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: Len Harvey
- School: Acadia University
- Sport: Women’s basketball
- Position: Head coach
- Seniority: Three years
- Previous school/position: Mount Royal University - Women’s basketball head coach
- Hometown: Baddeck, N.S.
1. How did you first get involved in coaching? What was your path to your position as head coach of the Acadia Axewomen?
I first got involved in coaching in my community doing mini basketball while I was a high school student and had a very linear progression from there. I worked my way up and started in U SPORTS as an assistant at Cape Breton. Things continued to progress from there when I got my first head coaching opportunity at Mount Royal, then returning here to my alma mater, Acadia.
2. Who are the people that have influenced you most as a coach?
I think my dad was the person who really had the biggest impact on me as a coach. He taught me a lot about sports being a vehicle to teach other lessons about life, and I got to see him impact a lot of lives in our small community during his career as an educator and coach. I’ve been fortunate to be around and work with coaches like Fabian McKenzie, Matt Skinn, and Kevin Duffie who have all influenced me in some way. I think my fellow assistant coaches, as well as those assistants I have had myself through the years have really impacted me as a coach as well, as they’ve always challenged me to keep improving my own coaching and leadership.
3. How would you describe your coaching style?
I believe in putting the players first in everything I do, to be the best servant leader I can be. I think I am someone who holds them accountable to the principles we stand for here, and I place a high value on competitiveness and toughness.
4. Which coach do you admire the most, and why?
I admire a multitude of coaches like Buzz Williams, Tara Vanderveer, Jay Wright, Dawn Staley, Jack Clark, and Brad Stevens. But the one who takes the cake for me is Don Meyer - a long-time National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA) coach who left us far too soon. I admired his passion for giving back to others and taking the time to spread his knowledge to educate and help out young coaches.
5. What is the most “out-of-the-box” thing you’ve done as a coach?
This season we took our team to a nearby military base and had them go through survival training and the CF Force test. Our coaching staff did it all alongside of them – dry-suits in a life raft and all!
6. What is your greatest coaching moment or achievement?
There have been a handful of them on the court for sure, but the only reason any of them are special is because of the relationships I’ve been fortunate to build with players and other coaches. I’ve been really fortunate to get to work with some amazing people through the years and really treasure those relationships. I suppose that’s been the greatest achievement through the game is the relationships I’ve gotten to build.
7. What’s the best advice you can give to an athlete and/or athlete’s parents?
Have fun! For athletes, having fun and being serious aren’t mutually exclusive things. I think you can be extraordinarily dedicated to the game, yet still find a lot of enjoyment out of it. I find too often these days that people think you have to be goofing off to have fun. In my experience, that hasn’t been the case, not for the true competitors and learners anyway. The other thing I would add for players is to realize that hard work doesn’t make you special. At this level of sport, hard work is just the price of admission.
I would encourage parents to let their kids have fun and be coached by their coaches. I’ve been in too many gyms, and rinks, and fields these days to see the harmful effects of parents trying to do the job of the coach. Letting your kids have a chance to be coached up, learn to handle adversity, and embrace success is incredibly powerful.
8. How have you changed as a coach over time? What principles/values, etc. have remained the same?
I think I am always changing, because my players change. It’s my job to be adaptable and figure out what works to get the most out of my team. I have always tried to be a servant leader and put players first, so that has been something that’s remained consistent through my time coaching.
9. What do you enjoy doing when you’re not in coaching mode?
I love to hang out with my wife and two boys, that is the best for sure. My favourite place on earth to be is out on the water; whether that’s sailing, swimming, or wakeboarding, so I really enjoy time home in Baddeck on the lake with family and friends during the summer.
10. What’s the most embarrassing thing that’s ever happened to you as a coach?
I was being evaluated by Mike MacKay at U15 nationals in Winnipeg for one of our games when I was coaching the Nova Scotia team. I got to the gym and Mike put the remote microphone on me, and took his place up in the stands to film and record me coaching for the game. It was then that I realized I didn’t have my whiteboard with me, with about 12 minutes to tip! My assistant coach took off immediately to run back to residence across campus to grab the board. He made it back just in time for our pre-game talk, and I thought we had covered the whole thing up and I was free and clear.
After the game I sat down with Mike, and he looked at me first thing and said, ‘Forgot your whiteboard, huh?’ I nearly died, the microphone was on the whole time, so he listened to us talking about what an idiot I was, then bragging about how no one would ever notice!
In my first game as a U SPORTS head coach at Mount Royal I actually forgot my whiteboard on the bus too. Luckily again, my assistant coach chased the bus down as he was leaving the parking lot to grab it for me. I have major problems with whiteboards apparently, but like I said before, I have had amazing (and fast!) assistant coaches!