Coach sees potential for growth in women’s basketball
By Ryan Melanson,
Establishing a full CAF women’s basketball program remains a work in progress, but an Atlantic regional development camp was recently held for the third year in a row, and those involved say momentum is moving in the right direction.
The three-day camp was held at the Dockyard Fitness and Sports Centre in Halifax from February 20-23, with 15 women from the Halifax, Greenwood and Gagetown areas participating in drills and other skill-building activities. Some have experience with the game from school or civilian leagues, while others came in with less background hoping to pick up the basics.
They were joined by Capt Russ Payne of 14 Wing Greenwood, who’s been involved in each of three Atlantic camps so far, as well as Mark Forward, head coach of the women’s team at Mount Saint Vincent University. Numbers were up slightly from last year’s camp in Greenwood, and Forward, who also took part in 2017, said the participants are making progress.
“Last year, the group was a little more nervous, but this year I’m seeing a real thirst to learn, and that’s a good sign. Things are going well; we’re teaching things and then they’re putting those tips into play right away. There’s a big range of skill level, but that’s natural.”
Women who are newer to the game tend to struggle with scoring, and he said a focus for the camp would be on learning to read defense and practicing in 1-on-1 or 2-on-1 situations to develop strategies for making baskets.
“We’re just trying to instill some confidence in them and give them some new moves they can use at the basket.”
Capt Genevieve LeBlanc played basketball through high school and college, and has kept up with the game in civilian leagues since then. Since joining the CAF, she’s been working to promote the sport, recruit potential players and establish these development camps.
“I joined six years ago, and there was really no CAF women’s basketball when I first arrived in Valcartier,” she said. After three years of gathering interest and pushing local PSP staff, the first skills camp was held in Valcartier in 2015. Soon after, she was posted to Gagetown, where she began the process again and has been instrumental in putting the Atlantic camps together since 2016.
“Now after three years, some of the players have been with us since the beginning and we can really see the progression of their skills, but the challenge is that we lose girls who get posted each year,” she said.
Keeping the momentum that’s been built so far will take constant work, but the goal is to keep working toward a national tournament featuring ‘all-star’ teams selected from a series of regional training camps, similar to what’s been happening with CAF women’s soccer.
“Even today, we have enough women here that we could form a strong Atlantic team. If each region can do the same, we can have a national tournament,” Capt LeBlanc said.