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: Mark English
School: Memorial University
Sport: Women’s basketball
Position: Head coach
Seniority: Three Years
Previous school/position: Head coach, UPEI women’s basketball
Hometown: Branch, N.L.
1. How did you first get involved in coaching? What was your path to your position as head coach of Memorial University?
I started coaching a high school team in Newfoundland after I finished playing at Memorial University. I also helped as an assistant with the Memorial men’s program for a year. Then my wife (girlfriend at the time) was accepted into graduate school at Lakehead University for a five-year program. I made the decision to pack up and leave home and be with her. Once I moved to Thunder Bay, I contacted Scott Morrison, who was the head coach of the men’s basketball program at Lakehead at that time and joined his staff.
After three seasons with Lakehead, I accepted the position of head coach for the UPEI women’s basketball program. Then in 2015, the opportunity came up to take over the Memorial University women’s program. I jumped at the chance to return home to Newfoundland, where my coaching career had begun.
2. Who are the people that have influenced you most as a coach?
Two people that have influenced me most as a coach are my high school coach Gord Pike, and Scott Morrison. Gord was the first person to tell me that he thought I had the potential to make a great coach later in life. He believed in me before I even realized that this could be a career option. I definitely took from his coaching style to always push my athletes to be the best version of themselves each and every day.
When I walked into Lakehead University, they had just come off making back-to-back U SPORTS Final 8 appearances. I knew I would learn what it took to win when I joined Scott Morrison’s staff. Scott really helped me believe in myself and instilled a confidence in me throughout my three years at Lakehead. It really helped prepare me for my first job at UPEI.
3. How would you describe your coaching style?
My coaching style is simple: it is about building positive relationships with the athletes. I focus on showing each athlete I care about them to develop true trust and buy into the program and each other.
4. Which coach do you admire the most, and why?
Two coaches I follow and read about quite a bit are Greg Popovich and Brad Stevens. I love their simple approach to the game and how they make it about the players and not themselves. They demand the best out of their players and they rarely complain. Their genuineness is something I really respect.
5. What is the most “out-of-the-box” thing you’ve done as a coach?
We travelled to Corner Brook, N.L. to play Acadia University two seasons ago. The drive was seven hours long, so to try and kill time I had the team do a van challenge on the drive. Each team had to take a TV show theme song from their childhood and rewrite the words about our team/basketball and do a carpool karaoke version. We posted the videos to our Memorial Athletics Facebook page and whoever received the most likes won the challenge. I didn’t think it would get much traction, but after Day 1 things got a little crazy. Each video had over 10,000 views. Not sure how out of the box that is, but it was good fun.
6. What is your greatest coaching moment or achievement?
I have to say it was being hired as the women’s coach here at Memorial. Getting back to where I played and in the basketball community I grew up in was special to me.
7. What’s the best advice you can give to an athlete and/or athlete’s parents?
Be an exceptional teammate and hold yourself accountable before anyone else.
8. How have you changed as a coach over time? What principles/values, etc. have remained the same?
I don’t believe my principles or values have changed. If there is one thing that I feel I have improved on it is my patience. Figuring out that no two athletes are the same and trying to reach each athlete in their own way to get the best out of them.
9. What do you enjoy doing when you’re not in coaching mode?
Spending time with my wife and son, and when I have time, I squeeze in a little golf every now and then.