By: Kirk Jessome
Finding a career coaching in sport is not an easy task. It requires knowledge, experience, and opportunity, but with the right resources, it is possible to achieve. For Leah (Girdwood) Martin, that involves being selected to participate in the Women in Coaching Mentorship program, allowing her to work with some of the best coaches in the area.
Martin is a former Dalhousie Tiger basketball player, playing from 2005-2010. In her 87-game career, she averaged six points, and nearly five rebounds per game. She helped her team achieve a winning record in four out of her five seasons, including a second-place AUS finish in 2008-2009. With a little help, Martin has now made the transition from leading the Tigers on the court, to leading the team from the sidelines as an assistant coach.
The Women in Coaching Mentorship program is designed to generate a supportive network of mentors that will advise and develop up-and-coming coaches aspiring to reach the next level. It allows qualified, experienced and hireable head coaches to be developed in Nova Scotia. For Leah, that means working with coaches like Anna Stammberger of the women’s basketball team, and Cindy Tye, head coach of the Tigers women’s soccer team.
“With the mentorship of Coach Stammberger and Coach Tye, I’ve been able to create a clear pathway to achieving the highest coaching standards to prepare me to enter into an eventual head coaching position,” says Martin.
The path to a head coaching position also involves a lot of education that must be completed, and Martin credits Natasha Burgess-Johnston of Support for Sport with help in that regard.
“Natasha has helped me design a very clear plan of certifications and courses available to me, and how to make that education more accessible.”
This mentorship program does not mark the first time that Martin has worked with Coach Stammberger.
“I played for Coach Stammberger for one year, and have been an assistant coach under her for the last five years, so I feel like I’ve had a strong foundation to continue developing,” she explains. “She has given me increased responsibilities in practices, and I have been supported and educated as I develop my coaching experience with hands on applications.”
Many great athletes and coaches model themselves after other greats, and that is what Martin has been able to do after playing for, and working with Dr. Carolyn Savoy and Anna Stammberger.
“I want to be able pass on the knowledge and experience I’ve gained from the strong female mentors I’ve learned from along the way” says Martin. “I’ve learned from the best. I would be happy to become half of the head coach Dr. Savoy and Anna have been to me.”
Martin plans to use this experience to one day achieve her dream job of becoming the head coach of her own team.
The mentorship program continues for Martin in January when the women’s basketball team starts the second half of their season on January 6 in an important 4-point game against Saint Mary’s.