Deciding to apply for the head coach position of Canada’s senior women’s basketball team was no split decision for Lisa Thomaidis.
The longtime assistant had to be sure she was the right person to build on the successful run of the Canadian women’s side. Because of her investment in the program, Thomaidis wanted what was the best for the team and for her that meant stepping into the leadership role.
“This team needs to be taken to the next level, there’s no secrets about that, and I wanted to make sure that I could devote the amount of time necessary to do that,” said Thomaidis. “It took some time coming to that realization and when I finally decided that it was something I was truly passionate about I jumped both feet in, so to speak.”
Simultaneously honoured, excited, overwhelmed for the challenge, Thomaidis says, “Obviously it’s a big job. There are expectations and big shoes to fill so I’m just really anxious to get underway.”
The big shoes belong to Allison McNeill, the coach who had spent the previous 16 years coaching in the Canada Basketball system including the last 11 as the senior women’s head coach, and most recently guided Team Canada to the 2012 London Olympic Games.
After McNeill retired in December, Thomaidis began to think about the way she would run the team given all her past experiences, lessons learned from her mentors, and the growth she’d seen throughout the developmental levels of Canada Basketball.
“Allison’s very, very passionate and brings a lot of energy,” said Thomaidis. “I’m much more of an introvert and probably not as fiery. Not that I’m not as passionate, but I’m more understated in how I communicate.”
Thomaidis cites progress at the junior, cadette, and development levels that has created a “pipeline” of talent coming up the ranks to the senior program. Athletes like Michelle Plouffe, Nirra Fields, Kayla Alexander and Natalie Achonwa have grown within the Canada Basketball system and are poised to form the foundation of strong teams for years to come.
“It’s great to see these athletes performing who have been identified in the past,” said Thomaidis. “They aren’t just showing up, they’re ones who have been identified for years now, and watching them progress and develop is very rewarding.”
“I think just in the last five to seven years there’s been a much more systematic approach to the development of our junior and cadette players. I think it’s paid huge dividends because it really brought together the best players in our country and we had an intense training program for them year-round that they could compete against the best with very good coaching and we’ve seen the benefit of that.”
Thomaidis believes on keeping an eye to the development of the young players so that five or seven years from now those players have received the support necessary to put them in a position to succeed.
As a CIS head coach with the University of Saskatchewan and with the national team programs, Thomaidis brings a wealth of experience to the senior position that she believes will reflect her own brand of coaching and vision for the team and won’t change her core philosophies.
“I think when you’re a coach you have a coaching style,” said Thomaidis. “Regardless of what level you’re coaching at that style’s going to permeate through whatever team you’re with, so I don’t see that changing a whole lot in terms of how I operate, communicate, or motivate. I think you’re just coaching at a higher level with better athletes and better competition, but my style’s going to remain the same.”