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Saturday, Jun. 23, 2018
McMahon surveys option of jumping aboard coaching carousel
by Randy Pascal

Call it a six game coaching tryout.

In the case of Chantal McMahon, the local product who played for the Cambrian Golden Shield women’s basketball team just a few years ago and agreed to close out the 2016-2017 campaign behind the bench of the same team, the tryout cuts both ways.

Still a student, McMahon got a feel for just how ready, or not, she might be to jump into this challenge on a full-time basis. As much as the short stint provided the folks at Cambrian to get a glimpse of her readiness for the position, the past month or so also allowed the passionate basketballer a chance to gauge her interest in said job.

Fully immersed in the local basketball scene for the majority of her life, the graduate of Ecole catholique du Sacré Coeur entered the situation with a good, solid grasp on the pros and cons of taking the coaching reigns of her former team.

“The girls were in a tough position,” she said. “It was hard to compete because of the lack of players that we had. It was great to be on the bench and watch, especially other teams, how they play well together, how they have structure.”

“I’ve obviously played at that level, so I know what it takes to be able to compete. All in all, it was a chance to try and help the girls finish the season on a positive note. I know the girls and I know they basically needed someone to boost their morale – that was why I came in.”

That said, it wasn’t as though McMahon was entering the fray without some sort of frame of reference of her vision of how basketball should be played. “For me, as a coach, I’m defensive minded, and I think they needed some reinforcement of basic defensive principles, and ensuring that they are doing these things consistently as a team, whether it’s help side support, calling ball, communication, basically,” she said.

“Offensively, it’s just playing together, playing together at both ends of the court. I think we did improve on that, which was great to see, over the course of the last three weeks.”

Make no mistake, the lure of coaching was eventually going to captivate Chantal McMahon. It’s very much in her blood.

“Even before I started playing at Cambrian, I was helping out with the (Sudbury) Jam,” she stated. “It’s definitely my passion, it’s definitely what I want to do. But I kind of got the “dream job” right away. I haven’t had that time where I’m sitting as an assistant coach for a varsity team. I’m still at the point where I want to learn so much more about the game from other great coaches.”

The same grounded reality that McMahon displays when chatting about fair expectations for the Shield are evident when she provides a self-assessment as to her suitability to step in, next year, on a full-time basis.

“When it comes to being experienced, I’m not at that level,” she said. “It’s tough to coach your friends, to coach people that are maybe a year younger than me.” There is a very refreshing candor when McMahon offers an opinion, and she acknowledges that while there are reasons for optimism at Cambrian, there is also some serious sledding ahead on the road to respectability.

“I think we have a lot of talent, even with just the six girls that were there,” she explained. “There was a lack of conditioning and discipline. We have people who can score and hold their own on defense, but it’s the little things.”

“With bodies and numbers in practice, and someone who can control the team, just being able to run up and down the floor with the teams, it would help – but that takes four months. I think the off-season is key to being successful next year.”

“I’m actually excited for them, because they are moving into the East next year (Conestoga has completed their exhibition campaign and will replace Cambrian in the West division). The East is a weaker division, which is exciting for Cambrian, but we still need bodies.”

“There’s so much potential for these girls,” McMahon continued. “I don’t think it will be hard for them to get into the competitive spirit again, once they have someone in the gym who cares and is organized and is ready to win.”

“I think that will transfer directly to their attitude and competitiveness. If they don’t want to compete, then they don’t have to be there, and that’s the kind of attitude that I would bring to Cambrian if I was head coach next year.”

And that will require decisions to be made in the next month or so, decisions both for Cambrian administration, and Chantal McMahon as well.

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