By Dwayne Tingley
After a successful playing career, Ashley MacSporran still remembers the gratification of coaching middle school girls.
The feeling remains strong as she works tirelessly as an assistant coach with the Kitchener-Waterloo Titans of the National Basketball League of Canada.
Photo Credit: Dan Congdon
"When you are a player, you see points and results so you get instant feedback," MacSporran said. "As a coach, there's no better feeling than seeing a team come together and achieving things together.
"Sometimes, it takes time and it always takes a lot of work, but the hard work is worth it when you see them working together for a common goal."
MacSporran, a 36 year-old Kitchener-Waterloo native, played three stellar seasons with the Laurentian University Voyageurs in Sudbury, Ont. before knee injuries ended her playing career. The physical education and history major, who later earned a master's degree in sports science and coaching education from Ohio University, has had 10 knee surgeries.
MacSporran admits being discouraged by the injuries, but her mother encouraged her to pursue coaching. She calls it the best advice she's ever received.
"I was happy to be back in basketball and I love coaching," she said. "You teach fundamentals and when you get positive feedback and the players make improvements in their games, it's very rewarding.
Photo Credit: Dan Congdon
"Now, I am helping at practices and the guys have been very accepting of me. I review video and help the coach (Cavell Johnson) has been very good. He listens and often takes my advice and players are always welcoming. They want to keep learning, just like I want to keep learning as a coach. We can all learn new things every day in the game of basketball."
She is just the second female assistant coach in league history. Jill Tipping worked with the Orangeville A's about five years ago.
MacSporran has worked as an assistant coaching at several universities across Canada since she guided the 12-15 year-old girls in her hometown. Before heading back home, she was the head coach of the Brock Badgers in St. Catharines, Ont.
"I am very grateful for my opportunity to work with the Titans," she said. "These professional players are playing at a very high skill level, but they can still learn. I help them learn and work with them on their fundamentals so they can continue to develop as pros."
MacSporran also wears another busy hat with the Titans. She's also the team's director of game day operations and community engagement.
"I don't sit on the bench on game days," she said. "I'm behind them with a headset on and making sure the event goes well. They are two very rewarding jobs and I enjoy both of them. It's been a great opportunity."
MacSporran said the Titans are building a solid brand in the Kitchener-Waterloo area. She credited the co-operation of players and coaching for raising the team's profile.
Last weekend, they all participated in a frigid Polar Bear swim at Wilfrid Laurier University and they raised more than $2,000 for the Special Olympics.
"It's been a team effort on and off the court," she said. "We're all working together."