To kick-off this weekend’s final home games of the season and 25th Anniversary celebrations, Camosun presents the stories of five Chargers alum who remain closely connected to the program. While their stories are different, a common theme remains … “Once a Charger, always a Charger.”
(Part Three of Five)
Assistant coach Courtenay Lowther (nee Parks) has been around Camosun and the Chargers women’s basketball program longer than most of the players on the squad have been alive. Over the past two decades, Courtenay has been involved with the Chargers, first as an athlete (1998-99 and 2002-2004) and then as a coach, where she has become a staple on the bench (off and on) since 2006.
Courtenay’s roots at Camosun run deep and many long-time staff at the college remember working with her late mother, Trudy Parks. Trudy was a prominent member of the Camosun College administration. She was the Director of Finance for many years, and later became a Vice President under President, Dr. Liz Ashton. A memorial sits outside Trudy’s former office in front of the Paul Building at Lansdowne, and a student bursary was established in her name.
Today, Courtenay is all grown up and as busy as ever. By day, she fulfills the role of wife and mom to sons Porter (7 yrs) and Fletcher (3 yrs) while working full-time for the Provincial Government. After a full day of work, Courtenay puts away her briefcase, laces up her sneakers and makes the trek to PISE to help Head Coach Cait Haggarty and fellow Assistant Coach, Niki Sundher, coach Chargers basketball.
In a rare time-out, Courtenay sat down to tell us how she balances work, family and basketball – and what it’s been like being involved with the Chargers all these years.
Q: How does coaching fit into your extremely busy schedule?
A: My husband Steve, Niki, Cait and I often joke that he’s a single parent during the season, but he’s always known me to either play or coach, so for him, it would be weird if I was home all the time. Even so, he’s really excited for March to come!
My family and my in-laws are really supportive of being involved; they live with us now and help out whenever they can. Both my husband Steve and my employer are very good about giving us a bit of flexibility with our schedules which is also very helpful. It’s a combination of things, really.
Q: Your fellow AC, Niki Sundher, is faced with a similar balancing act of juggling time between family, her job as a Saanich police officer and coaching basketball. How do you, Niki and Cait cover a six-day week of training, competing and travelling every other weekend?
A: It definitely gets pretty busy sometimes and you never know what life will throw at you. I’m typically at practice three evenings a week and then coaching either home or away on the weekends. Wednesday, I bring Porter to practice and he hangs out with our phenomenal trainers, watching the men’s volleyball practice and with Scot and the guys’ basketball team. Every day the guys’ team sees him, they have a new riddle or a new joke – they’re just awesome with him. It is such a great opportunity for him, he thinks they are just larger than life! I’m in the gym a lot; it makes it so much easier.
Cait has been especially great because she knows that Niki and I both have crazy worlds outside of coaching. The three of us just manage to make things work. We have fun and support each other and the team. For example, Cait is watching my kids right now while we’re doing this interview! It’s not strange to see one of the three kids with Cait, running with her behind the bench, on the sideline or in our team chats. It adds to that element of family that we try to create.
Q: The three of you seem very close. What’s the back story to that?
A: It’s funny because when we started last year, everyone thought we had been friends forever and the reality was, we played when we were younger but I had not seen Cait or Niki in probably 10 years! I ran into Cait literally a week before the Chargers Women’s Basketball Head Coach job was posted and we just started chatting like no time had passed. When the job got posted, she called me and we joked about coaching together. Things got serious when she actually applied and got the job. We are all here today because of the relationships that we built so long ago.
Q: What is your role as an AC and how does that differ from what Cait and Niki do?
A: Cait is always the one in charge, although there are brief moments you would never know it. She doesn’t like the lime light, so oftentimes Niki and I will do the speaking for her which we get a crack out of, mainly because Cait isn’t shy about what she sees on the court or about chatting. Niki definitely brings the calm. She is the most positive person I’ve ever met. We call her “the wise owl” because she’s so great about processing things and then sums things up wit h a wise, well-written summary.
I think both Cait and Niki would agree that I’m mostly there for comedic relief to bring everyone back to reality. When things get stressful, I will crack a joke and try to remind everyone that we’re just playing basketball and it’s really not that big a deal. The three of us have incredible respect for each other and even though we don’t always agree on things, we’ll work together to reach that common end goal and try to make it fun for everyone along the way.
Q: What impact do you want to make on the individuals you coach?
A: I really believe that sport is all about the relationships that you build and the experiences you have along the way. We are absolutely here to win but there’s way more going on that just what happens Friday and Saturday night. I love having t he opportunity to help create a positive environment for these girls and I’m very protective of them.
As coaches, we always remind our athletes that their time here is short and that it’s the choices they make and the actions they take that people will remember them for. The main thing we try to instill in our athletes is the importance of how you carry yourself, the way you treat others and the experiences you create. That’s really what it’s all about.
Q: What have you taken away from your involvement in the Chargers program?
A: Back when I played, we didn’t win a whole lot, but I always felt proud regardless, because we had genuinely good people there who helped make it a positive experience. Again, it goes back to those relationships. That’s what sport is. If it wasn’t for my mom and her connection with Camosun, I probably wouldn’t have played basketball at Camosun. And if it wasn’t for past coaches like Dawn Smyth and Brett Westcott, I probably wouldn’t have started or continued coaching.
Growing up, I always had people who put in time for me to play and now it’s my opportunity to do that for others. My involvement with Camosun is one that I am proud of because it has provided me with lifelong relationships and once in a lifetime experiences that have shaped me into who I am both in and outside of the gym.