April 23rd, 2024

Nothing but (virtual) net for Horns


By Dale Woodard on March 11, 2021.

Students from Children of St. Martha Elementary School take part in a virtual workshop with the University of Lethbridge Pronghorn Women's Basketball team. Submitted photo

LETHBRIDGE HERALDsports@lethbridgeherald.com

The University of Lethbridge Pronghorns women’s basketball team and The Children of St. Martha Elementary School are teaming up for a slam dunk right on the computer screen.

The Horns have joined the west side elementary school for two weeks of basketball clinics with The Children of St. Martha Elementary School’s Grade 5 and 6 physical education classes, which start today and run until March 25.

Of course, with the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic that just hit the one-year mark, these university-calibre classes for potential future Pronghorns will be in virtual mode.

However, the idea of teaming up the Horns with The Children of St. Martha Elementary School students began well before COVID with talks between principal and former Pronghorn Shannon Collier and Pronghorns head coach Dave Waknuk.

“What we’re starting to hear from other people is how much kids are just missing sports and missing basketball,” said Waknuk. “Now that U SPORTS have been kind of back in the swing we started looking at different ways that we can get involved with the youth and help out with some of the basketball training in the city.”

“We had talked to (Shannon) at the elementary school for a while now about trying do to something and trying to figure out a way for our athletes to do some school visits. Of course, COVID restrictions made it difficult. But Shannon spearheaded the idea and we were just there to help her in putting this together.”

Collier is also the phys ed teacher at The Children of St. Martha Elementary School.

Her daughter, Kyra, is also a first-year Pronghorn.

“When I came to elementary (school) one of the biggest things I wanted was for all children to have the opportunity to be involved in athletics, but also have a quality phys ed class,” said Collier, who started talking with Waknuk three years ago when he was coaching Team Alberta Basketball.

“I knew he was coming to Lethbridge and I knew he was coming in in a head coach role at the U of L. I would be chatting with him and I said ‘You know, when you have the athletes at the U of L, I’d love to be able to link our school with the Univeristy of Lethbridge.’ We’re really close in proximity and also there are lot of children that don’t have all the opportunties that maybe my child would have where they get to go to clinics and things like that.”

Thanks to the power of technology — and Zoom meetings that have become all the rage since the pandemic hit — the students at The Children of St. Martha Elementary School will get Canada West-calibre instruction from members of the Horns from various locations.

“Paige (Crozon, Pronghorns assistant coach) and Dave have set it up for the girls to do their lesson plan and practice plans,” said Collier, adding the sessions with the Grade 5 and 6 students will take place Monday, Wednesday and Thursday.

“So they have their focuses, dribbling, pivoting, shooting, holding the ball, layups and things that are relevant to kids this age. They start with an introduction of themselves. They walk into sets of drills for the kids with their focus and then they figure out a bit of a fun activity for them or game play.”

Waknuk said his athletes will be on the big screen while Collier runs things on the floor at the school.

“As the athletes are describing and showing things on the video screen, the teacher on floor will direct and maneuver it. It’ll be be the visuals of watching the screen and listening to our athletes going through things.”

Waknuk said not only are the virtual clinics great from the community standpoint and to work with youth, but also the career path some of his players will be heading down come graduation.

“We have a number of education students and getting to go into the classroom with a lesson plan, I think, is a tremendous work experience.

“And I think those who will transition to coaches coming out of our team at some point in their lives, this will give them a good chance to work on that as well.”

Collier was hopeful the clinics will push the elementary students forward in the sport.

“If we can get a basketball in their hands and introduce them to these role models and mentors and kids who have trained forever in order to get to that high level, if we can get these kids excited I guarantee they’re going to fall in love with the sport and when they have experience in elementary, chances are more children will play in junior high.”

The pandemic has put everyone in isolation, including Pronghorns athletes, said Collier.

“So to provide that opportunity to them, it may just spark some positivity and some hope for kids. So whether they’re elementary kids or univeristy kids, if we can provide opportunity as adults to come together as coaches, teachers, principles and community members and say ‘What can we do to provide hope for our children?’ When I look at these university kids they’re between 18 and and 22. They’re still young adults and even as adults there’s a lot of negativity around us.”

With the clinic starting today, Collier said she’s spent the past weeks making sure there won’t be any technical glitches.

“But they (players) each have a basketball and we’ve got all the equipment,” said Collier. “They’ve organized what equipment I need. As the phys ed teacher I’ll have my procedures and policies. So I’ll manage the kids from my end and they’ll give the instructions. I’ll be like their helper and they’ll be leading these sessions.”

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