This summer I had the pleasure of representing our province coaching with the provincial program again. (I have had the pleasure in the past of doing this in 7 different summers) It was a long summer with a lot of time and hard work.  As I returned to school this week, I had many colleagues questioning my motives for doing this. “Don’t you want a break?” or “I would never do that, I love my summers too much” In my time reflecting on the summer thought I might try to frame the provincial team experience that an athlete and coach has for those who have not had the opportunity. Here is the top ten things that the experience of the provincial team provided me and others in the program.


1.  Working with the best. Obviously, the provincial program attracts the best athletes each year. That is not what I am referring. It is not by accident that the best players are very often some of the best people, the most competitive athletes, the hardest working, toughest and as a result the most enjoyable to coach.


2.  Measuring yourself with the best. For those that have never seen a national championship, it is very different from a club tournament. With the exceptions of Ontario and Quebec, every province brings their best players with top coaches that are training all summer for this tournament. (Note: in the 17U boys this year these were still the best two teams even though they missing some, or much, of their top talent) This year’s event boasted 11 junior national team members competing in the two tournaments. Players and coaches get the fantastic experience of seeing how they stack up with the best talent in the country and realize that you may be a big fish in a small pond here in MB. As a result, the great athletes will gain the… 

3. Motivation to get swimming! If you are the best player in your school, it is sometimes hard to wake yourself up at 6:00am to get the gym and take extra shots. If you are the best in your province, it is sometimes hard to go after practice to lift weights. When you play with people better than yourself in your province and play against people a lot better than you in your country, you are bound to realize that IS another level and you CAN get there.


4. The premier Canadian recruiting event of the year.
This has really picked up in recent years.  There were far more college coaches watching at this event than I have seen in the past. Possibly because it was in the east coast event and having the best golf courses and beaches in Canada does not hurt at all.


5.  More great people.  Each summer I have worked in the PT program I have had the opportunity to work with great coaches. This year was no different. Getting the chance to work with and learn from peers that you respect, admire and compete against in the school season is great for coaching development. Getting the chance to spend your summer with good friends is even better for personnel development. Thanks to Dean, Jeff and Jimmy!


6.  Getting to know your biggest rivals. The chance for players to work toward a common goal with the same guys that in 7 months will be desperately trying to beat to win a provincial championship is a great thing. Making friends of your worst enemies: Ah, the beauty of sports!


7. Meeting great people. As a coach, you get the chance to be evaluated by National team staff, and pick the brains of some of the top coaches in the country.  After our final game, a few of players got a chance to talk Greg Francis (Canadian Jr. National team coach) about their games, their futures and what they needed to do to reach their goals. You just don’t get that experience anywhere else.


8. Travel around the country. After going to PEI, basketball has now taken me to every province in the country.


9.  Seeing a different game and the ultimate coaching test.
There are very much regional styles that tend to emerge at these events and it is always amazing to see how consistent they seem to be each year. It is because of these differences that I have found it supremely challenging as a coach to prepare for this week. We saw every conceivable defense and many different offensive styles played during the week  You must get your team ready for every possibility in a one week, one time event in which you go in knowing nothing about the teams you will play. This is the ultimate coaching test.  Interestingly, there are certain things it seems though that you can count on each year. BC kids can always shoot the ball but don’t always compete as hard as you might think. The Newfoundlanders play as hard and as tough as anyone plays, but lack the skill and talent that come with huge populations. Ontario players are usually more talented and athletic than anyone but often have trouble shooting from deep. Nova Scotia and New Brunswick are always better than you think and Quebec is often not as good as they should be. (note: ignore this Quebec comment for the last two years and in Canada Games years) Completely unpredictable and yet expected at the same time.


After the tournament was over, our team had a little time and took advantage of the last hot days of summer and went to the beach in PEI. As I took off my shirt to soak up some sun and go for swim in the fantastic Atlantic Ocean, my teammates ridiculed me for my extremely pasty white body. The guys did not make the connection that my resemblance to a P.E.I. lighthouse was the result of the many hours of time spent in a dark un-air-conditioned gym preparing for our big tournament. As I stood knee-deep in the salt water surf thinking about what I given up for the opportunity to get razzed by a bunch of 17 year olds, the only thing that came to mind was…


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