Newly appointed MRU Cougars women’s basketball coach ready for tasks at hand
By Sajan Jabbal, Staff Writer & Dan Khavkin, Sports Editor
Mount Royal Athletics hired newly appointed women’s basketball coach Robyn Fleckenstein on Aug.1 this past summer. Fleckenstein brings in a loaded resumé into her first Canada West head coach job.
A former player of the Acadia Axewomen program from 2008 to 2010, Fleckenstein brings first-hand experience of women’s basketball at the university level to the team.
“Being a player and and an assistant at this level gave me a good idea, but of course being a head coach is much different,” she says.
Fleckenstein’s playing career was cut short at Acadia University due to an ACL tear. After her surgery, she began coaching.
“I got involved with coaching provincial teams in Nova Scotia, but even then I still didn’t really know what I wanted to do.”
After becoming a high school science teacher, Fleckenstein began coaching high school basketball while also working as an assistant coach with the Alberta Pandas.
Leaving Strathcona High School for Ross Sheppard in the Alberta capital, she got a phone call two years into the new job.
A former player at U of A who was an Alberta Colleges Athletic Conference (ACAC) coach was stepping away and asked if Fleckenstein would be interested in the head coach position.
In all but three weeks, Fleckenstein became the head coach for the ACAC’s Augustana Vikings.
Taking over as Cougars head coach
“I haven’t had a job for longer than two years,” Fleckenstein says with a smile. “I’m hoping this is the job I stay at for a long time.”
She knew what she was getting herself into, claiming that what went on before she got to Mount Royal never bothered her. The Cougars held 1-19 and 2-18 records in the last two seasons.
“I never saw that as a reason not to take the job,” she says. “It was more of me knowing MRU was a good school for me personally. Calgary is a great city and that mattered more to me than where the team was when I wasn’t there. I wanted to be here.”
The nature of the Cougar Athletics and the potential of the women’s basketball program was also a bright-spot.
“Small schools have a major place in this world … You just have to nd the athletes who want to be here. Losing isn’t a curse. It’s about changes and putting in the work.”
Nothing immediately jumped off the page for Fleckenstein when she took over either.
“It’s more important to run a style of play to suit your athletes but there wasn’t anything that I noticed where I had to stand there and say ‘No, you guys can’t this-or-that,’” Fleckenstein says.
“We are changing the style of play to cater more to the athlete’s strength. They have to play a little faster but we have a lot of good pieces.”
As the saying goes: Rome wasn’t built in a day. In her case, Augustana didn’t make the playoffs for two years while also not making playoffs Fleckenstein’s first year at the helm. The following year, they were nationally ranked every week and finished fourth in the ACAC.
“I believe anything can change, you just need to be patient.”