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Basketball coaching that is all in the family

There was almost a sense of inevitability that accompanied the recent announcement on social media that Kristine Lalonde would be making a larger leap into the work of basketball coaching.

The 28 year-old current resident of Sarnia, two time national champion and former professional guard is, after all, the daughter of acclaimed Sudbury high-school coaches Mitch Lalonde and Mary Collinson.

"I think I have a bit of mom and a bit of dad," she said recently. "Hopefully, I get the best of both of them."

While her playing career was interspersed with elements of coaching, on the side, it was clear that Lalonde needed to fulfil her desire to compete on the court, first and foremost.

The youngest of two children in the family (older brother Andrew has moved from Montreal to Toronto in recent years), Lalonde followed up a highly successful stint with the Lasalle Lancers with three years of NCAA competition with the University of Vermont Catamounts.

Opting to return north of the border to conclude her university playing days, she was a member of the Windsor Lancers in both 2013-2014 and 2014-2015, capturing the Bronze Baby Canadian crown on both occasions.

Her years on the pro circuit included stops in Germany, Latvia and Australia, before she officially decided to hang up her sneakers roughly one year ago.

"Playing professionally was such an incredible experience," said Lalonde. "It gave me the chance to travel the world and experience different cultures. I got to meet so many different people - I am really going to miss that aspect."

"Each year was different, each team was different, but I definitely loved all four years overseas."

Earlier this summer, it was confirmed that Lalonde would be joining Rocca Elite Basketball Academy in Sarnia, joining both her boyfriend (Joe Rocca) and his brother (Mike) in this undertaking.

The local product readily acknowledges that she could see this day coming.

"Coaching has always been in the mix for me," said Lalonde. "Even when I was at university or playing overseas, we were always coaching, running camps and clinics. Now that I am back in Canada, I have officially decided to coach."

"Hopefully I can follow in my parents' footsteps and help inspire the next generation."

In the eyes of Kristine Lalonde, this latest move might be as much of a calling as it is an opportunity for her. "I just think that it's important for me to pass my knowledge along," she said. "I'm so excited to try and instill those values that the game as taught me."

As for the lessons from her playing days, Lalonde admits there is a trade-off to pursuing your dreams, a reality that she believes that aspiring post-secondary talent must recognize.

"You have to remind them that ther are going to be sacrifices that have to be made," she said. "Throughout high-school, when I was playing, it was hard to always realize that. As you move up, in order to get to that next level, there are going to be things that you are going to miss out on."

"It's about having that dedication to the sport. It's important to put in the hours and be motivated to improve different aspects of your game, not just the parts that you do well."

"It's hard to teach work ethic, but if you have that, it is possible to get to that next level, play professionally, to make the national team," Lalonde added. "It is possible to achieve your goals."

Though Rocca Academy will address one dimension of her coaching skills, Lalonde knows that tackling a team full-tilt, at some point, will present other challenges. "It is different," she said. "I love the skill development aspect."

"There's so many little things that you can work on in skill development, adding versatility to your game. I think I still have a lot to learn about coaching a team, but I'm excited to go down that avenue when it happens."

And though she is more than ready to move on to the next phase of her involvement in basketball, Lalonde does so with a great deal of gratitude. "I just want to thank my family, all of the coaches, the people who supported me through my journey," she said.

"I think it's important to recognize that I didn't do it alone."

Northern Ontario AAA Hockey League