Article by: Taylor Stewart
Sibling rivalries are burning fires inside most families. On a rare occasion, we see family come together on a team. The Vancouver Canucks had the Sedin twins, and the Milwaukee Bucks have the Antetokounmpo brothers. However, the Newfoundland & Labrador Wheelchair basketball team has even more family ties.
Team N.L. had not one, not two, not three, but four different family ties on their squad. Twin sisters Julia and Kayla MacKinnon, brothers Elliot and Jack Sampson, brothers Alex and Jack Kennedy and finally the mother-son duo of Raeleen and Gavin Baggs.
The athletes came together to celebrate their support systems after a hard-fought game against Saskatchewan. Each athlete gifted a Canadian Tire Family Pin to one of their loved ones as a token of appreciation for their help and support in getting them where they are today. The team also received Sport Chek gift cards as a thank you from Canadian Tire.
“It can be a little stressful and other times encouraging honestly. It’s nice to have a member of your family on the team so you have that real opinion and person you need close to you,” said Gavin Baggs. “It does put a little stress on though because she knows what I should be doing and if I don’t reach the expectation she’ll help me through it. It is nice to have her on the bench.”
Gavin’s mother Raeleen is the manager of team N.L. and assured me they try to separate the mother-son connection come game time.
“It’s great. We try to really separate the mother-son thing when we’re on the bench. It’s nice though, I can always give him a sentimental text to say make sure you’re doing this make sure you’re doing that, more of a mom and outside of the manager,” said Raeleen.
Alex Kennedy played on the Wheelchair basketball team for N.L. at the Canada Games in Red Deer in 2019. This Canada Games, however, he got to share the experience with his brother Jack.
“It’s really cool. To be able to see my youngest brother on the court with us, it’s a really cool feeling as an older brother,” said Alex.
Jack Kennedy knows how special it is to appear at the Canada Games, being able to do it with his brother brings it to the next level for him though.
“It’s great, it’s not bad at all, it’s really special. It’s my first Games, Alex’s second, and being here for the first time is one thing but being here with Alex is another, it's been surreal,” said Jack.
The support for N.L.’s Wheelchair basketball team was a sight to behold. As a team, you can only have five players on the court at a time, but with the support they had, it was like having a sixth player beside them.
“It’s electric man, it’s so cool. We’ve had family and friends come out, we’ve had athletes from other sports come out and it really brings up the vibe in the room, in the gym and on the bench. It’s really special and we want to thank everybody for being here,” said Alex.
Jack Kennedy couldn’t agree with his brother more.
“Man, it’s been unreal. It’s the first time I’ve experienced a crowd like this, it’s great. We’ve been down almost every game we’ve played but it has never felt like that. Our family is behind us, our friends are behind us and our province is behind us. It’s been truly great,” said Jack.
Gavin Baggs was also extremely appreciative of the love and support shown during their games.
“It’s really encouraging. These are people who know that we’re a team who will fight no matter what the score is. If we’re leading or trailing, if we win or lose, we still know they will be behind us every step of the way. It’s really nice just having them here supporting us,” said Gavin.
Team N.L.’s bond didn’t stop on the court either. The Wheelchair basketball team took in Newfoundland & Labrador’s Men’s hockey team games to show their fellow Newfies’ support. The hockey team was also in attendance for the basketball games. The two squads were actually roommates in the athlete's village.