With just one year under her belt and the PACWEST Championships on the horizon, Camosun Chargers basketball coach, Cait Haggarty, has the Chargers’ future looking bright. Beginning her coaching career at her alma mater, UBC, Haggarty returned to her hometown of Victoria to lead the Chargers to their first winning record in four seasons.
More than just returning the Chargers to their winning ways, Haggarty is responsible for inspiring a drastic transformation in the culture surrounding the program. “I’ve always tried to maintain a little bit of fun in it,” she says. “I mean, it’s just a game. I can definitely be more intense and more serious but I often try and remind myself that it is a game and there is a bigger picture that we’re trying to get these girls to see.”
When asked what incited such a significant change, Haggarty was quick to deflect praise onto her assistant coaches, Courtenay Lowther and Niki Sundher, and her players. “I think the coaching staff that we had was a big piece to that. Courtenay and Niki are fun people. And then the group of girls I thought changed the culture on their own too,” she says. “I think it was just the collective of the group.”
Two of those players who share in the responsibility are returning veterans, fifth-year Ella Goldschmid and fourth-year Aija Salvador, who both came out of retirement this season to play for Coach Haggarty. Both guards, who were members of the Chargers’ last winning team in 2013/2014, have been dealing with serious injuries that left their hopes for returning to the Chargers in doubt. “The idea of playing basketball this year was a bit of a long shot with the timing of my knee surgery,” Goldschmid confesses. “But when I heard that Cait was going to be the coach I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to at least try.”
Haggarty’s approach to the game and ability to connect with her players has been fundamental in the resurgence of the program. “I think she brings a unique perspective as someone who played the game at a high level for a long time,” Goldschmid says. “Her understanding of the game is clearly showing in her coaching, and I think her ability to pass that along to us has been a key part of our successes this year.”
Coming off arguably their best win of the season—a 75-57 victory over island rival VIU—Haggarty has her Chargers entering this week’s PACWEST Provincial Championships (March 1-3) as the fourth seed, with a quarter-final match up against the fifth seeded Columbia Bible College Bearcats.
“I’m excited to play CBC,” says Haggarty. “Anybody can beat anybody so we have to bring our best game to CBC and we can’t look past that.” Goldschmid echoed her coach’s sentiments, “Playoffs are like a brand new season and it’s really impossible to know what will happen. We are focused on preparing ourselves to be the best we can for Thursday and the goal is to make our season last as long as possible.”
The Chargers are 2-1 against the Bearcats this season, including a split on the road just three weeks ago. The PACWEST Provincial Basketball Championships begin this Thursday with the Chargers taking on the CBC Bearcats at 6:00pm.