Stories of competition at the Western Canada Summer Games in Swift Current this summer were shared as part of a lunch and learn event hosted at the Access Event Centre by Sport Manitoba.
Held during National Coaches Week, in late September, the Morden event featured Ashley Hoitink, a Morden Collegiate boys basketball coach, who was the assistant coach of the 16U Female Manitoba team. She helped lead the team to a bronze medal and said the experience helped her as a coach as well.
She admitted stepping into the gym for tryouts with at least 75 elite female basketball players was very different than in the local school.
“You know there’s going to be that many girls, you have that number in your head based off past tryouts and what Basketball Manitoba’s told you,” she said. “But until you’re there and running warm-ups, or running a drill, then you’re like… this is what 75 girls looks like.”
Parents are also on hand watching every minute of the proceedings.
“My high school parents are phenomenal and they’re happy I’m there, but these parents have put in a lot of money and want to make sure this program is running smoothly,” she said.
Hoitink originally hesitated to apply for a coaching position at this level, allowing two opportunities to pass her by. And even this time, her expectations were low.
“Originally when I applied I said if I can get an interview, that’s good for me,” she said.
Becoming an assistant coach went well, and she said she had an opportunity to focus on zone coverage while head coach Sonia Radi worked on man to man coverage.
“My head coach was amazing,” she said. “She was really welcoming to ideas.”
Participating in Westerns has left its mark on Hoitink, and not just because of the medal they won.
“I came home just so happy that I did it,” she said. “I never went to anything like that as an athlete.”
Her advice for other coaches was to talk to each other and learn from each other even when it might be hard.
“Especially in a rural setting I find you don’t have a lot of people to talk to,” she said.
Sport Manitoba Regional Sport Development Officer Leanne Traynor said they wanted to honour those who spend their time coaching, and give them a chance to learn from each other.
“It’s something that Sport Manitoba sees the benefit in,” she said. “We have so many coaches in the province and we just want to step up and say thank you for all you do, because without the coaches we wouldn’t have the athletes.”
“They put a lot of effort in the coaching that they do,” she added.