HIGH ACHIEVERS: Stay-Safe Edition
Keeping Local Sport Spirit High During the Pandemic
By Martin Cleary
Meet Becky LeBlanc – first-year high school teacher, freelance diversity solutions consultant, university Masters student and, now, a full-time assistant women’s basketball coach.
“I like to keep myself busy,” understated LeBlanc, who played scholastic basketball at Sir Wilfrid Laurier Secondary School and JUEL provincial league ball for Transway in Hamilton for two years before excelling at Carleton and Western universities in the past decade.
And now her Ontario basketball tour has stopped in the provincial capital, where she’s entering her third month as the full-time assistant women’s basketball coach for the University of Toronto Varsity Blues program.
“It’s awesome. I really enjoy the girls and the coaching staff. We’ve met each other in-person and we all have a similar vision and goals,” said LeBlanc, whose university career hit its apex with the Carleton Ravens in 2017-18.
LeBlanc was a guiding force for the Ravens, when they went 23-0 in their OUA regular season and 38-2 overall, won their second OUA provincial title and the U Sports national championship for the first time in the women’s program history.
Individually, Carleton’s 2017-18 female athlete of the year was the Ontario and Canadian university defensive player of the year, MVP and all-star at the national championship tournament and an OUA second-team all-star for a third time.
After her senior year at Carleton, she transferred to Western University, where she spent two years earning her Bachelor of Education degree in June as well as playing basketball in her first year and coaching in her second year.
During the 2020-21 OUA basketball season, which was shut down because of the COVID-19 pandemic, LeBlanc was named to the Western Mustangs’ coaching staff as part of the inaugural U Sports Female Apprenticeship Coaching Program.
Her introduction to coaching was a different one. She was on the bench for the team’s two intrasquad games, helped the players with their skill development during practices, welcomed new recruits, and supported the coaching staff.
As a fifth-year player for the Mustangs, LeBlanc set seven individual statistical bests and helped take them from a 5-19 season in 2018-19 to a 19-3 campaign in 2019-20, which tied the team record for most wins in an OUA regular season.
“I’m so grateful for this opportunity and excited to join the amazing Varsity Blues’ staff this year,” she said in a press release. “I’m looking forward to coaching under Tamara (head coach Tatham).”
“Coaching under her will be great for my development,” LeBlanc added in an interview. “I will learn from her and collaborate with the team for a fresh start and try to get more wins.”
LeBlanc, who is pursuing her Masters’ degree in equity, diversity and social justice through Western, finds she has been attracted to coaching and teaching for the same reasons.
“I really want to have an impact on youth in general,” she explained. “It (teaching) goes hand in hand with coaching. With this age range, it’s more of a direct impact and helping with life’s decisions.”
Tatham, who played 10 years with the Canadian senior women’s team and is a 2012 and 2016 Olympian, is excited to have LeBlanc join her coaching staff.
“She is someone that will bring a ton of value to our staff as a recent athlete,” Tatham said. “She has great organizational skills, knows the game and I am confident in her ability to teach on and off the floor.”
Martin Cleary has written about amateur sports for 48 years. A past Canadian sportswriter of the year and Ottawa Sports Awards Lifetime Achievement in Sport Media honouree, Martin retired from full-time work at the Ottawa Citizen in 2012, but continued to write a bi-weekly “High Achievers” column for the Citizen/Sun.
When the pandemic struck, Martin created the “Stay-Safe Edition” to provide some positive news during tough times, via his Twitter account at first and now here at OttawaSportsPages.ca.
Martin can be reached by e-mail at email@example.com and on Twitter @martincleary.