These champion women had won an astounding 95% of their matches. These ladies were the national and world champions, often defeating their opponents by uneven scores. Yes, the amazing women we are talking about here are none other than the Canadian women basketball team named Edmonton Grads, who literally ruled the world of basketball with their amazing passion and dedication. The Edmonton Grads was a women’s championship basketball team coached by their wonderful coach Percy Page. they lived their basketball life from 1915 and we shall come to the ending part which was in 1940 later.
The Golden team had an Awesome Coach
Dr.Jamie Naismith, from Canada, invented the basketball sport in 1891. He was working with the YMCA International Training School in Springfield, Massachusetts. The game was originally intended for male players, but it wasn’t long before females began playing as well. The teacher Percy Page was employed by local high schools to organize commercial classes. Soon after some time, he decided to organize a women’s basketball team. Most of the team members had to work full time too as they had graduated from the commercial schools and usually the practices were held in the evenings after working hours. Page coached and supervised the teams and his influence on the Grads was clear.
Although he had only basic knowledge about basketball he improved his understanding of the sport through study. He held practices twice-weekly. He used to say, “You play basketball, think basketball and dream basketball.” Page expected discipline, sportsmanship, and ladylike behavior from his players, although he did not require adherence to a specific code of conduct. His slogan was, “Ladies first, basketball players second.” As the team members were respectable working women, Page expected them to behave like ladies, dress appropriately, and avoid smoking, drinking, and disreputable company. The team members used to call him “Papa Page” as he was so good of a coach as well as a mentor.
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Achievements of the Grads
Official records have stated that the Grads played a total of 522 official games during their team period with 502 wins and just 20 losses. This gives the entire team an overall win-loss percentage of 98.2%. The team won the Underwood International Trophy (USA-Canada) for 17 years straight and was undefeated in 24 matches held in concurrence with the Olympic Summer Games in 1924, 1928, and 1936. The Grads were named to Canada’s Sports Hall of Fame in 2017. The team continues to hold the North American record for the women’s sports team with the best winning percentage.
The end of the Golden Era
In 1940, the Royal Canadian Air Force took over the Edmonton Arena for wartime use, depriving the Grads of a local space in which to play against international teams. The commencement of World War II disrupted regular basketball competitions throughout Europe and beyond, causing the cancellation of tournaments and championships and making it increasingly difficult for sports teams to travel. Additionally, despite Page’s continuous efforts to find suitable competition over the years, no team had ever proven themselves consistently good enough to be a clear rival for the Grads.
The Grads’ dominance in basketball no longer attracted the same attention it had before, and regular game attendance had been shrinking. In May 1940, the Grads won their last Canadian championship before disbanding. Dr. James Naismith, the inventor of basketball, called the Grads the “finest basketball team that ever stepped out on a floor.”
What did the players do after the end of the era?
Some Grads players went on to join other Canadian basketball teams, such as the Comets and the Hedlunds. The Grads continued to stay in touch with each other after disbandment, meeting for reunions every four years. In 1961, the Grads decided to form an official organization to help them stay connected and answer public inquiries about the team. They established the Edmonton Grads Club, beginning to collect and preserve archive material and memorabilia, and the group continued to hold official reunions until 1987. On July 23, 2018, the last surviving member of the Grads, Kay MacBeth, died at the age of 96.
How they influenced the world of Basketball
The Edmonton Grads played to capacity crowds, attracting thousands of spectators and brought fame to the city, as their victories were reported in newspapers across the country and overseas. They were the dominant women’s basketball team of the early 20th century, with a record that most teams today would envy. In 1923, for example, the story of the team’s success in the Underwood Trophy competition was carried by most major newspapers in Canada, 300 daily papers in the United States, and publications in Hong Kong, the Philippines, and Cuba.