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Accomplished coach brings championship mindset to Queens University’s women’s basketball program

Community ProfileAccomplished coach brings championship mindset to Queens University’s women’s basketball program

After having a successful varsity career as a guard, Claire Meadows has since gone on to become one of the most respected and successful basketball coaches in Canada.

 However, it all started in Brantford, where she developed her love of the game.

“My mom and dad were born and raised in Brantford [and] I went to the same high school as they went to. So, I have a lot of family roots there. I was lucky to have such a great experience growing up in sports. When I was younger, I played hockey and always thought that I was going [to continue that in] high school and university,” Meadows explained. “That changed when I ended up going to North Park Collegiate and decided I wanted to play basketball. That’s where I was coached by Andrea Hawkins. She was a great coach [and] a big reason why I ended up going to Queen’s University.”

Although Meadows would go on to have a stellar playing career at Queens University, earning multiple awards for her defensive play and leadership, it took some time before she decided on a career path.  

 “When I was studying, I didn’t know what I wanted to do. I did a degree in my undergrad [and] back then, it was a double degree program, so you get that degree, and then you get an Arts or Science degree. I think I changed my science degree three times,” she said. “It was actually in my fourth year, I had been named captain of the team at Queens and I dug into that role. I took a lot of pride in being the captain of the team. And it was after my fourth year and going into my fifth year that the coach at the time, Dave Wilson, asked me if I had any interest in coaching [and] it was at that point where we were having coaching conversations and if this was truly what I wanted to do. I started the formal steps to be able to become a coach [by] doing my master’s in coaching at the University of Victoria.”

During her time at the University of Victoria, Meadows specialized in video analysis, giving her a more advanced perspective as a coach.

“My final project was on video analysis in coaching. At that time, it was becoming more prominent in the coaching profession [and] it was back when we played, it was exchanging VHS…and waiting for these tapes in the mail. As I was getting into coaching, we just started having online platforms, and software that you could do some pretty incredible things with film. So, I spent some time studying that,” said Meadows.

Meadows spent five years at Queen’s University Women’s basketball program as a player where she won numerous honours including Defensive Player of the Year and Team MVP. She then went on to the University of Victoria where she completed her Master of Education in Coaching. Photo courtesy Jeff Chan.

Meadows would then spend about two years as an educator; although it was brief, it provided her with a strong basis for her coaching career and development. She would then have a chance to start coaching as an assistant at the University of Lethbridge which would lead to a career opportunity.

“The head coach Erin McAleenan [at the time] was working with Canada basketball, and I followed in her footsteps, trying to mimic a lot of what she was doing. We got put in the Canadian coaching pool for the junior age group teams,” explained Meadows. “I was with the Canadian program for four years, two years as an assistant and two years as a head coach. It was such a formative experience in terms of learning from coaches who had much more experience…and being able to coach some of the best athletes in our country at the teenage level.”

Meadows also gained international exposure, further enriching her coaching experience.

“I had a chance to see the world [and] see a lot of different places…because of coaching at the national level. You get to see the world from a pretty neat perspective…I went to Chile, Mexico, Italy, France, and Thailand…with a team of 17, 18, and 19-year-olds who are seeing the world for the first time and you get to experience it through that lens and I think that’s a pretty special experience,” stated Meadows.

After her time with Team Canada, Meadows became an integral part in leading the University of Saskatchewan Huskies Women’s Basketball team to a U SPORTS National Championship in 2019-20, which set a benchmark for success in her career.

“When I think about my time with the Huskies, what we were able to accomplish there was the opportunity to coach and learn from Lisa Thomaidis. When I was there for three years, I tried to just be a sponge, and absorb and learn as much as I could [and] integrate myself into the program. I feel like I’ve been able to take a lot of what I learned there and bring that to Queens,” Meadows said. “[And during] my second year [with the Huskies], we were able to win a national championship which is a hard thing to do…when you’re able to be a part of something like that, you create really special memories and special bonds with people that you are going to carry with you for the rest of your life. So pretty fortunate to be a part of that.”

Claire Meadows, pictured here in a team huddle, has continued building upon the storied success of the women’s basketball program at Queen’s University. She has led the Gaels to a U SPORTS bronze medal in her first season with the program. Photo courtesy Jeff Chan.

Now, for the last several years, Meadows has been the head coach of the women’s program at Queen’s University, helping to continue its winning tradition.

“We’ve had great success [and] there’s no doubt about that. But the success that we’ve had is in large part of what was done before. I came here and I took the job [over from] Dave Wilson, my predecessor. He was in this program for years [and] built it to be what it is. And I was fortunate to be able to come in and try to build on what he did. I was very fortunate to inherit a team with incredible people in the program,” said Meadows.

Meadows, however, insists that one of the key successes is because of the exceptional team she has.

“If there’s one highlight, it is that I always tell them that I never feel like having to go to work when I wake up in the morning. I’m excited to show up every day and it’s because I get to work with them,” Meadows continued. “Last year, we earned a silver medal again, which is a great accomplishment, but what a lot of people don’t know is that that group has the highest team GPA at Queen’s…there’s a lot that these student-athletes do; that people don’t necessarily see and I think that they are truly an incredible group of people.”

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