An electrical engineer by profession, Jack Semerdjian’s other passion is basketball, the sport he grew up playing at his local AGBU Center in his native Toronto, Canada. Decades later, that is where he finds himself again volunteering as Co-Chairman of the AGBU Sports and Youth Committee.
Our sports program allows all kids to be a part of a team, learn important life lessons, and ultimately have shared experiences which define their youth.
Why did you first volunteer to work at AGBU Toronto? I started getting involved on the weekends with AGBU’s very successful Saturday Kids Basketball Camp. This program runs throughout the year and offers young members of our community an introduction to the program and AGBU. Soon after then Sports & Youth Committee Chairman (SYC) Jack Bastermaji asked me to join the organizing committee as an adviser.
I wanted to volunteer for two reasons: to continue being involved in the sport of basketball, and start coaching/teaching what I have learned in order to pass that knowledge on to the next generation of players; and secondly, to give back to AGBU. The AGBU basketball program is the main reason why I have had the opportunity to travel the world, play the game, and make lifelong friendships. I grew up at the center from a very young age, it was important for me to me give back and help continue the great tradition that we have established in AGBU Toronto.
How would you describe the Armenian community in Toronto? The Armenian community here is engaged on so many levels. There are many opportunities to become involved, give back and enjoy being a part of this community. The number of associations, cultural organizations and social clubs is something we are very proud of. Other ethnic communities in Toronto that have much larger populations in the city than we do are always amazed when we play against them in tournaments and exhibitions by the quality of our facilities and organization.
As a coach, what part of the job do enjoy most? The most rewarding aspect is meeting youth aged 9 and 10 years old, and watching them grow up. Many of the boys and girls who I coached when I first started out are now either in University and College or have graduated. They have started their lives and careers and it’s great to still see them, continue our sporting relationship, but also spend time with them as adults and watch them achieve their own successes.
How has the AGBU Sports program helped bring young Armenians together and promote their Armenian heritage? Our sports program allows all kids to be a part of a team, learn important life lessons, and ultimately have shared experiences that will define their youth. Many of them might not get a chance in other institutions like school to play basketball and be part of a team. AGBU allows them the opportunity to play as a team and represent not only AGBU but the broader Armenian community that supports us through basketball. Without that desire on the part of our players and parents to be a part of our heritage, there would not be a team to begin with.
The work that I have been a part of could not have been possible without my Sports & Youth Committee. In particular, my Co-Chairman Vicken Ampagoumian and Athletic Director Gary Semerdjian. They are the real reasons why the program has thrived. They have been involved for many more years than I and deserve the recognition for their work in making the program a success just as much as I do.
What future plans do you have or might like to see for AGBU Athletics in Toronto? We hope to expand into soccer. Our bread and butter is basketball, but our club has a long history with Soccer which we plan to reintroduce to attract new athletes to our growing network.
Banner Illustration by Luis Tinoco