A unique mentoring programme is setting Canterbury women’s basketball up for a bright future with 22 young women receiving scholarships in 2019.
The talented and hard-working ballers from a wide range of schools across the district have received $500 towards their basketball related expenses, as well as one on one mentoring with a current Canterbury Wildcat.
Cassidy Brunel, one of the scholarship recipients, has been paired with fellow guard and Wildcats veteran Shea Crotty. ‘Having her input into how I can improve my game has been really good. I can text her if I need her or if I’m having trouble with my game, she’s always there to help me, it’s great.’
Crotty, who is also mentoring Lauren Whittaker, says the programme speaks for itself with the likes of Helen Matthews, a former recipient, now one of the Wildcats main squad. ‘You’re kind of responsible for the development of these players, we do take it personally for sure.’
‘To see these younger players coming through that will be in our position one day, it’s awesome!’
Outside of their own trainings, gym sessions and games, the Wildcats are expected to offer a wide range of support to their mentees. ‘Everyone’s different and you get to know your players quite well. I deal with Cassidy quite a lot with her mental game and how she’s going there, as well as on the court. So sometimes I’m like an older sister to her as well as a mentor, but we just call them, stay in touch, maybe get to a training per week and get to their games and just give them feedback on where they’re going.’
The opportunity to attend Wildcats trainings is also benefiting the recipients, who are getting a first-hand understanding of a high-performance environment. ‘It’s a good environment to be around all the girls,’ said Brunell.
The financial assistance is also something Crotty feels is invaluable. ‘All of our tournament costs are already covered as Wildcats so this is great that we can support these young women too. Just knowing what the parents are expected to pay for these days, imagine if you had 2-3 or even 4 kids it would cost so much, so it’s great to be able to give it to someone that needs it and will hopefully encourage them to stay in the game.’
That sentiment is echoed by the scholarship programme’s founder and Wildcats General Manager Murray Kennedy. ‘Sometimes the most talented players can’t afford to play for Canterbury at national tournaments because of the cost. The scholarships are aimed at helping these families to send their kids to nationals. Plus, we wanted to create a culture of ‘giving back’ within the Wildcats team. This mentoring programme achieves that and gives the youngsters something to aspire to.’
The initiative is currently in its 4th year and with the help of the likes of Miles Toyota, JD Mortgages and a handful of other partners has seen $44,000 dollars’ worth of scholarships given out to Canterbury teens.