Photos by Kyle West
By Graham West
Theresa Burns is the model of excellence when it comes to coaching at the university level. She has been the coach of the McMaster women’s basketball team for 25 years, boasting a resume of 321 wins and 161 losses, an astonishing win-loss record. She has led the team to the playoffs 17 times. This year, the team kicked off their season with back-to-back wins against the University of Waterloo Warriors and the University of Windsor Lancers.
Coach Burns attributes multiple factors to their history of winning, with consistency and stability of coaching being a big factor. Most of their coaches have been on staff for more than five years, with the exception of Danielle Boiago, former Marauder player-turned coach, so there is still a lot of experience in the McMaster system.
The consistency in coaching is a large contributor to the team’s success as it establishes a good chemistry, making it easier to establish a great culture of winning, which gets passed on to the new players by the coaches and senior players.
A high level of professionalism is key to this culture, with coach Burns stressing establishing a good work ethic, taking responsibility and accountability for what you do. Even though a lot of work goes into establishing such a winning culture, it is also a lot of fun. Respect is a big theme for everyone within the program, making sure you approach everything you do from the culture of respect, whether it be towards each other on the team, officials or simply towards the game of basketball.
“I know you hear coaches at the professional level of the sport talking about ‘he or she is a great pro’ and when they say that, they mean they tick all the boxes,” said coach Burns. “They don’t shortcut, they take care of business, they’re very accountable. They’re very responsible, and that’s what we try to push our players to be.”
Coach Burns also says that expertise and experience is something integral to her impact on the team’s wins, having honed over the years what does and does not work. This informs the daily habits that have to be set in place, along with watching how your team responds to certain things and how the league responds. These are all things that help form the team’s winning culture.
Coach Burns says the basketball team is more than just a team and is like another form of family, they all have a very close bond. She also says her role on the team is larger than just the technical aspects such as drawing up plays.
“In a coaching role, you wear a lot of hats,” said coach Burns. “You’re the technical director of what’s happening, but you’re also the general manager that looks after a million and one other administrative things that make the program run. You are the recruiting coordinator, you are a mentor for the athletes and the other coaches and you’re a support service for them. My door’s always open to my athletes if they need anything.”
Over the years, coach Burns says that the biggest change in basketball is the talents of players. The game used to be far more traditional and one dimensional, with forwards playing in the post, point guards handling the ball, shooting guards scoring and so on. The venerated coach highlighted that now, players are becoming multifaceted and can do it all,. This increase of multi-talented players is something that has certainly translated to university basketball.
Having won their division the past two seasons in a row, the women’s basketball team has been one of the most successful sports teams at McMaster in recent memory. Under the guidance of their head coach, and a strong roster taking the court, the team will continue to be a team to keep a close eye on in the upcoming season.