ACU teaching students and talented basketballers Kate Pattison, Connor Mackenroth and Gemma O’Grady are confident their skills will crossover from the court to the classroom.
The trio starred in ACU’s anticipated first foray into the University Basketball League (UBL) series earlier this year.
And in addition to making an impact on the basketball court, their impressive skills are sure to hold them in good stead when they go from assisting teammates to helping their students.
Pivoting from coaching to teaching
With 25 years’ experience as a basketballer, Kate knows plenty about the game.
But it was through her role as a coach for the Blackburn Vikings Under 14s Representative and Under 13s Domestic teams that a career as a teacher entered her mind.
“I really enjoy coaching and I thought, if I can get so much satisfaction out of coaching and teaching the kids, why not make that a profession?” she said.
Kate, who has a successful career in finance, started a Master of Teaching (Secondary) earlier this year and is balancing full-time study with her job, coaching, and playing for the Blackburn Vikings Senior Women’s Big V team.
Amid the heavy schedule, the Melbourne-based student can see parallels between coaching and playing, and teaching.
“With basketball, you are with a team. You are doing things for others, not yourself, and it’s like that with teaching and being in a classroom,” she said.
“It’s all about building a rapport and supporting players or students to achieve their goals.”
Passing on a love of physical education
Connor’s goal of becoming a teacher stems from his own experiences as a student.
“I’ve always wanted to be a PE teacher from when I had my first PE teacher in primary school,” the third-year Bachelor of Education (Secondary)/Bachelor of Exercise Science student said.
“He’s the one who got me into basketball. He was everyone’s favourite teacher. We would have a laugh and some banter, but he always pushed us and wanted the best for all of us.”
Connor Mackenroth in action.
Connor, who plays in the Queensland State League One Division team, wants to do the same for his future students.
“When I was at primary school everyone loved PE, but I’m finding on placements that kids don’t enjoy PE as much. When they find out I play though, they do like to challenge me to a game,” he said. “PE is so good for the brain, and students’ mental and physical health.”
The key to good mental health
Basketball and keeping physically active were the keys to Gemma successfully completing Year 12 following mental health struggles during the Covid-19 pandemic.
“Basketball was my main reason to get out of bed,” she said.
Gemma, who is in her second year of a Bachelor of Education (Primary), is currently the assistant coach of the Under 16s Hills Hornets, as well as a basketball referee.
She said the game helped her to improve her physical and mental health – both important for the demands of the teaching profession.
“Playing basketball and being a referee, you learn a lot about conflict management, thinking on your feet, and problem solving – that’s definitely going to help in the classroom,” she said.
Bagging baskets for ACU
The trio were thrilled to use their basketball skills for Team ACU’s first UBL season earlier this year.
Gemma, who is based on the North Sydney campus, said representing ACU nationally alongside students from other campuses and disciplines was an “amazing” opportunity.
“We got to travel and get to know each other so well. I’ve kept in touch with other students from different campuses,” she said.
Connor, a combo guard, said it was a great experience to play under the guidance of NBL champion Matt Shanahan as well as benefit from the off-court skills of fellow ACU students.
“We had physio and paramedics students in the team. One was strapping people’s ankles before the game,” he said with a laugh.
“It was a great way to meet a bunch of people. It was our first year and being in that inaugural team and being captain was cool. I hope to be back there in the team next year.”
Kate congratulated ACU for its involvement in the UBL and commitment to the health and wellbeing of its students.
“If you are known as a university that does UBL, it attracts students. We have a lot of students who play basketball at a high level at ACU,” she said.
“We have the talent here at ACU to be leaders in the competition.”
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