For many years, Edmonds resident Michael Burdett dreamed of a place where athletes of all ages and abilities could engage in what he calls “the power of play.” On Saturday, that dream was realized when Burdett opened the doors to the
Edmonds Sports Academy — located in the very gym where his father played high school basketball 50 years ago and Burdett himself played in junior high.
“I’m very proud of him,” said Burdett’s father, Dale, Edmonds High School Class of ’52, who joined Ted Neff, Class of ’50, in putting on their lettermen’s sweaters Saturday to celebrate the opening of the academy, located in the Edmonds Center for the Arts building at 410 4th Ave. S. The former Edmonds High School and Junior High School building was remodeled five years ago to house Edmonds’ own performing arts center, but the gymnasium still has look and feel of an old-time, “Hoosiers”-style high school gym, complete with wooden bleachers and a purple-and-gold painted Edmonds Tigers sign.
Edmonds High School alumni painted the sign on the south side of the bleachers several years ago, Neff said. “They were going to paint it anyway as part of the remodel, so we asked them if we could put the Edmonds Tigers on the wall. A graphic designer acquaintance of Neff’s outlined the words, and alumni filled them in with gold paint on the purple background.
The Tigers were the long-time mascot of Edmonds High School before the school merged with Woodway High School in 1990 and became the Warriors. Out of respect for the Tigers’ legacy, Michael Burdett used purple and gold for his Edmonds Sports Academy signage.
Opening the academy to serve the community has been a long-term goal for the 51-year-old financial planner, himself a former college basketball player who still takes to the court three times a week. But Burdett said he was also motivated by his 76-year-old father, who is “an absolute sports fanatic. I wanted to get something done while he was still able to participate and see his granddaughters and grandson play.”
Burdett is quick to point out that his vision extends beyond basketball — “It’s called the Edmonds Sports Academy, not the Edmonds Basketball Academy” — but he started with a hoops focus for two reasons: First, he’s been playing basketball nearly his entire life and second, he believes there’s a need in Edmonds for a basketball facility that caters to all ages and abilities and also to both genders.
Go to the Edmonds Sports Academy website and you’ll find a list of customized options — from open gym times to youth camps to personalized training. Noting it’s often difficult for women to find open basketball leagues, Burdett is proud of the fact that he is offering a women’s league for anyone who is college age or older. There are also age-based men’s leagues, including one on Sunday nights “for us old folks,” he said.
Burdett, who helped start a “feeder program” aimed at preparing younger players for the Edmonds-Woodway High School girls basketball program, also has another goal: To keep the local high school talent local. “I found there are a lot of kids involved in feeder programs but when the feeder program season was over, the kids dispersed and went to play in select programs in Seattle, Bellevue, or wherever,” Burdett said. “And I thought this was ridiculous. Why not have some type of a program to keep the kids here at home — to have the Meadowdale, the Lynnwood, the Edmonds, the Terrace, the Shorewood kids stay here in Edmonds during the off season…and play here.”
He is proud to have recruited some outstanding coaches to provide both camp instruction and training for boys and girls, including J. Jay Davis, head boys coach at Skyline High School and Duane Hodges, head girls coach at Edmonds-Woodway.
Davis said his teaching philosophy is “to make it as fun as possible When you get in a group setting, you’re trying to make it as competitive as possible because that’s what this game is, it’s competition. But at the end of the day they have to have fun. When they are in an environment where it is fun, they learn more. That’s exactly what we’re trying to do here.”
Burdett stressed that his facility is not just for elite players, and he welcomes those just starting out at a recreational league level. ” I want to draw kids from all different talents and abilities to play in open gym with like kids and like skills so they have success doing that.”