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Explosive Edge offers elite-level basketball for Airdrie youth

By: Matt Durnan

  |  Posted: Thursday, May 29, 2014 12:28 pm

Airdrie Extreme Edge under-15 team member Justin Cissel tracks a ball during a practice drill on May 27 at Gensis Place, as coach Jamie Newman looks on.
Airdrie Extreme Edge under-15 team member Justin Cissel tracks a ball during a practice drill on May 27 at Gensis Place, as coach Jamie Newman looks on.
Matt Durnan/Rocky View Publishing

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In some instances the ball is put into your court by other players and in others, you have to go and get it.

For a group of Airdrie basketball enthusiasts, it’s the latter as they have taken it upon themselves to increase the presence of the sport in a growing city. Chris Bergman, a seven-year resident of Airdrie and owner of the Explosive Edge sport-specific training centre, created the city’s Explosive Edge basketball team that is now in its second year.

In the team’s inaugural season in the spring of 2013, 11 boys tried out for the under-15 team. The program has grown to two teams this year, an under-15 team and an under-17 team that is made up of many players from last year’s team.

More than 40 boys came to try out this year, with 13 being selected for the under-17 squad and 11 for the 15-and-under team.

Bergman has also garnered the services of a pair of high-level basketball minds to coach the teams, to truly fulfill his vision for an elite-level basketball program in Airdrie.

Jamie Newman coaches the under-15 team and played college basketball at Medicine Hat College. Under-17 Team Coach Jason Scott played college basketball at Brandon University in Manitoba.

Newman speaks with excitement when asked about the growth of not only basketball in the Alberta and Canada, but in Airdrie.

“When you look across the country, basketball is absolutely booming,” said Newman. “You have the recent success and popularity of the Toronto Raptors, last year’s first overall draft pick in the NBA is Canadian (Anthony Bennett) and the consensus No. 1 pick for this year’s draft is Canadian (Andrew Wiggins), the sport is taking off all over and we’re trying to build on that here in Airdrie and establish a brand.”

Currently the only avenues for young basketball players in Airdrie to pursue the sport is through school and the Airdrie Minor Basketball Association (AMBA), which runs in the fall and winter.

The Explosive Edge program runs throughout the spring and summer months and affords young basketball players the chance to stay in their own city to play.

“The AMBA is very much a grassroots league, and during the summer we were losing a lot of kids to Calgary teams because they didn’t have the option to play here,” said Newman.

“We have the population here and we have the interest level so why not keep our kids here?”

Bergman echoed Newman’s sentiments, comparing the program to that of another one of Airdrie’s biggest sports - hockey.

“With the number of people we have here there wasn’t really any reason that we couldn’t have a club team, you look around the province and places much smaller than here have club teams that travel and play in tournaments. Even a town like Hanna (population 2,675) has a club team,” said Bergman. “This program gives kids something to aspire to in their own city, just like the young kids playing hockey in Airdrie can aspire to one day play for the Xtreme.”

What the kids in the Explosive Edge program get, is an elite level of training from high-level coaches, as well as a chance to compete against the best that the province has to offer.

The boys from both teams will travel to Calgary this weekend to take part in a tournament; add to that their two-and-a-half hours of practice time on the court per week, plus fitness training off the court at Bergman’s Explosive Edge facility in northeast Airdrie.

The establishment of an under-13 team is in the works, and Newman is looking into creating a girls team.

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