By her own admission, the newly appointed UC Capitals head coach, Kristen Veal, brings plenty of life experience to her new role.
This is not surprising when considering her life in and outside basketball, starting as a 15-year-old with a scholarship at the AIS to being appointed head coach of the UC Capitals 25 years later.
Plenty has happened in between.
At 17, Kristen won her first WNBL title with the AIS in 1997-98 before going on to secure three titles with the Capitals.
There were also playing stints with Logan and Sydney, an assistant coaching role with the Caps, and she was head coach of the women’s program at the Basketball Australia Centre of Excellence in Canberra.
When the head coach position at the UC Capitals became vacant when Paul Gorris left the post after six years, Kristen put her name forward.
Everyone associated with the Capitals was well aware of Kristen’s abilities as she had filled the assistant coaching role at the Caps a couple of years earlier.
While her basketball resume is impressive, Kristen Veal’s broader life experience will be invaluable in her new role.
“I was working in the Fire Brigade in Queensland when the opportunity came up at the AIS,” remembers Kristen. “I took a year’s leave without pay to give it a shot.”
To suggest that she is grounded is an understatement.
As well as the Fire Brigade, her work-life beyond basketball includes time at a car wash, the post office and Woolworths, and a stint working for Basketball ACT.
Kristen has also experienced the incredible highs and lows of a professional athlete. She had to stop playing in 2015, and as she now has two titanium knees, as she puts it, “there will be no comeback”.
What her life experience has taught her is the character of a player she wants on her side as she puts her own stamp on the team.
“I want good people. I want good players. We want the right people.”
It’s a philosophy instilled in her through her former UC Capitals coach, Carrie Graf, now the Director of Sport at the University of Canberra.
“Graffy had an enormous influence on me” – it’s an influence that extends beyond the current player group.
Carrie Graf always engaged the community, and Kristen is keen to do the same.
“Engaging with the grassroots is important. To have depth, we need to engage.”
For the moment, though, Kristen is engaged in overlapping roles as the Basketball Australia Centre of Excellence women’s head coach until August, and as the UC Capitals coach, putting together a roster for the upcoming WNBL season.
And Kristen is the perfect choice as a WNBL head coach, but when she was on the court, had she ever thought this was where she would be?
“When I was playing, no,” says Kristen. Yet all her experience on and off the court points to her every success as UC Capitals WNBL head coach for this upcoming season.