HUMBOLDT — While taking on a historic new position, Humboldt product Paige Crozon is thinking about the trailblazers who came before her and the next generation.
Last week the daughter of Gary and Leanne Crozon was announced as an assistant coach for the Saskatchewan Rattlers of the Canadian Elite Basketball League (CEBL). The Saskatoon-based organization made Crozon the first female coach of a men’s professional team in Saskatchewan history.
“I know that more female coaches will step into that role after me, but I’m very honoured to hold that title... I’ve always had strong female coaches and leaders to look up to growing up,” Crozon said. “So, to see women in leadership positions wasn’t uncommon for me. I think there were so many women that paved the way that allowed me to be in this position that I am today, so although I’m honoured to be in the position I give credit to the many leaders and role models that I had growing up.”
The CEBL, now headed into its third season, has had female coaches before. The league was the first to have a woman hold the dual roles of coach and general manager. In regard to the history-making hiring of Crozon, Rattlers head coach Chad Jacobson said:
“When we were building our coaching staff, it wasn't our intent to make a historic signing. We were looking to add great people who could all add value in their own way to the team and to the organization. We're very excited to have Paige join our staff for the upcoming season.”
The position came about as Crozon was working with the Rattlers as the manager of the Living Skies Indigenous Basketball League. The team is supporting some of the programming of the league, which is an initiative of the Aboriginal Friendship Centres of Saskatchewan. The Rattlers became familiar with Crozon’s background as a former NCAA Division I player at the University of Utah, ex-pro in Germany, Team Canada basketball and Team Canada 3x3 athlete, and work as an assistant coach for the University of Lethbridge women’s basketball team. Those conversations led to an interview and a job offer.
“Paige is a very decorated player having played at a high level in the NCAA, professionally and having represented Canada on the international level,” Jacobson said. “I think these past experiences as a player will help her be able to relate and connect with our guys.”
Crozon brings a different perspective to the staff as not only a woman but also as someone who has recently transitioned from being a player to a coach. Jacobson said it is “a great opportunity for Paige to be able to work with some excellent coaches on our staff and to be able to learn from them and to continue to develop and grow as a coach.”
“I’m just excited for the opportunity to start working in the professional realm of sports as a coach,” Crozon said. “I loved being at that level as an athlete and I’m just really looking forward to working with the athletes and learning from the other coaches on staff.”
The CEBL season is slated to start in early June. It will be a busy time for Crozon as the Living Skies Indigenous Basketball League – unable to have a season this year due to COVID-19 – will be conducting camps across the province in May and June. In light of the pandemic wiping out the University of Lethbridge’s season, Crozon said she is looking forward to Rattlers season and being involved in games again.
Humboldt’s Karri Archibald coached Crozon at the Humboldt Collegiate Institute. Of Crozon’s new role, Archibald said:
“I was surprised because they had never had a female member of their coaching staff before but knew that if anyone could and should break that glass ceiling, it would be Paige.”
Archibald is one of the female coaches Crozon sees as a role model. She said others include Lake Lenore product Jill Weseen, who coached her on the provincial team, and current University of Saskatchewan assistant coach Jacqueline Lavallee, who mentored her on the national team.
“Growing up in the various levels of basketball that I played, I had strong leaders from this province be great role models and examples for me.”
Along with Archibald at HCI, Crozon was coached by Kevin Grieman. She said, “I had various male coaches that empowered me to be a strong leader, so I give an equal amount of credit to them also.”
Archibald is not surprised that Crozon became a coach. She said Crozon was a leader both on and off the court since she was a high school rookie.
“She is one of only a handful of players I’ve coached that had the self discipline, drive, and passion to get to the next level in sport,” Archibald said. “She also radiates positivity and was an exceptional teammate. Always raising others up, helping to establish a positive team culture, and staying humble through all her success. I had no doubt Paige would make an incredible coach and got to witness it firsthand at summer camps and in having her join our coaching staff at HCI last season (Nov. 2019-March 2020).
“Our players idolized her, but at the same time she was completely relatable to them. She worked with student athletes at 6 a.m. for additional training on top of our regular practices and is always very giving of her time and knowledge.”
Archibald emphasized that Crozon’s parents have instilled a strong sense of character and a responsibility to give back in both Paige and her older sister, Taylor, a former of University of Lethbridge basketball player and coach. She also stated that the Crozons sacrificed a lot financially, in time, and driving so that their daughters could succeed in sport and life.
“I had a lot of scouts and coaches contact me towards the end of [Paige’s] high school basketball career and while they were very impressed with her skills and abilities as a player, it was always her character & leadership that set her above the others and really interested them in investing her as a player,” Archibald said. “Those same qualities are now what draw people to her as a coach and have allowed her to so quickly move through the ranks as a young coach. I’m exceptionally proud of her and can’t wait to see what the future holds.”
Crozon balances her various jobs with raising her two-year-old daughter Poppy. Archibald said that student-athletes learn early on how to manage their time and prioritize.
“Even though her roles and responsibilities have changed, being super busy and involved is nothing new for her,” Archibald said. In high school, she played and excelled at every sport and was an honour roll student. On top of that, she also played provincial and national team basketball. I’ve always said when you are passionate about and love what you do, it doesn’t feel like work. Paige is the embodiment of that.”