Tell us about your role as the Senior Coordinator of Coaching Development of the Ontario Basketball Association.
Day-to-day for me has a lot of corresponding with the coaches in Ontario about their certifications but “typical” is mainly based around the time of the year.
In the fall and winter, I spend most of my time scheduling our coaching courses and working with my coordinator on assisting coaches through the process.
Then the rest of my time is spent working on more of the activation side with our community initiatives and new projects we are working on to bring more and to support the membership and basketball enthusiasts in the province.
2You studied English and Communications in University, and Project Management in your post-grad. Tell us about key aspects learned from those programs which contribute to your success as the Senior Coordinator of Coaching Development for the OBA.
I know, not really the “normal” majors you see from someone working in sport, but I play fantasy football and then really “nerd out” over a good book so I tried to find that balance [laughs].
I think my courses at University really helped me understand effective ways to communicate and all the channels we can work in to be able to get messages across.
I was really fortunate to have some great professors who were not only supportive of me as a student but as an athlete as well.
My post-grad in Project Management, I feel like I apply in everything I do. I think what I value most about taking that course was I did it after working for a couple of years, so I had developed skills but didn’t quite know who to formally use them and that course really helped.
EVERYTHING is a project to me- I like to set timelines and have goals along that timeline- a very task-driven person I have been told haha- but I just find those skills coming through all the time.
3What does it mean to have a job in sport development? I feel like that’s a question you get from family and friends all the time.
To be honest, I come from a sports family- we are all a bunch of basketball junkies- so I am fortunate that in my role I can bounce some ideas off them, as for my friends they just know it's all basketball all the time [laughs].
But to me having this role and knowing I can have a positive impact on the sport for players and coaches across the province, inspires me to work harder and to constantly thinking about what we can do to help people.
I was fortunate to grow up playing in the OBA system and then at post-secondary and the experiences I have gained from that are so valuable I want all young athletes, no matter the sport, to be able to have a chance to enjoy the sport they love and have opportunities to try new things, so I think for me it's holding myself accountable to provide those opportunities to those who are seeking them.
4I can imagine working in sport at the grassroots level, especially for one of the fastest growing sports in the province is extremely rewarding. What are some of the most rewarding aspects of your job as the OBA’s Senior Coordinator of Basketball Development?
It is a combination for me- I LOVE being on the court with players and seeing them work through a skill and be successful at it but a lot of what we do is the administration, so I enjoy when we can help a coach through the pathway or we are able to provide drills for coaches who need support and hear the positive impact that we were able to have.
I am competitive, so I like to see things like- OBA certified the most coaches, or we passed targets on how many community groups we planned to hit, or even our educational campaign on Instagram is getting good feedback- it feels good.
I also really enjoy seeing the people around me succeed. Our team works really hard to ensure our clubs have what they need and that we can support multiple initiatives, so seeing members of my team complete things and be successful is a win for all of us!
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5You have experience as a varsity basketball player. How much does being an athlete for the same sport in which your development role is involved help? In other words, how much easier is it to work in basketball development (being a basketball player) as opposed to let’s say baseball or curling development?
To put it simply, it is AMAZING [laughs]. I am so fortunate to be able to connect with the people I deal with on a day-to-day basis.
I can’t tell you how many times a phone call about someone’s certification becomes a technical conversation or a story about one of their players scoring their first basket and I just love every second of it.
It also allows me to be able to jump into some other areas to provide some perspective from both a, *ahem* retired, athletes perspective, and then a coach, as I have come through the pathway and taken opportunities to coach since graduating university as well.
It is so beneficial, I am not saying you have to work in your sport, because I had and an INCREDIBLE experience at Rugby Canada when I was there but here, I just feel like I can do more because I know the sport.
6The elephant in the room is COVID-19 and the impact it’s had on Ontario Basketball. How has the pandemic changed your role?
I think in general COVID-19 has forced most sports into thinking outside the box.
A lot of what we do is with teams, coaches, players, officials, etc, so now we have to explore other ways to get messages out there.
In my role, we have been able to provide some Professional Development for our coaches and right now we are working on an online adaptation of the Learn to Train curriculum for our coaches, but it is something that we don’t want to rush as we think it could be something we use long term since our province is so big.
I am hopeful that we will be able to reach more players in the coming months and moving into 2021 regardless of restrictions stay how they are. I think a lot of people “miss” basketball and hopefully, we can bring it to them in any way possible.
SPMA's Final Thoughts
The role of Senior Coordinator of Coaching Development for the Ontario Basketball Association is just perfect for Kauri LaFontaine. As a former varsity basketball player and coach, Kauri LaFontaine is able to bring those experiences into her role. Kauri grew up around sports and loves to share creative ideas with her family to be able to gain an outside perspective. It is interesting to see how Kauri uses her experience from playing and coaching basketball and mixes it into her day-to-day with learnings from her post-secondary studies. It's clear that Kauri LaFontaine loves her job and wouldn't change a thing about what it took to get her there.