Wytenburg named Niagara Juel Prep coach
Kristy-Anne Wytenburg arrived in Niagara with a burning desire to coach basketball.
Living in downtown St. Catharines, the 28-year-old Renfrew County native contacted four high schools in St. Catharines expressing that interest.
Then St. Francis principal Jim Whittard was intrigued and contacted Wytenburg, who was recently named as the head coach of the Niagara Juel Prep girls basketball program.
“He emailed me back at midnight on a Friday saying come meet me on Monday,” Wytenburg said. “I met with him on Monday and I explained who I was and what I was looking for and right away, he told me to come and meet all the coaches.”
After Whittard’s phone call, the accountant with Root Bissonnette Walker went online to find out what she was getting herself involved in.
“I did my research and realized that St. Francis had a very strong program, looking at how many trophies they had, their participation in OFSAA and the intense resumes of their coaches.”
What followed was a two-year indoctrination into Basketball 101. She helped Rich Alderson and Michael Lucas to coach the junior boys team to a Southern Ontario Secondary Schools Association title her first year and then while continuing helping with the junior boys team, she was assistant coach with Pat Sullivan on a junior girls team that also won SOSSA.
“I got a feel for the St. Francis vibe and the complete dedication to the purple and the Phoenix,” she said. “It was a no-brainer. If I wanted to learn to be the best coach that I could be, I needed to learn under some of the best mentors in the region.”
She learned many coaching lessons at St. Francis.
“It is keeping it simple and that’s from Pat Sullivan. It’s knowing the basics, being good at the basics and you don’t have to get fancy to win championships.”
In terms of practices, intensity is crucial.
“You can’t expect to play on some of the biggest courts in the league and be weak and lazy in practice.”
Basketball IQ was also stressed with the Phoenix.
“We had standard sets and plays that we wanted to run as a team but also it’s understanding how to play basketball. We wanted them to take the ball down and just do it and it was teaching kids how to play, how to react to their defenders and how to manipulate their defenders to get what they want in an offensive set.”
Wytenburg also spent a year and a half coaching the Niagara Rangers under-16 and under-17 boys travel teams. Serving as a head coach was a revelation.
“I very much understood that I saw myself as a head coach and being able to develop a program,” she said. “Obviously you have to know how to play on the court but it is teaching kids communication and leadership. And going beyond that, it’s helping kids become student-athletes.”
She also instilled a spirit of community involvement with the Rangers. Wytenburg volunteered at the Toy Bureau in St. Catharines around Christmas.
“We made a deal that I was volunteering my time as a coach for their entire season and I wanted them to volunteer with me at the Toy Bureau. It was great exposure for them to see what was going on in the community and with less-fortunate families. It created a perfect bonding opportunity for our team right before we started into our tournament run.”
Assuming the role as the head coach of the Niagara Juel Prep program is the next step in Wytenburg’s development.
“It is a progression upwards in my coaching resume. As well, I have an addictive personality and if I am going to dedicate my time to something I go all in. This program works with athletes trying to get to the post secondary level and they will have the same level of drive and commitment that I want to coach with.”
Her goal is to develop her players to be able to handle the rigours of being a student-athlete and be coachable.
“The level of involvement this program needs fits very well with my obsession and crazy personality.”
When not interrupted by COVID, Wytenburg helped train a number of the Juel and Juel Prep players in the Pelham Panthers training sessions and she became familiar with the Pelham Panthers’ executive that runs the Niagara Juel and Juel programs.
“It very much felt like I was on the same page and I got along very well with all the administrators of the program,” he said. “I felt like I fit in and they were very welcoming to me.”
With Niagara Juel Prep, she plans to keep it simple and stress the basics while building a team and a program.
“In my experiences as a player and a coach, the teams that bond well together usually play better.”
On the court, she likes to run a fast-paced game, stressing fast breaks, transition, defensive presses and defence.
“I don’t care if we win a game 100-99. I want to win 100-25.”
The former high school basketball and player and novice rower at Brock can’t wait to get started.
“Coming off of COVID, it is just getting back into basketball and developing a it’s-more-than-basketball program,” she said. “I have already started putting into place what I foresee as a season outside of just the nitty gritty basketball. I am looking forward to the buy-in from the players, the families and the Pelham Panthers to support the vision I have and built it over the next two years.
“And I am very excited to get back to games. We have done a lot of training.”
She is thrilled and honoured to serve as a role model for young female athletes.
“Obviously my goal is to teach them basketball and progress their basketball, but my true goal is to inspire them, to motivate them, to mentor them whether that be in basketball or life in general,” she said. “As coaches for youth basketball, our job is to inspire them to want achieve greater things within the sport, make them want to stay connected to the sport, keep them in love with the sport and keep them active and healthy.”
All those thoughts were made clear to the Pelham Panthers executive members, who oversee the Niagara Juel and Juel Prep programs.
“She’s very committed to the vision of the Pelham Panthers program,” Pelham Juel administrator Don Larman said. “She has a strong emphasis on the student-athlete and wants her players to excel in the classroom, on the basketball court and in life.”
“We like her enthusiasm, commitment and desire to get the job done. She doesn’t see anything as a barrier.”
Wytenburg feels there will be a few challenges coming out of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“There will be a lot more need for a focus on basic endurance because even being involved with the 10-week training program, kids are not in shape,” she said. “And I am not sure if it will be an issue but maybe the level of commitment because, myself included, I think COVID has allowed us to get lazy and not have to commit to plans.”
Players interested in trying our for the Niagara Juel and Juel Prep teams should register on the Pelham Panthers website at https://www.pelhambasketball.ca. There is no cost to register and it will allow interested players to receive information about tryouts, the league, etc.
Still to come: Frank Keltos back as Niagara Juel coach.