Merrick Palmer – basketball coach, mentor, and entrepreneur – can now add documentary maker to his already impres-sive resumé. The co-owner of the Capital Courts Academy in Orléans recently released a 21-minute documentary on the improbable run made by the Academy’s girls team to the Ontario Scholastic Basketball Association (OSBA) championship last spring.
The OSBA is considered to be the best prep school league in Canada and one of the top leagues in North America. It is usually dominated by teams from the Greater Toronto Area (GTA) which has a massive pool of talent from which the schools can recruit players.
Capital Courts Academy, which is made up of players who attend classes at Cairine Wilson Secondary School, went into the playoffs last year as the 6th seed with an 8-9 record.
After beating Crestwood Prep 74-70 in the quarterfinals, the Academy girls upset the second seed Lincoln Prep 74-75 in the semis to earn a berth in the championship game against first place King’s Christian Collegiate which was riding a 19-game winning streak.
Despite being overwhelming underdogs, the CCA team led the entire game and were up by as many as nine points on their way to a 65-61 victory.
But as much as the documentary is about the team’s remarkable championship run, it is also about team head coach and Capital Courts co-founder Fabienne Blizzard, the journey she’s been on and the ripple effect she and Palmer have had on the Academy, its development program and the commitment to excellence they have both instilled in their players – thus the name of the documentary.
Blizzard, who is originally from Southern Québec, was herself inspired by her high school coach, Rodrigue Dufault.
“He was so passionate about the game that he made you fall in love with it,” Blizzard says in the documentary. “As soon as I was done I was looking for a way to pay it forward because there was so much given to me.”
Blizzard ended up in the coaching apprenticeship program at the University of Ottawa and eventually with the Gloucester-Cumberland Wolverines.
She crossed paths with Palmer through the many clinics and camps he ran. The two immediately gravitated to each other over their like-minded philosophy of how sports and basketball, in particular, can not only develop young women athletically, but in terms of their whole selves.
“We knew that we couldn’t just roll the ball out and say ‘here’s the basketball, let’s play in this league’. We knew we had to grow the entire human being. We knew we had to handle all aspects of their development and not just the basketball,” says Palmer.
The Academy program includes a strength and conditioning coach, a clinical psychol-ogist, a transformation therapist and a team doctor. So far, 11 of the girls who have been through the program have gone on to receive Division I scholarships south of the border. Another seven have ended up in a university program here in Canada.
In their first year in the OSBA in 2017 they had just eight players and finished in sixth place with an 8-10 record. In 2018-2019 they improved dramatically and finished second in the East Division with 13 wins and just three losses.
They finished in second place again in 2019-2020, but they were unable to make it past the semi-finals.
After the 2020-2021 season was canceled due to the COVD 19 pandemic, the team was eager to get back on to the court last winter and make another run at the playoffs which culminated in their winning the OSBA championship.
You can view the documentary by going on YouTube and searching for “The Ripple Effect”.