By James McCourt
I never wanted to be a basketball coach and to this day I’d probably describe myself as a football coach first.
Becoming a basketball coach sort of just happened. I had always loved sports growing up. That was something that was passed down from my grandfather. He had a love for all sports. His teams always were from Toronto. The Leafs, the Jays and the Argos. Surprise, surprise, those ended up being my favourite teams as well.
We would head to my grandparent’s house every Sunday and I can remember the grandkids gathering around the television to watch the Blue Jays after we had played a game of family baseball in the backyard. My cousins and I were always active and we couldn’t stop thinking of sports. I spent many hours in class dreaming of hitting a homerun, going top shelf in a game of road hockey or even thinking of what game we would be playing at recess.
I’m a pretty social person and I seemed to gravitate to team sports.
Setting a goal, working as a team and figuring out how we could win together. As I got older I moved from playing baseball into playing football and rugby. I absolutely loved practice. The preparation before, the time spent with teammates and the shared memories of hard work, determination and accomplishment. In my last few years of high school
I had the chance to play with a regional all-star team in football as well as a city club team for rugby. I was recruited to play university football and rugby and while my university career never panned out, I was able to see what goes into an elite sports program.
During University I started coaching high school football and rugby. In those early days of coaching, it was relationships with other people that fueled my desire to help them achieve their best. I met some amazing athletes, some not so amazing athletes and some great families. I always took the coaching side of it seriously and had a huge respect for the trust that families had in me to coach. In the end, I was always doing my best to help these athletes develop and become better people.
Eventually I would graduate from university and become a teacher.
Anyone who has any kind of athletic background and is teaching at the elementary school level is volunteered to coach anything. I’ve coached soccer, volleyball, basketball, three pitch, track and field, floorball and flag football. But I began to fall in love with coaching basketball. It offered a similar idea of coaching strategy that I had already loved about football. I started going to coaching clinics and working on developing as a coach. My approach to coaching has always been the same, I hold true to the idea that you can learn from anyone.
I would talk basketball skills and strategy with anyone that was willing and I loved watching how other people ran their practices or programs. Even much later when I was coaching in the OCAA, one of my favourite aspects of recruiting was watching athletes interact with their coaches before and after games and seeing what drills they would do in their warmups.
Working at local camps in the summer allowed me opportunities to see how other coaches approached the teaching points of the game and helped me to hone my own coaching skills. I’ve had some amazing experiences because of coaching.
When I really think about it, those amazing experiences were because of the people that I was able to share them with. The relationships that I have cultivated and the friendships that grew from a shared love of a game that’s main goal is to put a ball through a hoop. It’s funny when you think about it like that.
One of my favourite experiences was being able to coach Indigenous Team Ontario at the North American Indigenous games (NAIG). This event brought over 5000 athletes together to celebrate Indigenous culture and sport. The opening and closing ceremonies are always unbelievable and the joy and pride that is felt among the athletes and coaches is very powerful.
These days I have been working with the County Clippers organization based out of P.E.C.I in Picton.
My own children have been involved in their basketball programs and it has been a lot of fun working with a younger generation of athletes. For me, it’s about helping athletes fall in love with being active, making connections with families and developing relationships. The Clippers organization has a strong connection to the community and it is evident in all they do.
I never dreamed of the things that I could do, the places I would go and the experiences that I would share when I started coaching, but I’m glad sport was the vehicle that allowed me to experience all that I have.