“The reality is, in high school, the athletes have a lot of clout in the school so if you can raise awareness and teach those kids to advocate for other kids in the school, that’s how you improve a problem,” says Charles Hantoumakos, head coach for Bill Crothers Secondary School. This is following his team’s junior and senior wins at the first annual 4Reasonz Phoenix Undercard anti-bullying tournament, an annual event is designed to bring awareness to the ongoing issue of cyber and physical bullying in high schools across the Greater Toronto Area.

Hantoumakos’ team faced off with four others for the top spot, all in the name of raising awareness to fight against bullying.

Crothers’ teams dominated, with both junior and senior teams winning respectively. Downsview was beat out by the junior team 65 to 45, while the senior team took Thornlea 75 to 53.

Trae Bell-Haynes was awarded as MVP of the senior championship game and was not only pleased with how his team played, but why he and his teammates were playing.

“Bullying is a big issue so it’s good to come out and bring awareness about that,” he says.

Following the tournament Hantoumakos spoke with Urbanology Magazine regarding the tournament and the importance of its message for kids and how 4Reasonz is part of the solution to the problem of bullying.

HOW DO YOU FEEL ABOUT BOTH YOUR SENIOR AND JUNIOR TEAMS TAKING HOME THE WIN AT THE 4REASONZ PHOENIX UNDERCARD TOURNAMENT? I am really happy. The kids work extremely hard and they deserve it. They are a fantastic group of kids. They put in work not just on the court, but in class. There is a lot of expectation of them from the school playing at the level they are playing at and I think that it is fantastic for them that they had the opportunity to play in such a great tournament and the opportunity to win that tournament.

I’ve been very big on the senior guys taking on a role on mentoring the young kids and being there for the young kids. Some of our kids come from rough neighbourhoods so they can talk to the young kids. At our school, it really is about family. – Charles Hantoumakos

HOW DO YOU FEEL ABOUT PARTICIPATING IN THE ANTI-BULLYING ASPECT OF THE TOURNAMENT AND WHAT DOES THAT MEAN FOR YOU AS A TEAM? I am really big on that kind of thing. I think it is absolutely amazing what they are trying to do. When I first saw the tournament, there were a couple other tournaments that weekend, but when I saw the message and what [4Reasonz] was trying to do, there was absolutely no question. I think that it is something that, collectively as a group, not just educators, but people in general need to raise more awareness about. I think a basketball tournament like this and what they did through sport is amazing, because that is how you get through to kids. I love the message, I love what they’re doing and I fully plan on attending that tournament every year that I am coaching at the high school level. It’s really important, because no kid on the planet deserves to go through that and if you can raise awareness and teach kids to advocate for other kids then eventually bullying will fade out… There was a different feel in the air at this tournament. It was a lot more positive.

BECAUSE YOU GUYS ARE COMING TOGETHER FOR A COLLECTIVE CAUSE? It definitely trickled down from players to fans alike… Our school, at the end of every huddle and at the start of every huddle, we all chant together. I’m really big on preaching family. I saw a bunch of tweets this weekend that they sent out and it was ‘Crothers Family’ on every tweet and it was a picture of both the junior and the senior teams. You never hear any of them call each other by their name; it is always, “What’s up fam.” They are all equal and they look at it as family. I’ve been very big on the senior guys taking on a role on mentoring the young kids and being there for the young kids. Some of our kids come from rough neighbourhoods so they can talk to the young kids. At our school, it really is about family.

Words + Photos By. Samantha O’Connor
With Files From Dinusha Wijemanne