THE desire to give back to the sport drives our community.
We get the opportunities when we’re younger to take the court and thrive in the spotlight. From the hard work of our coaches, administrators and other association volunteers – we can reach for our potential.
But once our time on court has wound to a close the cycle continues with the next generation coming through as they become the coaches, administrators and association volunteers for a whole new group of players.
Katrina Hibbert knows this cycle extremely well following a lifetime spent in the game. Her rise through the ranks – going from association level, to state representation all the way onto college, the WNBA and the Australian Opals – was supported by the people around her.
That support network is a hallmark of all good junior sport and it’s something basketball achieves particularly well.
She signed on to coach our Victorian Under-20 Women this year and guide the side to the championship in Gosford earlier this year. All of our state coaches are volunteers. They don’t receive a pay cheque for their efforts at the nationals.
It’s for the love of the Victorian uniform and the desire to help our young stars thrive that brings our state team coaches back year-after-year.
Hibbert is not alone in this regard as our state coaches come from incredible careers. Stars on the court and on the sideline give our next generation a chance to learn from coaches like Samantha Thornton, Chris Anstey and Darren Perry amongst an impressive array of talent.
While juggling her coaching commitments with the Melbourne Boomers and her life outside of basketball, Hibbert decided it was a great chance to support the next generation and to keep Victorian basketball strong.
“I committed my time to the Victorian Under-20 Women’s team this year because I saw an opportunity to work with some of the best young talent coming out of Victoria and Australia,” Hibbert said. “As an assistant with the Melbourne Boomers WNBL team, I also saw an opportunity to put into practice as the head coach of Victoria, a lot of what I am able to learn and observe while assisting from the sidelines in the WNBL.
“So it was a win-win situation which I thoroughly enjoyed and was lucky to have such a great staff to work with.
It’s an incredible amount of work for a volunteer coach to pursue but it’s important to return to the court and give back and in essence repay those fantastic volunteers who helped along their own journeys. Paying it forward is the best way to see your association thrive and allow your players to take the next step.
“There is a lot of time that goes into volunteering for these positions, and I admire everyone who does it, as we all work full-time jobs and still manage to find time to out of our personal lives to get it all done,” Hibbert said. “For me personally, I think once you’re in basketball, it will always be a part of your life.
“Some of my best friends I met playing basketball, and I still love walking into a basketball stadium seeing so many familiar faces.
“I have also always felt fortunate that as a junior I had some of the very best coaches, particularly when it came to teaching the fundamentals of the game, which I believe were the building blocks for helping me have a successful playing career.
“For me, if I can impart the same emphasis of this on this generation, then hopefully that will help someone else on their journey.”
It’s part of the basketball community – we always come back. We always return to where it started to help someone else beginning their own playing journey. It seems such a simple concept but it can only function with incredible volunteers in each and every generation. Those people who impart these ideals
A lot of our coaches have gone through these pathways as a player before returning to help them as coaches – it’s a natural thing to give back to basketball once you’re in a position to do so.
“I know for me, it seemed a natural progression to always come back to coaching once I finished my playing career,” Hibbert said. “ I have always been committed to basketball from an early age and I have been very fortunate to play for some amazing coaches and people who have always tried to instil important life skills into me as a person, just as much as a player.
It’s something Hibbert believes all coaches should jump at the chance to be part of the state set-up if it presents itself.
“I would say, if the opportunity comes your way, just do it,” Hibbert said. “There is so much to learn as coaches, which is something we all need to keep doing to get better.
“You also get exposed to some of the best coaches and kids in Australia to learn from and work with, so it’s a win-win situation.”