The off-season is no time for rest for neither athletes nor coaches. University of Victoria Vikes women’s basketball head coach Dani Sinclair is set to co-lead the 2017 Cadette women’s national team program that will compete in the eight-team FIBA Americas Championship from Jun. 7-11 in Buenos Aires, Argentina. Sinclair will co-head coach with Jodi Gram of Markham, Ont. and will work with assistant coach Albena Branzova-Dimitrova from Montreal, Que.
“This will be my third summer coaching at this level with Canada Basketball and the experience so far has been invaluable,” said Sinclair who was an assistant coach as Canada won their first-ever FIBA Americas U16 Championship title in 2015 in Mexico. “To have the opportunity to work with the best athletes in the country alongside elite coaches and trainers is the on the job training you can’t find anywhere else. I learn so much, not just on the court but in all interactions we have in our time together. As coaches we share constantly the things that we can take back to our own programs including basketball strategy and tactics but probably even more than that is the conversation about working effectively with young women and managing a team.”
The best athletes in the country at this age currently include 15-year-old phenom Laeticia Amihere, who shocked the world online with her vertical. The six-foot-three Ontario native threw down a dunk at a Nike tournament and the Class of 2019 product went viral, while her skillset has put her at the top of the national prospects list.
“The special thing about the U16 level is that this is really their first national team experience,” added Sinclair. “You get to see their first time wearing a Canadian uniform and hearing that national anthem played before their game. It is incredible to see these things through their eyes.”
With every opportunity always comes its challenges. Canada needs a top-three finish to qualify for the Under 17 World Championships, and that will likely mean facing off with other top contenders USA and Argentina. The competition along with the travel and volume of training will certainly add to the experience both for the team and coaching staff.
“There are always challenges when travelling to a different country or continent and that is magnified when you’re with a group of 15 and 16-year olds,” explained Sinclair. “Long training and travel days, different food and culture, different living accommodations can all be challenging but in my experience, the best coaches and players understand how to overcome these things and turn them into positive team building opportunities.”
“As a team we will be challenging to prepare for the tournament as we are the defending champions. There will be some retribution in mind, from the Americans in particular.”
Sinclair and the Canadian Cadette squad of 12 athletes will depart for Argentina on June 3 and will begin competition June 7 at the CENARD facility in Buenos Aires. Team in the competition include hosts Argentina, Columbia, Dominican Republic, Mexico, Puerto Rico, USA and Venezuela.