INSPIRING - Shawnee Harle

Shawnee Harle addresses local athletes at RDC

A national-level basketball coach was in Red Deer recently to speak about her personal philosophy.

Shawnee Harle, an assistant coach for Canada’s National Women’s Basketball team, addressed a crowd of about 75 people in the Margaret Parsons Theatre at Red Deer College recently.

During her two hour long speech, Harle spoke about her personal coaching philosophy as well as how she approaches the job.

“Every problem has a solution. Your problems are not unique, they are not special,” Harle said during her talk, which focused on how competition in sport can teach life lessons and develop character.

Harle’s philosophy revolves around being a “Jungle tiger,” she said. The idea behind her metaphor is that if athletes are coddled by their coaches they become ‘zoo tigers’ that aren’t able to fend for themselves in the ‘wild’ of competitive sport.

“It’s obvious. If you put a zoo tiger in the jungle, that tiger would die beacuse it doesn’t know how to take care of itself,” said Harle, whose Canadian Women’s team recently qualified for the Rio 2016 Olympics with their win at the FIBA Americas tournament. She was also the head coach of the University of Calgary Women’s basketball team for 18 years.

“I believe that sport is the jungle. If that is true, why do we spend so much time training our athletes in the zoo?” she said.

According to Harle, many athletes are bombarded with coaching tips and guidance throughout their careers and that bombardment can create athletes that are dependent on that support to the point where they can’t make their own decisions.

“In the zoo there are no decisions because the zoo is predictable and the zoo is safe. The jungle is completely unpredictable because you never know what’s going to happen, you never know what’s coming.” Harle encouraged coaches to train their teams more in the jungle than in the zoo.

She also spent a lot of time talking about how sport, like life, is not fair.

“If we can figure this concept out, we can get our kids and our athletes not just ready for the game, but ready for life.”

When she’s not coaching, Harle spends her time doing talks like the one she recently gave at RDC.. She gives her talk, which she calls Winning Matters, to businesses and sports teams all over the country. Harle’s talk was put on by the Alberta Sport Development Centre for coaches and athletes in the Red Deer area.

zcormier@reddeerexpress.com