Inside the Canadian Women’s Basketball Team’s Virtual Training Camp
Exactly 367 days ago, Canada’s women’s basketball team qualified for Tokyo 2020.
Fast forward to today, and the team are emerging from a week-long virtual training camp, unable to meet in person due to the pandemic that has forced the Olympics to be postponed for a year .
“It was kind of like the last big thing before the wheels fell off, and you think back to your state of mind and how it all felt at that time in Belgium: live life, compete, play against the best in the world, winning games, qualifying for [the] Tokyo Olympics, do it all together. We were on top of the world, ”said head coach Lisa Thomaidis of the Olympic qualifying tournament last February.
Training camp kicked off on Monday with the words of Canadian chef de mission Marnie McBean, who assured the team that Tokyo 2020 will indeed take place in 2021.
McBean advised the team to block reports that may arise in the coming months, such as the Times of London single-source article in late January which claimed the Japanese government had agreed to cancel the 2021 Games.
“It was good timing because he was out [two] the week[s] before we meet. And so for her to come on Monday morning and just say to herself, “OK, that’s what’s really going on,” it was good to get rid of the elephant in the room, ”Thomaidis said.
A special and surprise guest joined us to launch our 🇨🇦🏀 Senior Women’s National Team Virtual Training Camp.
McBean’s insistence set the tone for a week of daily two-hour meetings spanning everything from team vision to Olympic logistics to the heat of Tokyo.
“[We] We have thought a lot and planned what it will be like in Tokyo, the conditions, the living conditions, our competition program or the training program that leads to it, ”said Thomaidis.
These drills have helped put players’ minds at ease attending the Olympics during a pandemic – not that there has been much reluctance after waiting so long to compete.
Forward Ruth Hamblin said it’s important to hear McBean’s assurance when she sees so much negativity surrounding the Olympics every day on Twitter.
“I feel like this reunion kind of solidified what we have as a team, our system and our momentum. It’s going to be different, but it’s still the Olympics. I think it doesn’t. And if anything, it’s more than ever because the world needs a little positivity, ”said Hamblin, who currently plays in Poland.
Social activity well received
With the issues surrounding the Olympics sorted out, Thomaidis began to instill some of the team’s field systems. It’s hard to implement anything overly complicated compared to Zoom, but some basic principles have helped refine how the team will attempt to win Canada’s first-ever women’s basketball Olympic medal.
After so much time apart, the social aspect of the week was also welcome for both the coach and the players.
Some meetings included games with the Kahoot quiz software, and another icebreaker pairing Emojis with different players kicked off the festivities for each day.
“It’s just the good old days, like getting to know these people because we’ve spent a lot of time together. It’s really good to spend time with them,” Hamblin said.
The team will continue to meet regularly on Zoom, likely every three or four weeks, with increasing frequency as the Olympics approach.
Next opportunity to meet in May
While other teams, including the United States, were able to meet in person during the international window, Canada was stuck online with players scattered across the United States, France, Italy, Belgium, Spain, Switzerland, Turkey and Germany.
Forward Nayo Raincock-Ekunwe, who plays for Lyon in France, believes it could work in Canada’s favor.
“I don’t think anyone expects us to get together for two hours a day to watch movies together and have virtual reality. And I’m really happy that we’re doing these things that can give us a competitive advantage over some other countries, ”she said.
The next opportunity for Canada to meet in person is in May, when the team hopes to host a training camp in Edmonton before the FIBA AmeriCup in June.
Professional leagues abroad will be over by then, meaning the logistics of the rally could be streamlined. Again, planning for a pandemic is fluid.
“I think it’s going to be one of the strangest Olympics ever,” Hamblin said. “And our ability to adapt to unforeseen circumstances will be the key to our success.”
A basketball team that goes more than a year without training until its biggest tournament is certainly called strange. But from all corners of the world, Team Canada seems to be adjusting well.
And after the long period of inactivity, this competition fire only burns brighter.
“We’re a basketball team, we just want to go out and compete. I think everyone is finally looking forward to it. So, yeah, definitely a little bit of excitement,” said Thomaidis.