Paige Crozon tacked an extra 10 hours onto her commute this week and every one of them was worth it. The 27-year-old Humboldt, Saskatchewan native made the trek from Lethbridge, Alberta, where she is an assistant coach with the University of Lethbridge Pronghorns Women’s Basketball Team, to Edmonton, Alberta, representing Canada Basketball as she met with students to talk about her own basketball journey.
“It’s been so wonderful,” Crozon said. “We were involved in so many meaningful discussions and were able to get into the community. Given my background in Saskatchewan, and working with a nonprofit, I love the community side.”
Beyond her own coaching duties, Crozon is a member of Canada Basketball’s Women’s 3x3 team. She’s also the manager of the Living Skies Indigenous Basketball League. In addition to her time on the court, training, coaching and playing, she’s also mom to daughter Poppy. Getting the opportunity to speak with youth about her own journey through sport matters deeply to Crozon.
“Sport has had a huge influence on my life, and I've seen the benefits that sport can have,” she said. “Now that I'm on the professional side of sport working in a nonprofit, I know that all youth don't have access or equal opportunities for sport. I’m very fortunate, very privileged, that all within the community allowed me to come in and work with their students.”
Crozon’s visit coincided with Canada Basketball announcing a new multi-year partnership with KidSport Edmonton, KidSport Alberta and Alberta Basketball. The partnership will see the creation of the Bryan Anderson Memorial Fund, which will work to increase opportunities for self identified girls in families facing financial barriers to access basketball programs in Edmonton through subsidizing their registration fees.
“There’s so many barriers in sport, beyond just even having access to sports that deter young women away from being involved,” Crozon said. “So we can take one small step and at least ensure women have access, and ensure that sporting environments and sports teams are a safe space for all athletes and all little boys and girls. I think this will be huge for growth and development and taking a step forward, just ensuring that all athletes and young girls have access to sport will have huge benefits within our communities. I’m very, very excited that there was that announcement with Canada Basketball, KidSport and Alberta Basketball.”
As someone who has experienced the benefits of sport firsthand, Crozon has always been extremely passionate about ensuring that all children have those same opportunities.
“Sport has so many intangible qualities that it brings out in people,” Crozon said. “You learn how to be a good team player, you learn leadership skills and communication. If girls can have access to just one role model and the sport itself, it's not only for the generation of girls that get to play, it’s shaping the next generation of leaders when they get to the professional realm.
“Much like myself, a lot of my strengths were based on my background in sport and the things that I learned growing up being involved in basketball and all the other various activities I played.”
Though the trip was a quick one, Crozon packed in as much as she could. In addition to her school visits, she met with the mayor and shared Canada Basketball’s vision for the future. She also attended her first-ever NHL game, taking in the Edmonton Oilers against the Toronto Maple Leafs.
Her favourite part, though, was definitely getting to talk with the students.
“I always get a wide variety of questions, especially when I share that I have a daughter, that she comes with me through many basketball events and we play basketball together,” Crozon said. “[They ask questions] like, ‘You have a daughter and you still play basketball?’ Those questions are always the most interesting.”
Crozon didn’t just take questions on the school visits. She also took over Canada Basketball’s Instagram account for 24 hours, documenting her time in Edmonton, while also answering questions from Canada Basketball followers.
"I'm not a socialite by any means, so I definitely had to step a bit outside of my comfort zone,” she said with a laugh. “It was a good opportunity for growth for me and it was fun to interact with some of the people that were asking questions, and had things on their mind that they wanted to ask me. So that was very fun.”
Crozon has been involved with Canada Basketball for more than a decade, playing at various youth age groups, as well as representing Canada in the first ever 3x3 Youth World Championship in 2011. Getting to give back to the next generation by representing Canada Basketball herself has been a cool full-circle moment for her.
“I give a lot of credit to just having access and the opportunity to play with the national team at a young age, and to the amount of incredible role models that I got to witness through the pipeline of Canada Basketball,” she said. “And now my daughter gets to witness the pipeline [of role models] as well, I give a lot of credit back to Canada Basketball for the professional opportunities that I get to have now beyond the basketball court.”