Campus Life

McAleenan enthused about opportunity

Erin McAleenan has no problem admitting she has a competitive side that sometimes gets the better of her. It's a feisty edge she's ready and willing to bring to the Pronghorns women's basketball program as its new voice and leader.

McAleenan was tabbed as the 10th coach in the program's history in April, taking over a team searching for some bite and subsequent success.

"I played the point and I was very competitive," says McAleenan, a point guard for the University of Acadia Axewomen from 1999 to 2003. She comes to the Horns off a three-year stint as assistant coach with the University of Alberta Pandas.

"I wasn't afraid to be physical to the point that the game allowed. I played in the women's league in Edmonton while I coached there . . . my competitive edge maybe takes over sometimes," she laughs.

Erin McAleenan
New Horns women's basketball head coach Erin McAleenan is ready to get to work.

A Sussex, New Brunswick native, McAleenan is getting her first crack at being a head coach at the Canadian Interuniversity Sport (CIS) level. Her pedigree is impressive, including a wealth of provincial and national team coaching experience. Currently, she is in her second year as head coach of Alberta's U17 provincial team, and later this month she'll spend two weeks as an apprentice coach/manager with the Canadian National Women's Team as it prepares for the London 2012 Olympic qualifying tournament.

Her penchant for coaching stems from her father, a high school teacher and coach, who she describes as turning Sussex into a basketball town when they moved to the area in the 1970s. McAleenan began coaching as a Grade 8 student when she would help out at summer basketball camps for kids.

"When I went to university, I wanted to be a physiotherapist, probably because I had suffered a lot of injuries and was really interested in that line of work," she says. "Over time I realized that I really preferred working with kids. I ran all the summer camps at Acadia while I played there and when I was graduating (with a BSc) I knew I wanted to get into education."

She worked at a private school as an associate faculty member while she pursued her education degree at Trent University, coaching high school boys and girls and earning provincial team experience within the Ontario Basketball Association. After working as the lead assistant coach for the Ontario U17 provincial team, she met Alberta coach Scott Edwards at 2008 Nationals tournament in Charlottetown, and he encouraged her to move out west for the assistant's position at University of Alberta.

"While I loved teaching and working with high school kids, I think both my competitive side and my personal experience of playing CIS led me to want to try and make a difference with athletes at this age level," she says.

She comes to the Horns with her eyes wide open, understanding she's entering a basketball hotbed with deep community roots. Gaining the trust of that community will be central to her success.

"I don't think it's going to be easy but I think I'm the right person for the job," she says. "I'm definitely a people person, I want to go out into the community and develop those relationships. It's not going to happen overnight and like any relationship it'll take time for people to get to know me and to trust me and support the program I'm leading."

Her approach is grassroots.

"I want to connect with people, get involved with the high school and junior programs and expand our summer camp options," says McAleenan. "The more I can get out in the community and give back, the more people will get to know me so that we can create those relationships."

The Pronghorn program has the capability to lead basketball development in southern Alberta and McAleenan says her players can benefit from taking on that responsibility.

"I want to be able to give my student athletes opportunities to develop their leadership skills in the community and to do their part in being better role models, especially for younger females, whether that is through basketball specifically or other things I think we could get involved in," she says.

It all lends to creating an environment for success, both as students and as student-athletes.

"I'm thrilled to be given the opportunity to work with these young student-athletes and I value the role we have in their development," says McAleenan.


· McAleenan considers herself a defense-first coach whose teams score off transition opportunities and good shot selection

· She was an assistant coach with the Canadian Developmental National Team at the 2011 Pan Am Games

· Adopted, McAleenan has a brother who played basketball at Bishop's University and is currently living in Ottawa, as well as three half-brothers and two half-sisters, all living in New Brunswick

· McAleenan had never met U of L President Mike Mahon while they were both at the University of Alberta, but she did teach his son Seann a physical activity course at U of A and his other son, Brennan, was a physical therapist for the men's basketball program in her first year with the women's team

This story first appeared in the May issue of the Legend. For a look at the full issue in a flipbook format, follow this link.