July 19th, 2024

Pronghorns taking aim in fundraiser


By Dale Woodard on February 3, 2021.

LETHBRIDGE HERALDsports@lethbridgeherald.com

Dale Woodard
Lethbridge Herald
sports@lethbridgeherald.com
In her first three years with the University of Lethbridge Pronghorns women’s basketball team, there was always one special game for Amy Mazutinec and her teammates.
At least wardrobe-wise.
In that particular game, the team would don pink for the Horns annual Shoot For The Cure fundraiser to fight breast cancer with money from the game going to the Canadian Cancer Society.
“My first year we wore hot pink jerseys, but those are retired,” said Mazutinec. “Now we wear pink socks or pink ponytails and the other team participates as well. We sold 50-50 tickets or did stuff in person. I remember the refs even wore pink shoelaces and the money they made from reffing that game they just gave back to us and gave it back to the cause.”
Now, during a time of the COVID-19 pandemic that shuttered the Canada West season, the Shoot For The Cure — a U SPORTS initiative — has been forced off the court, but is anything but inactive. Instead, its moved online as Mazutinec and her teammates take part in a week-long fundraiser that began Monday and runs until Sunday.
“All of my teammates joined up with someone to be creative and share facts or just through our own personal experience,” said Mazutinec, a product of Stirling. “It’s been cool to see all the different things my teammates are posting.”
The Shoot For The Cure game may have been lost, but not the fundraising endeavour nor its message, said Horns head coach Dave Waknuk.
“The cause is still there and the need for support is still there. So we’ve taken everything online. What we’re trying to do through our social media platforms is raise awareness and try and get our athletes to tell their stories more and the impact it has had on them and others they know. I think the biggest thing with this whole campaign is we don’t want to lose the message. Everybody is affected by cancer and breast cancer and we want to make sure that message isn’t lost and we’re hopefully able to still raise some support for the cause.”
As of Tuesday night, the Pronghorns goal of raising $500 was already past the halfway point at $264.60.
“You’re never sure what the support is going to be without the game and without the silent auction and the different things we’ve done in the past,” said Waknuk. “The fact that we’ve already got these types of donations is great, but we want to keep going and smash our goal and bring it as much as we can.”
The Shoot For The Cure brings the Pronghorns together — at least virtually — for a team that can’t be together as the pandemic nears the one-year point.
“Obviously it’s very unfortunate to not be able to see them every day and push ourselves to be better,” said Mazutinec. “But I think there’s lots of credit to go to Dave and Paige (Crozon, Pronghorns assistant coach) because they, right from the start, instilled team culture and the importance of being a good teammate and what kind of atmosphere we created. When we were still in-person, we decided what kind of team we wanted to be.”
That didn’t change COVID struck.
“With all of the shut downs and us being separated, our team culture is still the same,” said Mazutinec. “There are always frequent check-in’s and we text about The Bachelor every week and things like that. We try to remain connected, because Zoom calls can get super-tiring. So Dave and Paige have tried to make it more fun for us. We’ll play Jeopardy and Family Feud.”
Waknuk and Crozon even brought in guest speakers,
“I didn’t want to just be my voice all the time,” said Waknuk. “So we got to look at some game tape and we got to look at some important things for our team and our culture. Most importantly, we’ve been able to bring in some speakers lately and I think it has been a pretty fun series for us that we’ve been able to pull some people in, just contacts in alumni. We’ve looked at topics from mental health to nutrition to alumni stories to financial advice, a little bit of everything just trying to get a different perspective because I think as a coach you always say ‘If I had time I would focus on this.’ Now we have time. So let’s use our space and connect the girls with what’s going to be helpful for them.”
One of those speakers was Pronghorns alumnus Lauren Taal.
“She actually coached a couple of us,” said Mazutinec. “She spoke about her journey. Another two speakers were about mental health and awareness. Being able to engage rather than meeting up to talk about basketball all the time, I think that has been really beneficial for us.”
Meanwhile, the Zoom workouts continue.
“It’s kind of cool because our fitness coach (Heidi Shaw) is the fitness coach for women’s soccer and rugby and she also has someone who works for her, so they do Zoom workouts for a lot of the teams,” said Mazutinec. “We’ll have workouts three times a week with a couple of other Pronghorn athletes to keep in shape and they’ve encouraged us to do all we can at this time, whether it’s physio or going on a walk.”
Step 1 of the Alberta government’s Path Forward on easing COVID restrictions starts Monday with the second step slated to start at least three weeks later.
Still, it makes predicting any potential return to the gym difficult.
“I’m more hopeful for the second step in March,” said Waknuk. “But we’ll take what we can get at this point.”
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