SWISH’s return a success
After a three-year hiatus, young basketball players once again took over Bannatyne campus’ parking lot E throughout the summer.
The Summer Weekend Inner-city Supervised Hoops (SWISH) program took place on Saturdays from July 8 to Aug. 19 after being postponed because of the COVID-19 pandemic. The free program, led by the Office of Community Engagement in the Rady Faculty of Health Sciences, gives inner-city kids a place to play basketball in a supervised setting.
Because SWISH hadn’t been held since 2019, organizers were unsure how many kids would show up. It turned out to be more popular than ever.
“The numbers have been up, which is incredible,” said Karen Cook, co-lead, Office of Community Engagement at the Rady Faculty of Health Sciences. “We had 40 kids show up for the first Saturday and a record-setting 67 kids during the second Saturday. This speaks volumes to the amount of work we collectively put into the program.”
Cook said they’ve also seen an increase in the number of Indigenous kids taking part in SWISH. She attributes this to the work that SWISH staff member Crystal Wiegner has been doing to promote the program in the Indigenous community.
“Crystal has been instrumental in promoting this Rady Faculty program through her networks,” Cook said. “It’s great to see so many Indigenous kids taking part.”
Xavier Smith, coordinator of the SWISH program and a former UM Bison men’s basketball player from 2011 to 2013, said it’s amazing to be back for SWISH’s 10th summer.
“It’s great for the community, the kids and the inner city. That’s the whole focus,” Smith said.
Nathan Gauthier, who is going into Grade 11, attended SWISH this summer to improve his basketball skills to become the best player he can be.
“It’s fun and competitive,” Gauthier said. “It’s good to meet different people from all over the city.”
Binh Nguyen, who played basketball for the Canadian Mennonite University Blazers and professionally with the Saigon Heat in the Vietnam Basketball Association, started off just like Gauthier. He spent five summers shooting hoops on the Bannatyne campus and is now one of eight SWISH staff members, who include UM Bisons, community basketball players and former SWISH participants.
“There were a lot of role models I looked up to when I came to SWISH and they taught me how to play basketball,” Nguyen said. “Now I’m in that role and lead by example. I get to teach them the game of basketball and get the kids to build relationships with each other. I think that’s the most important thing.”
While the main goal is for the kids to have fun, Smith said he loves seeing SWISH participants like Nguyen pursuing basketball at the next level.
“That’s just the cherry on top,” Smith said. “I love that.”
Ez Roberts, who is heading into Grade 11, attended SWISH this summer to learn new skills to help him become a starter on his high school’s basketball team.
“It’s pretty amazing,” Roberts said. “I like what the guys here are doing – giving out awards to kids who just come out to play basketball.”
SWISH partners include Basketball Manitoba, City of Winnipeg, Faculty of Kinesiology and Recreation Management, Joe Doupe Recreation Centre, UM Parking Services, UM Security Services and UM Physical Plant.