When the UC Canberra Capitals take to the AIS Arena this Sunday to begin this season’s Women’s National Basketball League competition, assistant coach Carly Wilson will be a driving force in their title defence.
The Capitals’ former captain and 350-game veteran, Wilson was appointed as the Capitals’ assistant coach in 2017. Two months ago, she furthered her progression into the coaching ranks with an ACT Government Elite Female Coaching Scholarship in America.
Wilson was granted her scholarship just two weeks before she headed to the US and worked closely with the Australian coaching panel, led by Sandy Brondello, who is one of the world’s most successful basketball coaches.
As one of 13 women across 12 sports to be granted scholarships as part of the government’s support for its next generation of elite coaches, Wilson told Region Media the experience she gained in the US will be instrumental in her work with the Capitals this season.
“I’ve been a player in the WNBL for 20 years. I retired and stepped straight into an assistant coaching role with the Canberra Capitals, so this will be my third season, but I haven’t done much professional development in coaching other than just on-the-job stuff.
“Seeing what Sandy’s doing was really impressive and observing and being involved was a golden opportunity,’’ Wilson said.
“The way she was with me, the way she included me was amazing. Sandy didn’t have to include me in everything or ask my opinion, but she did and she treated me like I was one of the assistant coaches and my opinion was valued. She made me feel like I was welcome and completely a part of it.
“In the last eight years of my career, I had two coaching voices – Carrie Graf at a WNBL level with Canberra and also national level with the Opals and then [UC Capitals coach] Paul Gorris, who is also an assistant coach for the Opals.
“It was brilliant and so refreshing to see the way Sandy interacts with the players, her philosophies and coaching style – it was such an eye-opener because it was something so new and different.
“She was asking my opinion about what I thought about players and treated me like an assistant coach, even though I obviously wasn’t. So it was just a really great experience and worth way more than the value of the actual scholarship.”
Wilson says after retiring, she is happy to learn the trade of coaching as she has aspirations to coach at the highest level possible.
“At times I kind of forget that I’m not a player any more, and now there’s this interim time when I’m learning to be a coach, but I’ve also still got that connection with the playing group, so I’m quite happy in this phase as an assistant coach at the moment.
“I still feel like I’ve got a hell of a lot of learning to do before I think about being a head coach.”
Wilson says she is also happy to provide a pathway for female coaches and that the professional development scholarship really helped promote elite female coaching opportunities across all sports in Australia.
“We have so many talented women athletes and so many talented women coaches here, but what we see is that they don’t always get a look in, but that’s definitely changing.
“I think the next step is really changing the way that everyone sees female coaches, so this scholarship by the ACT Government was a fantastic one to continue to develop the pathways for ACT women at the highest level.”
Meanwhile, Wilson and the Caps have been putting the finishing touches to their title defence in the WNBL ahead of this Sunday’s grand final series rematch with the Adelaide Lightning.
Despite losing key players Leilani Mitchell and Kelly Wilson, the UC Caps have recruited well in Olivia Epoupa, a highly anticipated French player who has been dubbed one of the fastest players in the women’s game.
Co-captain Marianna Tolo will sit out for round one to allow herself an extra week of recovery, but Wilson says the team is ready to go.
“Every season, you go into it with the goal that you want to win, but that only increases when you’re the defending champion. We have every intention of going out and defending that championship and going back-to-back,” Wilson says.
The UC Capitals take on the Adelaide Lightning in the opening round of the WNBL season this Sunday at the AIS Arena from 1:30 pm. Learn more here.