Sport

Carly’s leaving no coaching Stones unturned

By Meg Saultry

When Carly Stones got the call about a key development coaching role at next year’s Australian Junior Basketball Championships she screamed.

With Victoria Country women's high performance coach Zoe Carr on the other end of the phone, Stones heard she would be developing Vic Country’s talented under-18 women’s roster.

And it was all too much for the explosive character — so she screamed again.

So excited she struggled to explain whether she felt “honoured, amazed or surprised” by the call, she settled for all three.

“I’m so pumped to work with a team of elite coaches and to learn from some of the very best people in basketball,” Stones said.

Though this was only her first time applying to coach at the championships, her appointment has been years in the making.

A talented player before injury prematurely ended her career on the court, Stones returned to the floor as a coach when her children Emily and Harry took up the sport she had loved growing up.

This passion for basketball now dominates conversations at the family dinner table, with son Harry also a promising young player.

“We sometimes have to consciously think about doing something else,” Stones said with a laugh.

“It’s always on the TV and we’re always talking about it and we’ll always be coming up to each other to show plays and clips. I love it.

“My daughter rolls her eyes a bit, but it’s always been like this.”

Stones’ resume includes more than a decade coaching at Eltham, ranging from winning the Under-12 Boys National Junior Classic and as assistant coach taking the under-14 boys to a national club championship.

But once Basketball Victoria’s Country-Metro borders were reclassified — the Stones’ who live at Whittlesea — and Harry started suiting up for the Seymour Blasters, mum was not far behind.

“I started coaching in the country system three or four years ago,” she said.

Coaching at the Albury Cup earlier this year, Stones claimed a massive scalp with her Under-16 Vic Country Bushrangers women’s team.

“I was an assistant coach under Gail Macfarlane,” she said.

“We won the gold medal; which was amazing — we were down 20 points at half-time, but came back to win convincingly.”

Set to work alongside freshly-appointed under-18 women’s coach Haydn Kirkwood and assistant coaches Laura Pickering and Rebecca McIntyre at next year’s championships, Stones is determined to soak up as much of the experience as possible.

“I'm really excited — I haven’t met Haydn yet, but I’ve researched everything he’s done,” Stones said.

“And Laura and Bec are two of my closest friends, so the opportunity to work with them, I can’t believe I’m that lucky. They’re incredible coaches, players and people.

“Just to be around different coaches and see how they operate; you can pick and choose things to bring back to your own teams.

“And I think it will be a fun group of people and we’ll have that balance of enjoying what we do and being professional and hard working.”

Alongside her fellow coaches, Stones is also looking forward to working with a strong cohort of players — many she had already met at this year’s Albury Cup.

“To be the age that they are — they’re so professional and they take their sport and position so gracefully,” she said.

“It’s really fun working with intelligent athletes who understand basketball and are getting the most out of their coaches.

“It’s always good to work with people who want to get better.”

It’s that idea of improvement which is at the cornerstone of Stones’ own mindset when it comes to how far she wants to take her coaching aspirations.

The sky is the limit in her eyes.

“I’m just starting at this level, but I hope to learn and move through up the ranks,” she said.

“To coach my own state team one day, or even getting to the WNBL and doing some assistant coaching — I want to go as high as I can get.”

But Stones knows she won’t get there alone; and credits a long list of people around her in helping her get her start.

“Tony Best and Craig Hockley have been unbelievable; they’re always telling me to get involved,” she said.

“Craig — he’s always gently pushing me into it, saying, ‘come on, when are you going to do this, come to Jamboree, try and apply for Albury’.

“And Greg Jeffers at Eltham, they’ve all helped me guide my way through it.

“No-one gets to reach a goal on their own. And whether it’s my assistant coaches around me, or where I’ve been assistant coach for others, it shapes you.

“This is just the beginning and there is so much to learn.”

With basketball action halted throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, plenty of downtime means Stones has continued to push herself to another level through innovation.

“As far as coaching, I’ve done a lot of reflection,” she said.

“I’ve done heaps of online virtual sessions, seminars and clinics — I want to evolve as a coach and add to my craft. I want to be better.”

And when the time comes to physically get back on court with her kids, Stones said her first job as coach was to make the transition as easy as possible.

“I think when we get back on court, it will be about reminding them how much they love the game,” she said.

“Physically it may take a while to get back into shape, so we’ll support and help them.

“What they know they can do and what the body will let them do may be two different things — but we will work hard to get them back to the level they were, so we can go ahead and move on from this.”