Like father, like son.
Midway through the Pen High Lakers boys basketball season, assistant coach Eron Labadie already has the memories he’ll cherish for a lifetime.
Those memories came earlier this season when he was standing on the Seahawks centre court at his former high school, Seaquam Secondary in Delta, with his 17-year-old son, Owen.
The last time he stood on that same spot was as a young player more than three decades ago.
What made the homecoming even more special was the fact the he was holding the same No. 10 home and away jerseys he used to wear all those years ago.
|Owen Labadie of the Pen High Lakers wears the same number his dad wore when he played high school basketball.
Mark Brett/Western News
The same number his son also wears as a member of the Lakers.
The old jerseys were a gift from the Delta school’s current athletic director Doug MacKenzie, whose brother also played on the Seahawks with Labadie, and who had them packed away at home as part of his team memorabilia collection.
“This is something that I have wanted to do ever since my son started playing basketball,” recalled Labadie, 49, who works for the Canada Border Services Agency and helps with the team in his spare time with head coach Raj Dhillon. “I couldn’t help but take it all in and really soak it up and appreciate what I was witnessing.
“There I was back in the exact same gym sitting on the same side I sat on 31 years ago, but this time my son was the one playing the game. Owen got to sit on the same benches that I did, getting his pre-game talk by coach Dhillon. And I got to watch my son play where I played. It gives me goose bumps just thinking about how special that is to me.”
But there was more.
“Then I get another wish,” he said. “The team that I now represent, the Lakers, met the team I, in a small way, will always represent, the Seahawks, in the semi-final match-up.”
In the end it was Seaquam prevailing 72-63 in spite of his son’s 27-point effort (Owen was named a tourney all-star).
“I guess that was the one time I was a little bit OK with the loss,” Labadie admitted afterwards.
Seaquam went on to win the event and the Lakers finished in third.
It’s that same sense of pride and team ownership both Labadie and Dhillon, who also donates his time outside his regular job, hope to instill in not only the team but all staff and students at Penticton Secondary School.
“The way our school (Seaquam) supported our team and provided team spirit was amazing,” said Labadie. “We played in a packed gym every home game, which was such a great experience. I can still hear the chants of “Seahawks” today.
“We both feel so strongly that it adds so much to your high school experience, either being the one playing or the one in the stands, cheering on your classmates and school. It is something that makes you proud to be in Penticton and proud to be a Laker and it’s one of those things I honestly think that Raj is bringing in here to try to build that.”
And just like he now cherishes those “glory days” memories that he looks back so fondly on growing up as a teen, Eron wants the same for the young players he and Dhillon now mentor.
The coach admits, while he probably shouldn’t, he does sometimes lives a little vigouriously through his son, adding: “Owen’s a much better player than I was.”
|Pen High Lakers assistant coach Eron Labadie watches the play from the bench.
Mark Brett/Western News
He also feels life and sports have many parallels.
“I tell the kids, especially my son, that at the end of the day, basketball will finish. Owen has aspirations of playing collegiately, hopefully he will go on to play in some men’s league somewhere, but at the end of the day what I keep telling him is that these are life lessons. The idea that you need to work hard, you need to be resilient, those are things that are going to help him in life beyond basketball.”
And, that one day too, Owen will have his own memories to cherish and maybe even share with his son.