(FREDERICTON, NB) The university basketball season came to an end more than a month ago, but Jeff Speedy, head coach of the UNB Varsity Reds women’s basketball team, is still going strong.
Along with recruiting and preparing for the 2018-19 Atlantic University Sport season, Speedy is also helping train the next generation of New Brunswick basketball talent through his Junior Varsity Reds program.
“I love it,” says Speedy. “The kids are great and have a ton of energy and passion. It’s fun for me to watch so many of them playing and loving the game.”
2018 marks the ninth season for the Junior Varsity Reds, which provides skill development in a fun yet competitive atmosphere for girls ranging in age from 10 to 13.
“I hope each player gains a deeper love for the game,” says Speedy. “I think they learn a lot about how the game is played, especially the fundamentals, and how important it is to play hard and with pace.”
While Speedy works with all teams in the program, he employs current and past Varsity Reds to lead each team as coach.
“The relationship they develop with the current Varsity Reds is priceless,” he says. “It shows them that they too can work hard and become a university student-athlete, and it gives them someone to cheer for during our season.”
“I get excited watching the girls improve a skill or try something new and have success. More importantly, they make me laugh and smile,” says Chelsey Collette, a former Varsity Red who will coach this year’s U11 Junior V-Reds team.
“I have the opportunity to coach kids who are close to the age I was when I fell in love with basketball,” she says. “If it weren’t for people volunteering to spend the time to improve my skill or my passion, I wouldn’t be where I am today. It means a lot that I can be involved in the sport that has taught me so much.”
Speedy has been doing this long enough to see Eva Tumwine go through the Junior Varsity Reds program and, later, join his Varsity Reds.
In 2018, he’s got a total of eight current or former members of his team working with the Junior V-Reds.
Along with running teams in the U11, U12, U 13 and U14 age divisions, the Junior Varsity Reds have added a U10 Hoop School.
“We had 75 players try out for our four teams this year which was very exciting,” says Speedy. “We have another 25 involved in Hoop School, so the numbers are great.”
The Junior Varsity Reds season begins in late April and, usually, runs through June.
The players receive instruction and practice time, and play in a number of tournaments and exhibition games.
“I strive to be a role model for the girls and I believe that’s a big responsibility,” says Collette. “Coaching and playing are similar. You’re part of an amazing, competitive and fun group of people that have similar interests, and you work to get better every time you’re on the floor.”
Speedy admits the program likely can’t evolve much further, but he also can’t imagine springtime without it.
The Junior Varsity Reds host their annual “Schools Out Shootout” tournament June 15-17, at UNB’s Richard J. Currie Center.