Friday, September 28, 2012

For My Coaches

This Saturday is Canada Basketball’s Basketball Coaches Day in Canada. It “is a national celebration of our Canadian basketball coaches and all the time, dedication and passion that they contribute to our sport through the year”.  Teams and organizations across the country have been encouraged to find ways to recognize their coaches for all that they give.  Well, UNB has given me this soapbox so you’d better bet I’m going to stand on it.

In 1997 my family moved from Toronto to Vancouver.  Vancouver’s temperate coastal climate means that soccer is a year-round sport.  I’ll never forget my first day of grade four.  Jen Luther walks up to me in the cloakroom and announces that I will be on her soccer team. In Toronto I had been into dance (I’m sure right now my teammates are rolling around on the ground laughing picturing eight-year-old Allie tap dancing in sequins and feathered headdresses – yes, I did that) but if soccer was going to help me make friends in a new city then sign me up!

Her dad, Doug Luther, was my first coach in organized sports. I played soccer for the North Shore Flyers for nine years.

A few years later I started playing basketball and I fell in love.  From Cleveland Elementary and Junior Grizzlies to Handsworth Secondary I had so many amazing coaches.

Although they probably didn’t know it they each held my confidence in their hands.  Had they hurt me I probably wouldn’t have kept playing.  As a kid and a teenager basketball made me happy and kept me out of trouble. The game has given me so much.  You’ll always hear players say that a sport has taught them skills and it has revealed their character.  I agree, to an extent, but the majority of the lessons I have learned have come from my coaches. 

Over the course of my post-secondary career I’ve had four head coaches.  It’s unusual to have so many coaches in such a short time but I consider myself blessed to have taken something special away from each of my seasons with them.

Norm Hann, Todd Jordan, Mike Woollard, and Jeff Speedy, this one is for you guys.

Norm was my first coach. He took a chance on me at a time in my life when not a lot of coaches would have.  He gave me the opportunity to do something that I didn’t think I was capable of and it radically changed my life.  At the end of my rookie season when he decided not to come back I was rattled, to say the least, but then he taught me the lesson that I needed the most:  that my path and potential are of my own determination.  A coach is there to lead, to guide and to teach but no matter what I need to control my own happiness.

The next year we hired Todd Jordan.  Todd and I didn’t always see eye-to-eye but he taught me a lot of lessons that I needed to learn and that still contribute to making me the teammate that I am.  Todd introduced to me weight training and terrible, terrible, soccer field sprints.  Todd taught me the importance of sacrificing myself for the team and how to keep my mouth shut even when I wanted to say something.  He taught me that no one person is more important that what we are as a team.

Mike treated me like an adult.  He taught me that my opinions have value and to trust my gut.  He let what I said have an impact on how he ran the team, which was a lot of pressure but a challenge that I enjoyed.  Mike had an amazing faith in our team and program, a lesson that I still draw on today.

Now I'm heading into my second season with Coach Speedy. The thing that impresses me the most about Coach Speedy is how much he cares about all of us, and it’s not superficial.  He doesn’t just keep tabs on us because he wants to win games.  If someone is going through a tough time we all know that we can rely on him for whatever we need.  He’s empathetic and caring and I think sometimes we take that for granted.  Plus, Speedy puts so much work into the community and we are expected to do the same.  Yes, the players look good because we do it, but it’s Coach Speedy’s initiative that is behind all of it.  Speedy has taught me that no matter what I have going on there is always time in my day to take on helping someone else.  Be it with a teammate who is struggling with the offense or a grade 4 team that needs a guest coach for a practice.  Speedy teaches us every day to respect each other and to be leaders in our community.

Cory Russell and Dan Goggin are our current assistant coaches. I haven’t forgotten about them but I’m already tearing up and I’ve written too much so I need to wrap this up.  I’ll get to them another week.  

A blog post doesn’t even begin to say the thank yous that I owe those four men.  No matter what I do I know I won’t ever be able to pay them back.  I think that, as players, we do the only thing we can – we pay it forward.  We coach camps and clinics with the VReds program and when we’re older (and have a bit of time) we’ll coach our own teams.  When the day comes that I’m at the helm of my own team I’ll know that I’ve learned from the best. 

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Meet The Girls

We’ve had a good week.  Last weekend we got to participate in the Terry Fox Run, which was fun right from the Zumba warm up until we got to eat bananas at the finish line.  We had a meeting with Barb, our mental skills coach, where we got a chance to talk about how we’re feeling and how we’re each going to contribute to team success.  We had practices Monday and Tuesday and then yesterday got to play an intrasquad game.  The intrasquad game is basically just a scrimmage with real refs and score clock. Sitting down to stretch after the game Speedy asked if we’d had fun.  We were messy, and our offense definitely needs some work, but the obvious answer was “yeah!” Despite some frustrations  it was still so fun to get a good run in with all the girls.  Today we were back to regular practice.  This weekend we’ve got some practices, two team dinners and a team-bonding event on Sunday night.  Lots to look forward to this weekend and then it’s four more days of practice before we open the Helen Campbell Tournament at home against UQUAM next Friday.        

I am blessed beyond blessed to get to spend every day with my team and I want to introduce each one of them to you.  This could get a little long but each girl deserves a real intro. 

In rough age/seniority order, here we go:

Laura Fowler, #10 – Moncton, NB, (B.Ba.) Lau is back this year after her (second) ACL surgery and we could not be happier to have her back.  She is a great player and an amazing person to be on the floor with.  I want to be a better player when I’m on the floor with her because I want her to want to play with me.  I have so much respect for her and her work ethic.

Melissa Foster, #14 – Moncton, NB, (B.Sc.)  Mel is the consummate teammate.  She knows what to say when it needs to be said and she knows when not to say anything.  She is incredibly supportive, understanding, empathetic and always up for a cup of tea and a chat.  I continue to learn from her every day.

Sam Kaminsky, #5 – Moncton, NB, (B.Sc.) Sam is tough and definitely not someone to mess with.  Her loyalty is unwavering and I’m always glad she is on my team and not playing for an opponent.  I love that Sam and I can beat up on each other every day and then walk into the locker room joking and still being friends.

Claire Colborne, #15 – Calgary, AB, (B.RSS.)  I could write whole entries about Claire’s abilities.  She is undisputedly talented.  She is also tough, competitive, and getting better all the time.  As tough as she is on the court she is kind, caring, and fiercely loyal off the court so while she is busy taking care of business she is also taking care us. 

Tilly Ettinger, #11 – Calgary, AB, (B.Kin.)  The thing I value most about Tilly is how dependable she is.  She is solid and reliable, both on the court and off.  You always know what you’re going to get with her.  She knows how to distribute the ball and sees the floor really well.  She also knows how to balance ball with the other important things in her life and is a great person to talk to when you need someone to put things into perspective.

Colleen Daly, # - Ancaster, ON, (B.RSS.) Colleen is very enthusiastic.   I’ve never heard anyone come up with an idea that Coll didn’t want to be a part of.  She’s got a beautiful shot with a ridiculously quick release but also knows how to distribute the ball.         

Rachel Cleary, #20 – Brantford, ON (B.A.) Rachel is undersized for a post player but what she lacks in height she makes up for in intensity and work ethic.  She knows how to use her body to get position and gain space.   

Katelynn “Dutchie” Carver, #21, Bridgewater, NS (B.A.) Dutchie is so fun to be around.  She can find humour in the most ridiculous things and it helps keep a really good balance.  But don’t get me wrong, she can get feisty too.  I know I can call her, 24 hours a day, and she’ll be there ready to help no matter what needs to be done.    

Awo Farah, Ottawa, ON (B.A) Awo is transferring from the University of Ottawa.  We’re all really glad she’s here.  She is crazy athletic.  Her attitude is incredibly positive and she has really cool insight. I’m already excited to hear what she has to say during tough half-time chats.   

Karlen Majcher #8, Calgary, AB, (B.BA) Karlen is coming to UNB from a college in Alberta so even though she’s a rookie in our program she already has an understanding of the game.  She has a good little floater and might be the only player who hasn’t gotten blocked by Katelyn yet. 

Laura Fox #9, Halifax, NS, (B.Sc) Fox is 18 going on 30. She has confidence and character that is pretty unusual for a first year player and her TV and music taste make her sound like she was born in the 80s.  She is very athletic and knows how to dig deep in workouts.   

Nisja Bass #6 Los Angeles, CA, (B.BA.) Nisja came to Freddy all the way from California.  Nisja has already been battling an injury but she is keeping a smile on her face while doing weird rehab exercises during practice.   Yesterday she was in boots, sweats, a hoodie, coat, and toque.  It might be a long winter for her. 

Chelsey Collette, #12, Rothesay, NB, (B.Sc) Although I’ve only known her for a few weeks one of the things that already stands out to me about Chelsey is how sincere she is.  If she has something nice to say she’ll come right out and say it.  Dishing out “warm fuzzies” is going to build really nicely into the culture of our program.  She gets it.   

Caroline Healy #7, Bedford, NS (B.RSS) Caroline works really hard.  She listens well and is committed to getting better.  I’m really glad I’ve been given the opportunity to play with her this year.  She is keen, committed, and really funny.  I think she is going to have an amazing five years at UNB.

Katelyn Mangold #22 Peterborough, ON (B.A.) I think Katelyn had eight blocks in our first scrimmage.  Katelyn isn’t afraid of making mistakes so she often ends up saying something hilarious when Speedy asks a tough question but she is also an incredibly quick learner.  She is my partner for individual workouts this semester and I’m really looking forward to having her beat up on me every day.   

There we are, sixteen strong and getting stronger every day.  We have incredible coaches and support staff, but I’ll get to them another time!



Thursday, September 13, 2012

Round Two

Girls, Boys, Parents, Fans, People of the Blogosphere, 

I have a very important announcement to make:  I’m back.

My name is Allie Chalke and I’m a senior for the VReds.  I played my first three years in BC so although I’m only in my second year at UNB I’m in my final year of ball.  I expect a decent amount of my posts and ramblings over the next six months will relate to my fleeting time left as a student athlete so I won’t get into that now, but this is your warning, it’s coming. 

I kept this blog through the second half of last season and I’ve been asked to do it again this year.  It’s a chance for the people who support us to get a little insight into what our lives are like.  I’ll post every week about what we've been up to and how we’re feeling heading into the weekend.  For the most part, I won’t talk about what happened in our games, I’ll leave that up to the professionals at the Gleaner, the Brunswickan, and the papers in cities we visit.  Instead, I’m going to try to bring you along for the ride with us: in the locker room, the weight room, the gym, and on the bus.  I can’t promise it will always be glamorous because there isn’t a lot of glamour in 12-hour bus rides, ice baths, and sprained fingers.  That being said, I love being a VRed and some of my favourite parts are the subtleties.  I love chatting with teammates on the bus, I love the way my body feels after ten minutes in freezing water, and each taped up injury is a reminder of why we fight so hard every day.  I’ll do my best to capture those things for you. 

If you’re an athlete you probably already have an idea of what I’m talking about.  You probably understand the willingness to sacrifice sleep, a social life, and your body for a sport.  You’ll (hopefully) read and nod along thinking “yeah, I get that”.

For those of you who aren’t (and to all my extend family who I’m sure received an email link from my Dad…) I’ll do my best to explain to oddities and obscurities of film sessions, scouts, team pre-game meals, and other stuff that we do.   

So whether you’re a future VRed, an alumnus, a friend, supporter, booster, family member, or anything else, consider this an official invitation to come along with us, there’s always room for one more.      

I would absolutely love to hear from you so feel free to leave a comment on any post or send me an email at