By Mark Masters
The Thaba brothers were supposed to be stars on Glashan Intermediate School’s volleyball teams. The two older boys, Danny, 14, and Greg, 13, were already popular mainstays at the school, while Sonny, 12, was set to join them when he reached Grade 7. But on April 5, 2005, the three boys died in a tragic fire that engulfed their apartment on Somerset Street.
The community was overcome with grief and Rick Desclouds, head of the school’s volleyball program, vowed his boys team would make the provincial finals in the years following as a tribute.
Desclouds and the Glashan team made good on that pledge and this year took home the title.
The trophy sits in Desclouds’s classroom surrounded by pictures of Danny Thaba.
When tragedy struck it was no surprise that volleyball helped Glashan recover. There are 14 different teams at the school and more than half of the around 350 students play the sport. In the halls, you can’t walk more than a couple steps without seeing someone wearing a Glashan volleyball T-shirt. The school has won the boys’ provincial championship nine times in the last 13 years.
Put simply, volleyball is a daily ritual at the schoolhouse on Arlington Avenue. Players will practice in the morning before the opening bell, then again at lunch and once again after school. On Thursdays, some will even drop by a nearby YMCA to play some more.
The captain of the boys team that won the championship, O’Shaine Clarke, says playing volleyball is how he and his friends relax.
“All of us have known each other since Grade 3,” says Clarke. “We like to joke around on the court, but we know when to be serious.”
At 6’2, Clarke towers over his teammates and even some teachers, but says everyone looks out for each other on his team.
“Why do you think this guy is passing math,” says Clarke, pointing to a teammate. “We help him.”
“We’re like a small family,” says Nina Weiler, as she races between Glashan’s two gyms and between the two squads she coaches. One of those teams was formed because there were so many extra students who wanted to play.
Weiler shouts encouragement to her players while a throng of boisterous students watches from a stage overlooking the court. Clarke and other members of the boys team help referee the scrimmage.
“This is the place to be,” says Weiler. “This is such a team sport, it really builds the spirit of the school.”
This spirit is the main reason Bruce McNicoll, a volleyball coach at rival York Street Public School, says Glashan is tough to beat.
“When you go to Glashan you’re going to play volleyball,” says McNicoll. “At York volleyball isn’t necessarily the most popular sport. Basketball is also very popular, but basketball is more intense and physical so it can cause some hostility and headaches.”
McNicoll says the system Glashan has set up has helped foster the school spirit.
“They have a good feeder system. A lot of their new students come from Cambridge [Public School], where volleyball is also very big. So, a lot of them have already played together when they arrive.”
Glashan also keeps the same coaches with the same players during their time at the school. This allows the players to bond with the coach and build a relationship, says Weiler.
This sense of togetherness is something Desclouds says he takes great pride in.
“Volleyball is part of the culture of the school,” he says.
In the gym countless banners hang on the walls from championships in the past. Among them are banners memorializing the Thaba brothers. Their loss is never to be forgotten nor are the victories they inspired.