It’s been a tough season for the Concordia Stingers women’s basketball team.
The Stingers faced adversity all season long. The team dealt with many injuries, which made things complicated for head coach Tenicha Gittens. Despite disappointing results, Gittens said she’s proud of the way her team competed this season.
“I don’t think I had one player who was 100 per cent healthy [this season],” Gittens said. “They still went out there and battled. I always want more of them, so as a coach you’re never really satisfied. Yet, overall, they showed a lot of [effort and character]. It would have been easy, and not just for the last games of the season but many, to give up.”
Even during preseason tournaments and exhibition games, the Stingers had some of their starting players injured. Teams usually take advantage of preseason games to build chemistry between their players, and work on their system to make the last adjustments before the regular season.
However, the Stingers could barely do so because of injuries that occured to some key players before the start of the 2019-20 RSEQ season. The team showed chemistry towards the end of the season, but it was too late for a playoff push. Gittens said the chemistry was still a good point to retain from this year.
I think it started to get better,” Gittens said. “At the beginning of the season we were [dealing with injuries and had rookies]. Nelly Owusu and Myriam Leclerc were still out at that point. Sometimes, establishing a chemistry takes a little bit longer than you’d like. I think if we played like in this last game, but in January, it would have been a much different outcome. It just took us too long.”
Gittens said she talked with her players about not waiting for things to happen, and taking advantage of what you can control. She explained that building chemistry, and having success isn’t just always about things happening on the court.
“We went to Nationals and competed for the RSEQ championship last year, so of course we looked for the same kind of success,” Gittens said. “We have the understanding that we had no depth. We had players who were expected to join our program and ended up not coming. We just dealt with a lot. People don’t see that, as they see us in games or in the gym, but there’s much more than that. It’s an unfortunate thing, and it happens sometimes. We will be championship contenders again, and that’s the focus. You have to take it one day at a time sometimes.”
Rookie point-guard Owusu also had a challenging season, coming back from her second ACL injury and a shoulder injury. Owusu played for Dawson College in division 1 of the RSEQ before joining the Stingers. She was one of the best players in division 1, especially defensively where she finished the 2017-18 season first in steals.
Gittens said the coaching staff knew what they were adding to the team when recruiting Owusu, but it’s still hard to describe her rookie season because just like other teammates, she wasn’t healthy from start to finish.
“Owusu played at like 65 per cent, and still doesn’t have feeling in her arm because of her shoulder,” Gittens said. “She’s incredibly hard on herself. She’s a great example for the other players. We didn’t really have [a healthy] Owusu this season. The focus now is just to have her back healthy. We’re going to take time off, and rehabilitate those injuries we have in the group for next year.”
Gittens described the season as mentally tough, including for herself. She said it’s been hard to try figuring out how to manage the team with all the injuries.
“I expect things of my players, but not anything I’m not going to expect out of myself first,” Gittens said. “There were so many things we wanted to do, but unfortunately couldn’t because we had six or perhaps seven depth players [in the lineup]. It’s part of the sport and the job, and I have to know how to manage those things and put us in a position to win.”
Despite finishing the season with just four wins, there are still things Gittens thought were good. She pointed out to the character her team showed in some moments this season, which is certainly a positive to keep for next year.
“I think that when we played McGill, and that Leclerc went down [because of an injury], our players offered a phenomenal fight,” Gittens said. “To me, it showed their character and ability to respond to adversity. They proved they had each other’s back. It was the same in the last game of the season, as it would have been to just give up and [accept the fact] we’re already eliminated. However, we were at home, and gave us a chance to win the game. Our players played until the very end and cared.”
Feature photo by Alex Hutchins