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    ‘Students of the game’

    ‘Students of the game’
    Vaughan Merchant / CBU Athletics

    Original Story by Corey Leblanc CBU Athletics January 26, 2021

    ‘Students of the game’

    Diverse coaching talents a key to success for Caper women’s soccer program

    Team work and consistency are key ingredients for a Cape Breton University Capers women’s soccer coaching staff that has helped construct one of the most envied varsity sport programs in Canada.

    Led by New Waterford native Stephen ‘Ness’ Timmons, who has guided the Capers since the birth of the Atlantic University Sport (AUS) team more than 25 years ago, the four-person group includes assistant coach Robert White, goalkeeper coach Chad Power and Mitchell Hanna, who serves as performance analyst and academic advisor.

    “Sometimes we don’t even have to converse,” White says, with a laugh, while explaining the chemistry the group shares.

    Timmons notes everyone is “willing to go that extra mile.”

    “Everyone has input on whatever we do,” he says.

    Timmons adds – more often than not – the staff is “on the same page.”

    Nevertheless, that doesn’t mean there aren’t disagreements. 

    “Although I ultimately have to make a decision as the head coach, I want to hear what they have to say – I have a great level of faith in what they have to say,” Timmons offers.

    Head Coach Stephen “Ness” Timmons Photo Credit: Vaughan Merchant – CBU Athletics

    White says there is a “high level of trust” with the coaching staff that is crucial, especially when they have to have those “difficult conversations” that come up each season.

    Although each person has separate roles, Timmons says they take a “team approach,” when it involves making decisions on program operations.

    He notes the foursome – with the talents that each member provides – “complement each other.”

    “We each bring a little something different to the table,” Timmons says.

    White adds “we have learned so much from each other.” 

    Noting their ability to adapt, he says the coaching staff also realizes there is “always room to improve.”

    Assistant Coach Robert White Photo Credit: Vaughan Merchant – CBU Athletics

    ‘Extra set of eyes’

    When it comes to the ‘consistency’ ingredient of the program’s winning recipe, it starts with White, who has been on the Caper bench since 2003, a season in which the program captured an AUS crown.

    “He is an extra set of eyes every head coach needs,” Timmons says of the New Waterford native.

    He adds White has a personality “all the players can relate to,” while describing him as the “calm, stabilizing voice of our program.”

    White, a teacher with the Cape Breton Victoria Regional Centre for Education (CBVRCE), is approaching two decades patrolling the Caper sideline.

    “Our program is structured so that, year after year, these players still show a desire to win and compete, not just on AUS weekend, but week after week in our training sessions and season,” the father and husband says, when asked why he continues to make the commitment to the program, which is a year-round one.

    “Because their desire for success continues to match the high standards that we expect from them each day as coaches, it makes it quite easy to continue on for all these years.”

    ‘Mr. Dependable’

    In keeping with the consistency theme, Power – also a CBVRCE educator and family man – has been with the Capers since 2007.

    “Chad is ‘Mr. Dependable,'” Timmons says of the North Sydney native.

    He adds that Power “always goes the extra mile.”

    Goalkeeper Coach Chad Power Photo Credit: Vaughan Merchant – CBU Athletics

    “Although he is the keeper expert, he extends his positive and enthusiastic coaching approach to the entire team,” Timmons notes.

    With a laugh, Power notes his impeccable timing in joining the program – the same season that CBU secured a U Sports’ championship.

    “It was a pretty sweet year to come on board,” he says.

    Power describes “the people I coach and work with” as the “greatest privilege” of his time with CBU Athletics.

    “We have seen so many quality people – both on and off the field – play for us,” he adds, noting there are too many to start listing them.

    And, as for his coaching colleagues, Power says “there is not enough I can say about them.”

    The young(er) blood

    After a two-year stint as a student-assistant with the Capers that wrapped up in 2014, Hanna took a four-year hiatus to focus on his studies.

    “I couldn’t pass up an opportunity to work with this program, which is committed to being at the top [of the league] – year-in and year-out,” the Howie Centre native says of coming back on board two seasons ago.

    Hanna adds the student-athletes with Caper women’s soccer are “some of the best in the country at what they do.”

    Performance Analyst Mitchell Hanna Photo Credit: Vaughan Merchant – CBU Athletics

    Timmons says Hanna possesses a “great mind for the game.”

    “Mitchell is very analytical, and those skills provide us with a feature we don’t always get from the field-level view. He has shown great support in variety of ways to make us a first-class program – both academically and athletically,” he adds.

    ‘Support from home’

    To reach the highest level – one where the Capers not only consistently compete for conference crowns, but also national championships – it requires a year-round obligation from the student-athletes and coaches.

    Without “support from home,” an understanding from family that there will be missed meals and weekends away, White says they wouldn’t be able to provide what is a “giant commitment.”

    He adds the “level of compete” that their Caper student-athletes provide also makes it much easier.  

    “They give 100 per cent – every day,” White notes.

    He says CBU administration – including President David Dingwall and Athletic Director John Ryan – also “recognize the work that we are doing.”

    Power agrees, noting he “enjoys the culture” of CBU Athletics, one established under the leadership of Ryan and Shaun Ranni, coordinator of varsity athletics and recreation.

    “They have been very good to me,” he says.

    Photo Credit: Vaughan Merchant – CBU Athletics

    ‘Very fortunate’

    Power also praises Timmons for his leadership in creating a second-to-none culture with Caper women’s soccer, describing having the opportunity to be part of it as “an incredible part of the job.”

    “My admiration for the coaches and players is, by far, my biggest take from the program,” he says.

    “Aside from the titles and success we have had, it is all about going to practice, training the girls and hanging with the coaches – that’s my favorite time.”

    Central to that culture is having the understanding that – although playing championship soccer is important – it is not the be-all and end-all.

    “We truly want the best for our players – in all aspects of their university experience – whether it is athletically or academically,” White says.

    Describing his trio of coaching collaborators as “students of the game,” Timmons says he is “very fortunate” to have them as they work to provide student-athletes with their best possible experience at CBU.

    “Everyone realizes that we are developing people as well.”

    About Cape Breton University

    Cape Breton University (CBU) is home to nearly 5,500 students from more than 40 countries around the world.

    We are committed to the future of Cape Breton Island, innovative economic development and sustainability programs, and Indigenous learning leadership.

    CBU offers a comprehensive set of liberal arts, science, business, health and professional programs on the first energy self-sufficient campus in North America.

    As a university that is dedicated to excellence in teaching and learning, CBU provides students with the advantage of outstanding experiential learning and undergraduate research opportunities in a supportive academic environment.

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