Ella S.

Grimsby, Ontario

Niagara Catholic Regional Fair

The Edmonton Grads

My project is about a Canadian women's championship basketball team from 1915 to 1940, called the Edmonton Grads. The formal name of the team was the Commercial Graduates Basketball Club. The team soon became known informally as the Edmonton Grads. I introduce how the team was formed, their major achievements during their twenty-five years as a team, and why the team was so successful. I also discuss their impact on women in sport and their significance to our Canadian heritage.

What was the most interesting thing you learned about your topic?

The most interesting fact I learned about the Edmonton Grads was that they were such a successful women's basketball team in Canada. I knew basketball was invented by a Canadian, James Naismith, in 1891 but I never really knew how basketball for women started or how women's basketball dominated in Canada. The Edmonton Grads were national and world champions. The team won the Underwood International Trophy (Canada-USA) for 17 years straight (1923 to 1940). They were also among a few women's teams that pioneered international play and were undefeated by winning all 27 of their matches unofficially at four consecutive Olympic Games from 1924 to 1936. They would go on to become the most successful team in Canadian sports history. The Edmonton Grads were inducted into Canada's Sports Hall of Fame in 2017. This is a very significant part to Canadian heritage. I also learned that the Edmonton Grads were a very well respected team, not just because of their amazing record but also because of their hard work, determination, and most important of all their style of fair play. Their coach was John Percy Page and his coaching style was not just about winning but a lot about teamwork.

What important lessons have you learned that you want to share with other Canadians?

I would like to share with other Canadians how the Edmonton Grads had a great impact on changing people's perspective about the involvement of women playing sports. When the team was founded in 1915, many people thought the idea of women competing in team sports was inappropriate. The team's reputation of exceptional skill and respectful behaviour on and off the court, helped to promote positive aspects of women's sports. They were pioneers of their era and they inspired other women to take up the sport of basketball and to participate in athletic activities more generally. I feel that the Edmonton Grads helped create and open up opportunities for generations of females and for girls like myself to be able to play competitive team sports. In 1976, women's basketball became an official Olympic event and I believe this is another way the Grads helped in the advancement of women in sport.

How would you compare your life today to the lives of those studied in your project?

I play on a girls' basketball team. Some of my friends play on a girls' basketball team and my sister plays on a girls' basketball team. I play for the Pelham Panthers in the Niagara region and I really enjoy practicing, playing games and tournaments, making new friends but also learning about teamwork, determination, and respect. Even though the Edmonton Grads were playing basketball one hundred years ago and yes, our uniforms have changed, but our basic core values of athletic excellence and sportsmanship as Canadians have not changed. The story of the Edmonton Grads has enriched me as a Canadian and inspires me to have the confidence to try and do anything with hard work, determination, and fair play. This makes me feel proud to be a Canadian and they need to be remembered. They are Canadian champions!