Skeir getting valuable coaching experience at Acadia
By John DeCoste '77
WOLFVILLE, N.S. - After five years as a player at Cape Breton University, Jalynn Skeir now has her sights set on becoming a women's basketball head coach.
To that end, Skeir, a Halifax native and Citadel High graduate, will spend the 2017-2018 AUS season at Acadia as an apprentice assistant coach with the basketball Axewomen, as part of a Female University Apprentice Coach placement through Sport Nova Scotia and Sport Centre Atlantic.
Even before finishing her playing career, Skeir "knew I wanted to eventually coach somewhere. I've been involved in coaching younger girls for several years. I started coaching with Basketball Nova Scotia when I was 17 and in Grade 12. I've coached every summer since."
In the summer of 2016, she got "my first head coaching job," with the U-16 girls' provincial team. This past summer, she helped out with the Nova Scotia Canada Games girls' basketball team.
As for the coaching grant, and coming to Acadia, Skeir "talked to (basketball Axewomen head coach Len Harvey) earlier in the summer. He mentioned the program and brought it to my attention. I was interested, applied, and ended up one of two people selected" for the apprenticeship program.
The program, she said, "is for female athletes trying to transition to become a coach." Skeir joined the Axewomen at the start of the pre-season which included nine games at a trio of tournaments at UNB, Calgary and Queen's. Acadia finished the exhibition schedule with just one loss.
"It definitely hasn't been a sit down and watch position," Skeir said. She has assisted at Axewomen practices, and during the tournament at Queen's, with regular assistant Danny DePalma in Ottawa with the Axemen, "I got to be the assistant coach for the whole tournament."
Skeir identified Acadia faculty member (and former Olympic athlete) Ann Dodge as "my mentor" in the apprenticeship program, though most of her practical experience is coming from Harvey, who she is enjoying learning from.
"I've known of Len for a while," she said. "My first year at CBU, he was an assistant coach with the men's basketball team." Moreover, "I know quite a few of the girls here. I've always enjoyed Acadia, and my final choice for university came down to here and Cape Breton."
She has no regrets with choosing CBU - "we won the conference championship in my final year" - but right now, she is enjoying being at Acadia and is looking forward to the season.
Her experience in Sydney closely mirrors "a very similar situation" in terms of the Axewomen. Before winning the conference last spring, the Capers lost in the semifinals in 2015 and in the finals in 2016. Acadia lost in the semifinals in 2016 and in the final (to CBU) last spring. "I believe this is Acadia's year," Skeir said, adding, "I don't think I could have picked a better year to be here."
She is enjoying getting the opportunity to learn about coaching 'on the job'. "I love still being able to be around basketball. It's been a big part of my life.
"I also like the idea of being able to help people understand the game from a different perspective. I believe that was a skill I had when I was a player – the ability to teach others," which is why coaching has been a relatively easy transition for her. "It's definitely an advantage to have played the game."
Skeir is also "really interested in sport psychology," and is eventually planning to study toward a Masters degree in the field. Unfortunately, "it won't be here, because they don't have it here. I'd love to be able to do a Masters in sport psychology here. They should fix that."
Skeir will be at Acadia "for the whole season. I'm looking forward to learning as much as I can," she said, adding, "Len is a great teacher. He takes every opportunity to teach me."
Actually, Harvey "was a teacher before he was a head coach. I like that he's willing to listen to what I have to say. It's something I might not have gotten from a lot of coaches."
Skeir acknowledged, "I've only been here two months, and I feel I've already learned so much about
being a better coach."
As for what the future might hold for her, she said, "I don't know whether the grant is able to be renewed. If that was a possibility, I'd love to do that," and spend another basketball season at Acadia.
Actually, with completing her time at CBU, and then applying for, and receiving, the coaching grant, she pointed out, "I haven't had a whole lot of time" over the past year to think about her future.
She said, "I wouldn't mind eventually getting to coach the provincial girls' U-17 team," which doubles as the Canada Games team in the years in which the Games are scheduled. She missed out on the Games as a player, which would make it doubly special to be able to experience them as a head coach.
Since she made the decision to get involved in coaching, Skeir has "trained and trained and trained." She will need to be evaluated before she can be certified as a Level 2 coach. "To coach provincial U-17, I'll need to be certified Level 3, which is something I'd eventually like to do."
For the time being, she will bide her time, learn as much as she can, and be part of what she hopes will be a championship season for the basketball Axewomen.