"It feels weird," said the coach, watching his young volleyball players prepare to play a tournament home game – for the first time in their school's history.
Yellowknife francophone school École Allain St-Cyr, with students from kindergarten to Grade 12, has existed in various forms since 1989. A gym for the school, however, has not.
That changed last fall with the opening of a new gym following a decade of fundraising and lobbying the territorial government.
A year on, the school is finally ready to host its first-ever tournament.
Young volleyball players opened proceedings on Thursday afternoon in a game against Mildred Hall School, watched by around 20 to 30 spectators.
"It feels incredible, being here and representing my team," said 11-year-old Allain St-Cyr team member Jean Emiel.
"I would say we are pretty good," he continued, analyzing his team's chances "We have a lot of chemistry and we feel good about this tournament."
Coach Ellie Zantoko, a longtime Allain St-Cyr student, said: "When I was in Grade 5, we would be at St Joe's all the time. It's a great feeling knowing it's at home, finally."
"You know you're going to have 45 minutes all the time. You won't be late," added 10-year-old Arseny, referring to past years when students would have to take whatever gym time they could get elsewhere.
Principal Sylvie Larose told Cabin Radio: "It's a great feeling to see the kids happy and invite people to come to our school, to see how we can do things at École Allain St-Cyr, in French."
Asked if volleyball in French is better than volleyball in English, she replied, with a laugh: "Of course!"
École Allain St-Cyr players with their coaches, Ellie Zantoko and Lucas Wood. Ollie Williams/Cabin Radio
The game begins. Ollie Williams/Cabin Radio
Teaching assistant Ingrid Wood, remembering "years and years of going to other schools," said staff were excited their school can, at last, contribute.
"We're so happy to be able to do it, finally," she said. "The kids are really into it. We have all our older kids from the high school involved.
"We're really proud to be able to start helping out. We know sometimes there is a shortage of gyms and it makes things a little less crazy if we can help."