outdoor basketball court they use at his local community association, researched equipment to donate, and found a sponsor to help afford pro jerseys.
When Martinez first considered bringing the Bulls to a league tournament, he was quoted up to $1,200 per player to sign up.
He eventually found a league that only charged $125 each, but even then he wanted to help make it more affordable for families who didn’t have the spare money.
“[That’s] half of your groceries or it can top up your rent,” said Martinez, who has started fundraising to help pay the costs.
“We were collecting bottles. So we sell the bottles, we get some money, we pay something out of the entry fee.”
His dedication paid off when the Bulls, facing an all-boys team, won bronze.
“This team doesn’t exist without Angel,” said Mark Bromley, who coaches in other leagues but spends his free evenings helping Martinez teach the Bulls.
He said that without their coach’s efforts to make the sport accessible and inclusive, some of the kids on the team wouldn’t be able to play.
“There are kids of different ages, kids from different economic backgrounds, kids from different cultural backgrounds, kids with different abilities,” Bromley said.
“Like some kids play basketball on top club teams, but most kids just started playing in the last two years. And it doesn’t matter, they all play together and they’re a team .”
An opportunity for the community
Playing on the Bulls isn’t just a low-barrier opportunity to get young people involved in the sport, according to Bromley. It also gives children a sense of community in their neighborhood, something Bromley believes can be lost in the modern digital age.
“There have been times when practice is canceled because it’s raining and the kids say, ‘Well, you know, we still want to play’, so they’ll text each other and meet on the pitch. and hang out here and and train in the rain.”
Bromley’s 13-year-old daughter, Madelin, is one of the few girls to play for the Bulls.
She’s also played on other teams, but she says this one feels like family.
“If you make a mistake, you know you’re going to hear about it, but also if you do a good job, everyone will praise you. It’s like you can be yourself,” Madelin said.
“You don’t have to pretend you’re doing something better. You go out and play and everyone supports you, which is a good thing to be on a team, especially this team.”
Martinez said he was happy to work as much as needed to ensure his players are happy and improving.
His dream is to eventually see just one of the kids he coached make it to the NBA.
For now though, he’s content with the next set of jerseys they’ve ordered – bright red in honor of the team’s namesake, the Chicago Bulls.