During the school year you can find Craig Beaucamp at the helm of the University of Victoria Men’s Basketball Team. But once the season finishes and summer rolls around, he switches gears and focuses on developing Canada’s best young athletes.
In April, Canada Basketball announced that Beaucamp would take charge of the Under 16 Men’s National Team as Head Coach, with support from Michael Meeks, Rob Smart, and Patrick Tatham, as the team’s assistant coaches.
Beaucamp is no stranger to the National program, and worked as an Assistant Coach with the U18 Men’s National Team from 2006-2007, during the 2011 Pan Am games in Guadalajara, Mexico, and again for the 2016 season. He was also a guest coach with the Senior Men’s National Team from 2013-2016, and has seen international competition at all levels.
Despite Beaucamp’s extensive experience coaching Canada’s National teams on the international circuit, the players on the U16 roster had never played abroad until this year, when the twelve man team travelled to Formosa, Argentina to complete in the 2017 FIBA Americas U16 Championship. “For this age group it’s was a pretty pivotal year,” Beaucamp said referencing the team’s trip to the tournament which was held from June 14-18. “They learned all the different things that come with international play—being on the road, the crowds, and the difference in the game itself.”
Similar to the U19 team, who made history at the FIBAs tournament this year, the U16 team continued the trend of impressing on the international stage. The team was strong throughout the entire tournament, and earned a spot in the finals against the U.S. after beating Purto Rico 81-66 in the semi-finals. Although they fought hard, Canada suffered a tough 111-60 loss to the U.S in the finals, and left Argentina with a silver medal and a 4-1 record.
“Overall we were happy, even with losing to the U.S in the final,” Beaucamp said of the end result, “the gold medal continues to be our goal, but our overall goal, going into the summer, was to qualify for the world championships next year, and we were able to do that.”
Beaucamp also went on to say that relative to the competition, the U16 put on a strong show of athletics, “we were able to score in the open court and in transition situations, defensively we were able to generate a lot of offense and use our speed and athleticism.”
One of the many challenges of playing abroad is the very short amount of time teams have to prepare before playing in the tournament, so keeping things simple is important. “For the Americas qualifier we had a week to prepare,” Beaucamp said, of the dramatically short practice window.
Coaching a National team also means an additional challenge, as the players travel from all over the country and have often never played together. The lack of familiarity amongst players means coaches have to work extra hard at building trust and boosting team morale.
Beaucamp notes that the key to team bonding in such a span of time is all about getting the players in the same mindset. “One of the goals we had going in, was just to talk to the players about what it means to play for Canada. We just want to emphasize that sense of pride and talk about ‘team first’.”
Motivating players at the U16 level, and having them understand what it means to play at a national level, is all part of the process for building Canada’s Senior Men’s National Team.
“All these players are the best players on their team, so being a part of a National program means a change of role for the athlete,” Beaucamp said of working to bring the team together, “maybe their role has shifted and they’re coming off the bench or aren’t getting much playing time at all—but it’s really about focusing on the team first, and for a lot of these kids it could be a different perspective.”
“At the U16 level we are trying to get the kids hooked and excited about playing for Canada so we can draw on that in future years,” Beaucamp said of how they aim to keep players developing in the program.
As all coaches involved with Canada Basketball understand, forming relationships, bonding with players, and building trust is an ongoing process that they continue to foster as players develop. “[being on the U16 team] is one step in a very long journey—this isn’t the start and end of a journey—this is the beginning,” said Beaucamp, “hopefully these kids will move up together and continue to play with each other and ultimately the goal is to have them play for our senior team one year.” But with the arrival of August, and a new term just around the corner, Coach Beaucamp will soon switch his focus to the new players he will be working with on the Vikes.
“We drafted quite a young team, and we don’t have a single 5th year player on our lineup,” Beaucamp said of this year’s draft class, “it’s a really young group that we’re trying to mold, but we really like the group we have.”
Just like with the U16 team, his mentality remains the same, “our goal is to get back to the National Championships,” he said, “the focus for us is to prepare for our league play first, and just go back to building blocks and fundamentals on both the offensive and defensive side.”
His goal for the Vikes this season is to secure a spot at the National Championships, and bring home a title. Once that’s obtained, he’ll hopefully be back to lead the National Team to the U17 Basketball World Cup in 2018.