Youth sports can be expensive for parents looking to sign their kids up, but one Calgary father is volunteering his time to make it a little easier for other families.
Angel Martinez coaches the Calgary Bulls basketball team nearly every weeknight — and he doesn't make a dime doing it.
"Yes it's a lot of work, but I love this game," explained Martinez.
"I can see the results, so that is my paycheck for me. That is the money."
Not only does Martinez spend his time teaching the U16 team at no charge to the players, but he works to make other aspects of the sport cheaper as well.
He painted the lines on the outdoor basketball court they use at his local community association, hunted down equipment to be donated and found a sponsor to help them afford professional jerseys.
When Martinez first looked into getting the Bulls to a league tournament, he was quoted as high as $1200 per player to register.
He eventually found a league that charges just $125 each, but even then he wanted to help make it more affordable for families who didn't have the spare cash.
"[That's] half of your groceries or it can complete your rent," said Martinez, who started raising funds to help with the fees.
"We were collecting bottles. So we sell the bottles, we get some money, we pay something on the registration fees."
His dedication paid off when the Bulls, up against an all-boys team, took home the bronze.
"This team doesn't exist without Angel," said Mark Bromley, who coaches in other leagues but spends his spare evenings helping Martinez teach the Bulls.
He said without the efforts of their coach to make the sport accessible and inclusive, some of the kids on the team wouldn't be able to play.
"There's all different ages of kids, there's kids from different economic backgrounds, kids from different cultural backgrounds, kids with different abilities," said Bromley.
"Like some kids play basketball on pretty high level club teams, but most of the kids have just started playing the last couple of years. And it doesn't matter, they all play together and they're a team."
An opportunity for community
Playing on the Bulls is not only a low-barrier opportunity to get young people involved in sport, according to Bromley. It also gives kids a sense of community in their neighbourhood, something Bromley believes can be lost in the modern, digital age.
"There's been times when practice is cancelled because it's raining and the kids will be like, 'Well, you know, we still want to play,' and so they'll just text each other and meet at the court and hang out here and and train in the rain."
Bromley's 13-year-old daughter, Madelin, is one of the few girls who plays for the Bulls.
She's played on other teams as well but says this one feels like a family.
"If you make a mistake, you know you're going to hear about it, but also if you do a good job, everyone's going to congratulate you. It feels like you can just kind of be yourself," said Madelin.
"You're not having to pretend that you're doing something better. You just go out and play and everyone's just got your back, which is a great thing about being on a team, especially this team."
Martinez said he's happy to put in as much work as is needed to make sure his players are happy and improving.
His dream is to eventually see even just one of the kids he's coached make it to the NBA.
For now though, he's settling for the next round of jerseys they've got on order — bright red in honour of the team's namesake, the Chicago Bulls.