Nova Scotia

X-Women hoops camp to teach young athletes to 'play basketball like girls'

The women's basketball team at St. Francis Xavier University will teach young athletes the skills they need to play at a higher level.

All-female program will show young players how to excel at the sport

Women in basketball uniforms yell on the sidelines of a basketball court.
X-Women Basketball players on the bench, cheering on their team members. (Submitted by Matt Spencer)

The women's basketball team at St. Francis Xavier University will teach young athletes the skills they need to play at a higher level.

The Next Level Basketball Academy is a program where young girls can learn the basketball skills they will need to play at high school and university levels in the future. The eight-week program will run in the fall out of Antigonish, N.S. 

The head coach of X-Women Basketball, Matt Spencer, will run the program with support from the entire team. He says the academy will help these girls pursue higher-level basketball in the future. 

"You have to train at the level that you aspire to, because if you train at the level you're already at, it's probably where you'll stay," Spencer said.

The team is running two separate programs: one for girls ages 10 to 13, and another for girls ages 14 to 18. 

The first will help younger girls develop basketball fundamentals, like passing and dribbling. The second will teach older girls basketball strategies and how to play with a team. 

Once a week for eight weeks, participants will spend an hour and a half in the gym at St. FX.

A man stands on a basketball court holding a basketball.
Matt Spencer, the head coach of X-Women Basketball and the Next Level Basketball Academy. (Submitted by Matt Spencer)

Spencer says his coaching technique blends basketball analysis and practical application. He will show participants how other athletes at higher levels play, and then teach them to incorporate those techniques into their own play.

Importance of an all-female academy

Nicole Cleary is a teacher and coach in Antigonish. She's registered her 12-year-old daughter Gracie for the program.

Gracie has been playing basketball for the last five years. Cleary says the all-female environment of this academy is important because it will allow her daughter to learn the strategies that are specific to women's basketball.

X-Women player Kira Atherley said, "We play basketball like girls, we don't play basketball like guys."

Cleary says the all-female environment has Gracie extra excited about the program.

"Knowing that she's gonna be with an all-female group I think really made a difference. When I first told her about it, she was hesitant until I said it was all female and then she was like 'oh yes'! She was really gung-ho," she said.

A woman and a girl stand on a basketball court holding a basketball.
Nicole Cleary, right, a local teacher and coach in Antigonish N.S., pictured with her daughter Gracie. (Submitted by Nicole Cleary)

Elizabeth Kennedy also plays for X-Women Basketball and will be helping Spencer with the academy. She says a program like this one would have really helped her prepare for her time with the X-Women's team.

"You don't really know what is coming until you do it and so the more exposure you can get to what the next level looks like, the more set up for success you'll be," she said.

Fundraiser for X-Women Basketball

The basketball academy comes with a fee of $185 per participant. Head coach Matt Spencer says the goal of the program is both to give back to the local community and fundraise for X-Women Basketball. 

The funds will be used for a wide range of activities like recruitment, away-games and equipment.

"It's in the pursuit of making X-Women Basketball a genuinely high performance, small-p professional environment," Spencer said.

A woman runs down the basketball court with a ball in her hands as another runs behind her.
Elizabeth Kennedy, left, playing against the team from the University of New Brunswick. (Submitted by Matt Spencer)



Eesha Affan


Eesha Affan is a 2022 Joan Donaldson Scholar at CBC News.


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