How one coach is having a ‘high impact’ on young basketball players in Mississauga
By Vanessa Wright
A young boy stands on a basketball court with his shoulders square, feet apart and in complete focus. His soft, brown hair is slicked to his face with sweat. He grips the basketball in between his delicate hands. With one leg, he takes a step forward in a lunge position, dribbles the ball and brings his other foot forward so that both legs are adjacent. He continues this drill all the way to the far baseline and back again. Occasionally, his steps fall out of unison with his dribble. He stops, drops and starts to do push-ups. Then he returns to the near baseline and starts the drill all over again.
Step. Bounce. Step.
The young girl beside him follows suit, enacting the same drill. Just like the boy, she stops at nothing to perfect it.
These two promising young players are part of High Impact Hoops, a youth basketball program located in northwest Mississauga. The owners, Troy Dennie and Melissa Sciaraffa, work tirelessly to ensure the growth of their players. It’s rooted in their own love and appreciation for the game.
“I’ve always been an underdog,” says Troy. “I’ve always loved the game but I was never the biggest, strongest, fastest. Even in high school and college … I had to work and understand the game.”.
Troy and Melissa met over a decade ago when they worked together at the same school. As full-time educators and newlyweds, life was operating at an intense speed. “We worked together. We got a condo together,” says Troy. “We were just looking for something else we could make our own.”
“At that moment, we [said], ‘what can we build that we can have a legacy with?’”
From the concept stage to its launch in 2016, Troy and Melissa have turned High Impact Hoops into a successful youth basketball program. Coach Troy runs the programs, while Melissa handles the business aspects. She was also responsible for generating the name, logo and mantra.
Melissa recalls trying to find a name that people would remember; something that rolled off the tongue.
“When I thought of ‘high impact,’ I envisioned players being elevated in terms of their confidence, their beliefs, their attitudes [and] their basketball abilities,” says Melissa. “Just overall elevating to higher grounds.”
The integral message this organization reinforces is hard work and growth. The birth of long-lasting relationships is a sweet perk that comes with this business. Troy’s face breaks into a smile when he considers how the business he helped build has, in turn, built such a solid camaraderie in the community’s youth. And he did it despite the odds being stacked against him.
The optics of a Black man with tattoos, piercings and dreadlocks being a positive apprentice for youth was once considered contentious. “If you look at [appearance] at face value, that could steer some people away or put me in a certain box,” says Troy, who recognizes none of that matters to his students. “I see a lot of myself in them. I feel closeness. The pictures are real … they have their arms over each other. It’s amazing.”
Troy and Melissa work hard to maintain a high impact within the community. They conduct semi-private and small group sessions, mostly held at Z5 Courts in Mississauga.
Z5 Courts reside in a rustic industrial area tucked in between two small units. The tight entrance door leads to a massive gym separated by large grey curtains. It is divided into five sections. A sweat-filled aroma permeates the gym; the bass of classic Hip-Hop music thumps through the speakers and bounces off the walls. Young boys and girls dominate each game they play with palpable intensity. Their sneakers relentlessly squeak with every move against the hardwood floor, as parents cheer and coaches bellow orders. Four days out of the week, Troy is right in the middle of the action.
On the court, Troy is all business. Leading his students with a stern tone and direct orders, he demonstrates a technique to his students. They crowd around him like mini-soldiers, watching and listening with sharp focus. Their calculating eyes study each flick of his wrist and bounce in his step, from start to finish, with impressive concentration. They embody the same level of patience and intensity as if they’re in an NBA Finals game, tied with 10 seconds to go, with Raptors’ Head Coach Nick Nurse barking out a play. It’s hard to believe some are just seven-years-old.
“When I see these young kids, on a Thursday evening, in the middle of a snowstorm, playing tough defense, slamming the ball when they miss a layup, doing push-ups on the basketball, I’m like ‘holy smokes,’’’ says Troy. “I’m super proud. Sometimes I have to take myself out of it and be like, ‘yo he’s eight and she’s nine!’”
For his students, dedication isn’t taught. It’s understood.
Melissa says the unwavering dedication displayed by the students can only happen once a high standard is set. “[If] they want something, they have to work for it,” says Melissa. “Youth is taught to manifest what they want. At the same time, action needs to be taken in order to help make those dreams come true.”
Troy’s work ethic and dedication translates not only to his students, but to their parents. The father of one of Troy’s students comes to every game, observing his son’s progress and how influential the High Impact Hoops program has been over the years. His son really enjoys the program and he feels Coach Troy knows how to challenge the kids in a way that doesn’t discourage them.
The students in this program are part of a much bigger coming-of-age story, one that transcends sports. High Impact Hoops encourages the adoption of communication, perseverance and mental toughness; skills that are equally valuable off the court.
“Some of our players finish high school and … haven’t chosen basketball. And that’s OK,” says Troy. “What they all say is that [we’ve] helped them work through challenges, understand more about themselves and become tougher.”Troy Dennie, Owner and facilitator of High Impact Hoops, has turned his passion for sports and youth development into a sustainable business. Troy holds weekly basketball sessions in Mississauga and Brampton, both public and private, for youth as young as four-years old. He teaches them basic and elite basketball skills, as well as transferrable social skills like determination, teamwork and perseverance. Troy prides himself in his work, and holds himself to a high standard for not only himself, but his students. He is toughand straightforward with them, in efforts to make them better athletes and individuals. In addition to working as a part-time behaviour counsellor for Peel Region, he works tirelessly alongside his wife, Melissa, to give their all into High Impact Hoops, while supporting their newborn son. Through it all, Troy continues to be an advocate for youth development through sports education.
Students do push-ups when incorrectly performing a technique. (Vanessa Wright/T•)
Troy Dennie adds content to the High Impact Hoops Instagram page. (Vanessa Wright/T•)