When people ask Chris Veale if he has any kids, the Brookswood resident will sometimes say he has 30.
“And they’re all girls.”
He is talking about the basketball players he coaches in Brookswood, and that represents only a fraction of the number guided over many years by Veale, the basketball coach for Brookswood Secondary School. He is also the coach for Friday Night Hoops – a basketball program for girls in Grades 2 through 8.
”I look at very single one of them as my kids,” the childless Veale smiled.
“I call it our family. Our basketball family.”
When his players lost out because of the COVID-19 pandemic, Veale was able to get his Brookswood team back in training, even though the school gym was closed due to the pandemic.
Veale responded by renting out a small gym through South Langley Church and using his own money to purchase two portable basketball hoops so that he could provide a space for the girls to come in and practice, following return-to-play rules that permit no-contact drills.
“You do what you gotta do,” he said.
His goal was to ensure that if there was a season, his players, some of whom will be eligible for university scholarships, would be as prepared as possible.
“We’ve got to do whatever we can do to get them there,” he said.
“I really feel bad for them that they’re going to lose their senior year.”
“I still talk to some of them, to this day. Kids that I coached back then, I’m coaching their kids now.” Basketball coach Chris Veale was nominated as a Hero in Education for the Langley Advance Times.— Langley Schools (@LangleySchools) December 6, 2020
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Friend Janie Bergquist, who nominated Veale, said for the girls on the Brookswood team, “basketball is their life.”
“It was difficult for them to be out of the gym for so long, but Chris was always encouraging them to continue to play, even at home. Chris has gone above and beyond, providing and supporting all of the young basketball players with a space for them to get back to enjoying the sport that they love.”
When he was 13, Veale made what he would only later realize was a life-changing decision.
At nearly six feet, he was tall for his age, so he thought he would give basketball a try.
He was attending school in Aldergrove at the time, and he played for legendary coach Neil Brown.
Brown, who was named to the Basketball BC Hall of Fame this year, had a unique solution when the young Veale had trouble making the early morning trip in for training.
“He would pick me up every morning,” Veale remembers.
Sometimes, sterner measures were called for, and a groggy Veale would be awakened by his coach, who had gained entrance to his home and was standing in Veale’s bed room, demanding he get up.
Brown confirms the story.
“I made a deal with him,” Brown recalled.
“I’ll pick you up every morning, but I’m not going to wait for you.”
Veale credits Brown with talking him into coaching by asking him to fill in at a competition.
“He said, ‘hey can you cover me?’ We ended up winning the tournament.”
“I coached that group for five years,” Veale recalls.
Now 44, Veale credits basketball for almost everything good in his life, giving him purpose, and a career.
He was just getting into coaching when the father of one of his players approached him.
“Here, sign this,” the dad said, and the 19-year-old Veale did.
It was an application to work for the then-corporation of Delta, as the municipality was known back then.
He’s been working there ever since, and estimates he can probably retire before he turns 60.
He plans to coach longer than that.
“I’ve at least 12 years left,” he said, then explained that he has made a commitment to a friend that he would stick around to coach the friend’s daughter, currently in Grade 2. He is looking forward to it, noting the prospective player has an older sister who is “ridiculously good.”
One of the perks 0f coaching is watching his players go on to greater things, to university and even professional level play.
“That is what the rewarding part is,” he commented.
“I still talk to some of them, to this day. Kids that I coached back then, I’m coaching their kids now.”
Brookswood Secondary principal John Pusic praised Veale.
“He puts a ton of time in,” Pusic told the Langley Advance Times.
“I’ve never seen him without a smile on his face. He’s very passionate about basketball.”
Mentor Brown called Veale “an amazing young man.”
“I know very few non-teachers who are as committed as that guy,” Brown declared of his young protege.
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