Throughout the 2017-18 season, U SPORTS sits down with one key athlete, coach, and staff member of each U SPORTS athletic program in our new interview series “Getting to know…”
Name: Dani Sinclair
School: University of Victoria
Sport: Women’s basketball
Position: Head coach
Seniority: Sixth Season
Hometown: Guelph, Ont.
1. How did you first get involved in coaching? What was your path to your position as head coach of women’s basketball at the University of Victoria?
I always knew as a player that I had an interest in coaching and I really enjoyed getting involved with youth programs. I was getting my Bachelor of Education to be a teacher and coaching was something I knew would be a part of that. Shortly after I graduated I started working at St. Michael’s University School and since then it’s basically all I’ve ever done. It wasn’t ever really a goal of mine to coach at this level but I worked through the ranks as an assistant and when the opportunity came up, I felt ready for it.
2. Who are the people that have influenced you most as a coach?
Brian Cheng gave me my first opportunity at this level and he was my coach when I played at UVic, so he played a huge role in my development. I was expecting my first child when I was helping him as an assistant and in my head I thought my career was over because I was having a baby, but he was very flexible and involved with my family, that allowed me to keep moving forward. Anna Stammberger and Rich Chambers are others. Kathy Shields is someone who, since I’ve taken over this position, I rely on as a mentor.
3. How would you describe your coaching style?
How I describe it might be different than how others do. It’s a mix of different styles but I believe that I’m a people-first type of leader. I believe that different situations require different types of leadership but at the end of the day the most important thing is that people come first. Although I might lean towards more of an authoritative style, it is meant with love and care for the people that I’m leading.
4. Which coach do you admire the most, and why?
That’s an easy one. I get to walk in the shoes of the great people who have come before me here at UVic and there are lots of people who I look up to, but I’m pretty lucky to have the support of Kathy Shields (winner of eight U SPORTS Championships). She is so supportive and wants to pass on both her knowledge and experience.
5. What is the most “out-of-the-box” thing you’ve done as a coach?
I don’t want to give away too much information on this because it’s kind of a secret thing, but I’ll say that I’ve been known to do a pre-game performance for our team leading up to a big game.
6. What is your greatest coaching moment or achievement?
When the first group of players that I had coached for five years graduated. It coincided with the fact that we had a successful season and qualified for the Canada West Final Four. That was a really special thing because we had been hitting a wall for years of not being able to get past that round of playoffs and those fifth-year players were part of that struggle. It was special to be apart of that and break through to have a chance to qualify for nationals. The bigger picture was seeing the growth of those athletes, watching them grow up and become women. That’s what I love about this job and why I love coaching at this level, watching the athletes move on and achieve greater things after basketball.
7. What’s the best advice you can give to an athlete?
To try to see beyond themselves and understand the impact you have on not only the immediate people around you like your teammates, but also in the community, especially young athletes that look up to you.
8. How have you changed as a coach over time? What principles/values etc. have remained the same?
I’ve gained more perspective. That’s been a conscious effort that I have made. I haven’t gotten so caught up in every moment, win or loss and have been able to see the big picture. I’ve started to enjoy it more. One of the things I want to be able to do is create strong relationships with athletes and I think that’s hard to do when you’re constantly losing your mind. Accountability to oneself, hard work, and integrity are all important. It’s not so much results based, it’s more about people within our program upholding those values.
9. What do you enjoy doing when you’re not in coaching mode?
Spending time with my family. My kids are starting to do their own things and becoming their own people.
10. What’s the most embarrassing thing that’s ever happened to you as a coach?
Two years ago, I was seven months pregnant at a tournament in Toronto. We were meeting as coaches at a restaurant and both Lisa Thomaidis (Saskatchewan) and Carly Clarke (Ryerson) were already there sitting at the back of the restaurant. I walked in carrying a bag of apples for some reason. I was wearing heels, the floor was slippery and I fell – went full superman. I think if I was not seven months pregnant it would have been funny for everyone but they were all concerned. Just a little bit embarrassing to fall flat on my face in front of our two national team coaches. I also lost all of my apples, they flew all over the restaurant.