To the surprise of no one, Dani Sinclair was introduced as the new head coach of the University of Victoria Vikes women’s basketball team last week.
A former Vikes player and national CIS champion from the Kathy Shields era, Sinclair has been with the team as an assistant coach since 2006. When previous head coach Rich Chambers took a personal leave prior to the start of the season, Sinclair stepped up and guided the Vikes to a 16-6.
She did so while carrying, and then giving birth to her second son, Joseph, on Dec. 12. Due to the timing of the Christmas break, Sinclair, often with Joseph in tow, only missed one practice.
The Vikes were ousted in the playoffs before reaching the Canada West Final Four. But it was a solid enough season to confirm what many knew – that Sinclair is deeply rooted in Victoria and is qualified to lead the Vikes.
“I’ve found the only way to get everything done is by multitasking,” Sinclair said by phone while pushing Joseph and older brother James in a double-stroller during her jog to the gym for her Monday morning workout.
“James spent a lot of time on the road with the team. Now it’s Joseph’s turn.”
Sinclair threw her name in for the head coaching position when Brian Cheng stepped down over two years ago, but wasn’t disappointed that she wasn’t selected.
Chambers officially resigned on March 5 and the Vikes removed the interim title from Sinclair’s head coaching position on April 18. Union rules state all positions must be opened to the public, but naming another coach at this point would have likely driven a wedge into a smooth running program.
“Having a couple extra years made a big difference,” Sinclair said. “I think I would have done a great job if I was hired last time around, but feel I much more prepared this time, especially with the mentorship from Chambers and (Kathy) Shields.”
Originally from Guelph, Ont., Sinclair has become deeply embedded in Victoria’s youth basketball scene since winning the CIS championship with the Vikes in 2003.
That was the last time the Vikes hoisted the Bronze Baby. If and when the Vikes win it again, it will be a team marked with Sinclair’s imprint, not just as the Vikes coach, but as someone who has been teaching the fundamentals of the game to girls in Victoria from as young as nine years old through night leagues and the more recently established Junior Vikes.
“I’ve always loved coaching, any ages. When I graduated (UVic) 10 years ago I wanted to start with coaching regional teams and youth development programs. I really enjoy working with those age groups, just working on the fundamentals and passion for the game,” Sinclair said.
She is also the head coach of Basketball B.C.’s Vancouver Island Training Centre and B.C.’s under-15 girls provincial team.
It makes the recruiting process of local and regional talent that much easier. That includes current Vikes Jessica Renfrew and Shaylyn Crisp, who came from Claremont secondary and start their third year at UVic in September. Sinclair first coached them as pre-teens and right now they’re the only locals on the roster.
“(Sinclair) is a strong leader and a role model for these young women,” said Tracie Sibbald of the hiring committee that selected Sinclair. “She has great experience coaching at the CIS level and brings a good energy to the team.”
Vikes offseason moves
Sinclair is considering a couple of recruits but next year’s roster is already at its limit with just two players graduating.
Previously committed athlete Mikaela Turik from Australia will join the team for the 2013-14 season. Turik’s schooling didn’t finish until November.
Former Vike Sarah Semeniuk will return after playing the previous three seasons. Semeniuk, a 6-foot-2 post, took this season off to rehabilitate her injured knee.