(FREDERICTON, NB) Grace Wade is about to embark on the longest road trip of her career.
Wade, a graduating senior point guard, will join UNB Varsity Reds head coach Jeff Speedy on a trip to Whitehorse for a series of basketball clinics on Friday, Saturday and Sunday.
The journey between Fredericton and the Yukon capital is, roughly, 6000-kilometres, and will take the pair about 14 hours.
“I’ve never been to Whitehorse, but I have always wanted to make it to the Territories, so I’m very excited,” said Wade.
Speedy, well-travelled in Canadian and international basketball circles, is excited too.
“I’d planned a trip there in the summer of 2006, but then I was hired here,” said Speedy. “I moved across the country instead of heading up there.”
“I’m very excited to bring the Varsity Reds brand of basketball to the Yukon, to help Grace grow as a coach, and to get to see a very cool part of the country,” he said.
Speedy and Wade will conduct five three-hour player clinics for girls and boys in grades seven to twelve. Speedy will also hold a two-hour clinic for Whitehorse-area coaches.
Sport Yukon and Basketball Yukon are sponsoring the weekend.
“I know their biggest issue is the number of kids playing basketball,” said Speedy. “There are good athletes and coaches in the Yukon. The best outcome would be my presence, but more like the presence of someone like Grace, gets the players more excited about the game.”
“Coach Speedy felt having a player join him would be beneficial, and I was lucky enough to be asked,” said Wade.
After five years of playing for Speedy, Wade sees coaching as a natural extension of her life in basketball.
She’s assisted Speedy with the Junior Varsity Reds in the past, but isn’t sure when or where her coaching career will officially begin.
“At this point, I'm not positive what that will look like in terms of role or location, but it is something I thoroughly enjoy and I think it's important to try and give back to the game.”
And giving back is part of why the two are Whitehorse-bound.
“I would really like the coaches to learn some things that will help them make their players better,” said Speedy. “I hope we can get some players fired up about the game of basketball so they quite simply fall in love with the game and want to play it more. And it would be great if we inspire some players enough that they set a goal to play university basketball one day.”
Whitehorse is a long way from Fredericton, but both Wade and Speedy see value in the trip for the Varsity Reds.
“I think expanding our connections is a great thing for the program,” said Wade. “If we’re able to show even a handful of the young athletes in Whitehorse how great of a school UNB is, then I think we are doing a good thing for the program. Hopefully this trip will encourage some of their athletes to consider us when it’s time to make a decision on their university career.”
“I know I’ll learn something, so I feel I’ll come back a better coach,” said Speedy. “Obviously, it would be very exciting if a player in these clinics ended up at UNB one day. That would be amazing.”