COLD LAKE – Shayne Midford, a teacher and basketball coach at Cold Lake’s Assumption Jr/Sr High School, will be taking his coaching skills across the country this summer to assist the 18U Boys’ Alberta Basketball Team in the Canada Summer Games.
After the 2021 Canada Summer Games were postponed due to the ongoing pandemic, Midford found himself receiving a unique opportunity to be a part of the coaching team that will see Alberta’s top male basketball athletes compete on a national stage.
Midford was recently named the assistant head coach for the 18U Boys’ Alberta Basketball Team and will join Head Coach Reagan Wood and Assistant Coach Brandon Brock with the rest of the team to Niagara Falls in August.
Excited by the opportunity to coach the Alberta’s strongest U18 basketball players, Midford told Lakeland This Week, “This upcoming summer, being it's on a national level again, there's obviously a lot on the line to be successful at Canada Games and I’m looking forward to that challenge.”
For the last six years, Midford has been working with the Alberta Basketball Association (ABA) starting his career with the organization as an assistant coach of U16 Boys’ team.
Over time, he shifted from being the head coach of the U15 Boys’ Alberta Team to an assistant head coach for the Alberta U17 Boys’ team.
Moving up an age bracket with his athletes, Midford will remain with the U17 players from last season.
“It a lot easier for the kids that come into the program if they are familiar with the coaches that they've had in the past. So, they try to keep those coaches with those athletes, so at least there is some consistency across the board,” he explained.
Although many players may return from last year’s team, the U18 team has not officially been selected and Midford expects there will be a pool of kids that will join the team before the final roster gets narrowed down and the final pre–Canada Games training takes places.
In the coming weeks Midford will be travelling throughout the province to attend tryouts alongside coaches Wood and Brock, scouting for the players that will get the chance to represent Team Alberta at the Summer Games.
“When you go to Canada Games, you're playing the best of the best. This isn't a ‘show up and play.’ You got to come to play, you got to come to win and that's exactly what we're looking to do,” he said. “It's a great opportunity for those young men to showcase their skills and a way for those athletes to get identified by universities and colleges across Canada.”
Midford points out several players who have participated in previous Summer Games have even gone on to be drafted by the NBA.
Although this will be Midford’s first time ever dealing with athletes competing at this level, he said, “I don't get intimidated because I know my coaching staff that I have is very skilled and have coached a number of different types of elite competitions. Myself, I know what I bring to the table... I've been doing this for 21 years. There's not much I haven't seen here or done in a long time.”
According to Midford, “Ontario will definitely be the team to beat. Ontario and Quebec, they're always the powerhouses. Usually, we're right in the mix of things. It depends on how we finish, but hopefully we can pull a couple upsets.”
Typically held once every two years, alternating between winter and summer, the Canada Games represent the highest level of national competition for up-and-coming Canadian athletes.
Not only does Canada Games give players an opportunity to be seen on a national level, but it will also shine a light on those standing court side.
Midford’s skills will also be showcased working with Team Alberta, and he hopes the abilities he brings to the court are recognized as well. “My end goal would be to get an opportunity to coach at a Canadian university or college. I think eventually there will be an opportunity for me possibly to coach at that level,” he added.
Basketball offers life lessons
Midford has carried out his work with the ABA all while continuing to teach and run a highly competitive high school basketball program at Assumption school where he has taught for more than two decades.
He was also recently named the Alberta School’s Athletic Association’s Zone Merit Award recipient.
The growth Midford has seen in his own coaching career since working with other professional and mature coaches at the ABA has had a positive ripple effect in the community.
“When I first started, I was one of those hard-nosed coaches and I didn't want to hear anything from the kids. But over the course of time, I started to understand the kids better and what needs to be coached in those kids," he said. “I've coached and change my beliefs over the last 21 years. I don't just sit there and try to dictate. I give these kids an opportunity to learn from themselves and from (their) mistakes.”
Although none of the athletes Midford has coached in Cold Lake have cracked the Team Alberta basketball rosters so far, every year he has had players go on to be accepted into post-secondary athletic programs.
But most importantly, Midford said an overwhelming majority of his players have gone on to graduate high school and lead successful lives.
“As a Phys Ed teacher and educator, my goal is to get those kids to graduate. Basketball for me is a way to get through to my athletes so that they can be successful in whatever they do. That is the most important thing because not everyone is going to the NBA, not everyone's going on to a specific high-level college to play a high level of basketball. But what all these kids are going to be doing is going to the workforce,” he emphasized. “If I do what I do, then those athletes I know will be successful no matter what happens – on or off the court.”