–By Ottawa Sportspage, For Louis-Riel Rebelles
While Louis-Riel high school is home to many athletes who are amongst the best in the province, country and the world, the LR sports-études program also owns a number of high-performance coaches with its ranks.
One of those is André Desjardins, who began coaching at Louis-Riel in 1998 when a friend asked if he’d be interested in helping out with the basketball team.
“Ever since then, it’s in my blood,” smiles Desjardins, who’s coached with the Canadian women’s national team program since 2011. “The teaching part is what I enjoy. When they learn and you see them improve, you get excited for them.
“Being able to guide them and help them make good decisions – the life lessons through sport – is the best part. There is not a better bond than between a player and a coach where you can really influence kids.”
Desjardins has now coached at Louis-Riel for the better part of two decades, and has watched the program grow immensely in that time, including the introduction of the groundbreaking sports-études program, and now an academy that plays in the new Canada Basketball-backed Ontario Scholastic Basketball Association.
“It’s a lot of hours, but it’s a lot of fun and really rewarding, especially when you’ve got a committed group like we have here,” signals Desjardins, who has 10 sessions a week with the girls who are part of the academy for a total between 10-14 hours each week (though they always wrap up by dinnertime so that players get their evenings back unlike club basketball players, he notes).
Desjardins’ summer “vacation” generally includes more coaching. That’s the time of year national team programs operate, and as an assistant with Canada’s cadette team, he often travels to international tournaments, such as the 2012 FIBA Under-17 World Championship for Women in Amsterdam where he helped Canada capture a bronze medal.
“It’s great to be able to contribute. It means a lot to me,” indicates Desjardins, noting that his experience at the international level, and learning from the best coaches in the country, are assets he brings back to LR.
“Every year there’s something new,” adds the past University of Ottawa Gee-Gees men’s assistant coach. “A new trend internationally, or teachings you can learn from, so I can give the kids the new tools and tweaks so they can just keep getting better.”
The list of players Desjardins has coached on to next level in Canada and the NCAA is lengthy, and includes several who have worn the maple leaf themselves. But what the NCCP Level 4-certified coach treasures most is the impact he can make beyond hoops.
“I’m most proud of some of the players I’ve coached who went on to play at university who I still talk to now, and who are adults and have kids now, who have been to my wedding – the relationships is probably the best part,” Desjardins underlines. “Or kids who tell you they might have hated you at the time, but they call you six years later and they say, ‘I’m really sorry, but I see what you were trying to get at.’ It’s those phone calls that I enjoy most.
“What I really hope they learn through basketball is how to be a leader, how to work in an organization, carry your own weight, be autonomous, be an energy-giver, to set a good example to follow, and just to become more committed than they used to be.
“That shows the real great influence a program like this can have.”