During her five years as a Caper, Maddie Munro orchestrated her fair share of offensive and defensive plays on the court. Now, with the 2019/20 season looming, the former power-forward is hoping to make an impact from the sidelines in her new role as assistant coach of the Cape Breton University men's basketball team.
Having watched her compete numerous times as a player, Head Coach Matt Skinn feels that it was Munro's determination, on-court intelligence and communication skills that made her a stand-out candidate for the assistant coach position.
"As a player you admired her tenacity over the years. She always played her role perfectly and her work ethic made her one of CBU's more valuable players over the last couple of seasons. On top of that she was able to win an AUS championship with CBU and that success is something she can delve into as a coach. To be quite frank I knew she was my number one choice when I found out Chris (Rao) was leaving."
Throughout her time with the women's team Munro proved to be an exemplary student-athlete with an Academic All-Canadian award and 2017 AUS conference title to her name. Despite a hectic sporting and academic schedule at CBU, Munro's burgeoning interest in coaching continued to grow.
"I've always had a passion and desire for coaching. I think I have a good basketball mind for it and it just felt right for me. I was the assistant coach for the U15 girls provincial team when we went to nationals and it really showed me a different perspective. A perspective that allowed me to learn, not only for my basketball, but translating that into coaching as well."
As an assistant to Coach Skinn, Munro will inevitably experience a steep learning curve in her first full season on the sidelines. Unfortunately, that curve has been made even steeper by the apparent gender disparity within the AUS and men's game as a whole. Despite this additional hurdle, the Business Administration graduate remains fully focused on the task at hand.
"At the end of the day, basketball is basketball. Whether you're male or female, if you have something to bring to the table that's the most important thing but it's obviously in the back of my mind that there's not much of a female presence on male basketball benches."
For younger fans of CBU basketball, the appointment of Munro will likely be the first tangible female representation they have experienced within the men's game. Whilst being a role model isn't a requirement for the job, Munro is happy to embrace her visibility on the sidelines and the possible impact it could have on the next generation.
"I think the visibility aspect is very important for the younger demographic. If they see somebody out there they think 'if I want to do that, I can.' It gives them a platform and a building block to say 'I can set these goals now."
In terms of responsibilities within the game, Skinn fully believes his new assistant is ready to be thrown in at the deep end.
"I'm going to throw her into the fire and give her a lot of responsibility. That's what was given to me as a young coach and that's the best way to learn. I didn't make this move so Maddie would be the only female assistant, it came down to her being the best person for the job. Maddie is the perfect fit for our program right now and she's going to kill it for us."
Stepping onto the court in front of a packed Sullivan Field House in the hallowed orange of CBU is an experience that Munro has grown used over the last five years, stepping out as a coach however, will be a different matter altogether for the recent graduate.
"It's going to be bittersweet because I can't play but I'm going to be so excited. Obviously, there is going to be nerves but I'm very confident in the coaching staff. I just want to go out there and relax, have fun with it and let things fall into place. I'm just excited to start and see where we can go."
Just how far the CBU men's basketball team can go this season is difficult to predict. The team made it to the AUS semi-finals last time out and despite the significant number of incoming freshmen, Skinn believes that the AUS conference title should always be the goal.
"I think our depth has improved and that was one of our weaknesses as a team last year, we have definitely built on that for the upcoming season. I'm excited to get going and I want to build towards something special."
CBU kick off their season on November 2ndat 8:00 pm against Acadia as part of a weekend double-header. For ticket information visit www.gocapersgo.ca/fan_zone/ticket. Make sure you follow @gocapersgo on Twitter and Instagram to keep up with everything orange this season.
Josh Lines - Cape Breton University Athletics