HUMBOLDT — Humboldt’s Gary and Leanne Crozon are likely not shocked by their daughter Paige’s long list of jobs, duties, and responsibilities.
Mom to two-year-old daughter Poppy. University of Lethbridge assistant women’s basketball coach. Living Skies Indigenous Basketball League manager. Canadian Association of Enhanced Female Mentorship Program member. Team Canada 3x3 basketball player.
“Every time I start a new project, they’re like ‘Do you have time for this?’” the former University of Utah women’s hoops standout said with a laugh in reference to her parents. “They’re always very supportive … no matter what I chose to do and the various passions I have in my life.”
Family is important to Crozon. Her basketball journey has taken her to the U of Lethbridge, where her older sister Taylor – an ex-Humboldt Collegiate Institute teammate – played and coached. The elder Crozon sibling still resides in the city where her younger sister is starting her coaching career and raising her daughter. In 2019, when Crozon was trying to help Canada secure a 3X3 berth for the then-scheduled 2020 Summer Olympics, Poppy Crozon’s name and picture appeared in some media reports.
“She’s the star of my Instagram, I like to say,” Crozon said with a laugh. “I used to post basketball photos and now it’s her playing sports.”
Although some of her academic pursuits were in the business field, Crozon said she kind of always knew she wanted to coach. With her playing career seemingly winding down, Crozon said:
“I just felt like I still wanted ties to the game. I missed being part of a season, being in the gym, and connections with athletes. I like working with high-performance athletes.
“My coaches in high school and university were kind of the biggest role models for me and showed up for me in really valuable times in my life. Especially when athletes are moving away from home during college, coaches can be hugely beneficial in their path and that’s what the coaches have been for me. I wanted to offer that to the next generation of athletes.”
She was interested in getting involved in U Sports, the highest university athletics level in Canada, and had a familiarity with the U of Lethbridge Pronghorns program through Taylor.
“I think Paige has a very bright coaching future ahead of her and I look forward to working alongside of her as she continues to grow as a coach and a person,” University of Lethbridge head coach Dave Waknuk said.
With the Pronghorns, Crozon worked with the team in person in the fall and is now again. She embraced being a skill development coach and helping players’ finetune parts of their game. When the program moved to online activities due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Crozon was involved in planning and executing virtual sessions.
“Paige brings enthusiasm, energy, and knowledge collected from playing the game at the highest levels,” Waknuk said. “She is relatable and a positive role model for the athletes, as well as she has contributed greatly to my development as well. Paige brings the player's perspective into conversations with me, which is invaluable to our planning.”
Crozon not only sets an example for her current U of Lethbridge charges as a player but also as a student-athlete. A former two-time Pac-12 All-Academic selection at the University of Utah, she earned a bachelor’s degree in management and another in health education and promotion.
Crozon also achieved a Master of Business Administration from the University of Fredericton. She said that sport helped lay the foundation for academic achievement.
“I enjoy having a goal and working towards that, but I also want to work on personal development and be the best person I can be for myself and the organizations I serve,” Crozon said.
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, her first season as a Pronghorns assistant coach included no U Sports contests. However, Crozon looks at the season with a glass half full mindset.
“It has provided a really good opportunity for me to have mentorship opportunities under Dave and learn some of the ins and outs of the season that assistant coaches would not normally get to learn just because there is something else going on,” she said. “So, in some ways, COVID has been a really great opportunity for me being in my first year of coaching – the introduction to coaching without the pressure of games and a busy travel schedule.”
As well as learning from Waknuk, Crozon was one of 16 coaches from various sports across the country selected for the 2020 Canadian Association of Enhanced Female Mentorship Program. The group regularly meets for sessions that include guest speakers such as Olympic coaches and discussions on topics including mental health, barriers for female coaches, and work/life balance for women in coaching. Crozon also has monthly meetings with her individual mentor – Erin McAleenan. The head coach of the York University women’s basketball team, McAleenan previously held the same position for the Pronghorns.
“It has been such an invaluable experience for me,” Crozon said. “I’m just grateful to be a part of it – to be able to learn from all these amazing women and just to have someone you can ask, ‘What was this like when you started?’ or ‘Did you experience this?’ and ‘Do you have any advice for me?’”
Last November Crozon became the manager of the Living Skies Indigenous Basketball League. In this new venture by the Aboriginal Friendship Centers of Saskatchewan, she is helping plan and start a basketball league for females and males ages 11 to 17. Due to the pandemic, the league was unable to get going but socially distanced camps will be held this year in 10 urban indigenous communities. The events will include a basketball component, cultural education, and workshops. The workshops will focus on such topics as mental wellness, resume writing, and resilience. At a camp this year a workshop will be held on land-based learning with the athletes tanning a hide.
“It is actually a combination of all of my passions,” Crozon said of her position as manager. “One, working with youth and giving back to the community using basketball as a vessel. Two, my education in management and the third component would be the administrative side of sport.”
On the court, Crozon established herself in the NCAA Division I and international ranks as a versatile, sweet shooting 6-foot-1 forward who could defend. She was an All-Conference Pac-12 selection at the University of Utah. Crozon captained her Salt Lake City school squad for two seasons and scored more than 1,000 points in her career. She represented Canada in various competitions, including the 2018 Commonwealth Games in Australia. Crozon also played professionally overseas with a German first division team. Last summer, in online polling, she was voted Basketball Saskatchewan Inc.’s favourite alumni in a bracket challenge.
In 2019, she helped Team Canada 3X3 place second in that year’s Women’s Series. Last season was wiped out by the pandemic and this summer’s events are up in the air.
“I still try to maintain my training so that if the opportunity does arise to play again, I will be prepared,” Crozon said. “I haven’t totally given up on my ties to being an athlete, but I’m trying to blend being a coach as well as an athlete.”