By: Keevan Veinot
Katherine Brien, Executive Director of Basketball Nova Scotia
Katherine Brien may be best known for her standout varsity athletics career, she spent 5 years competing with the Mount Saint Vincent University women’s basketball team. During her time as a Mystic, she earned two silver medals in the Canadian National Championships, garnering her national recognition and establishing herself as a three time All-Canadian roster select.
Shortly after graduation, Katherine moved to Ontario where she worked for Maple Leaf Sports & Entertainment (MLSE), as Manager of Community and Sport Partnerships. Holding this position gave her the opportunity to work with a variety of prestigious organizations and teams, such as- Toronto Raptors, Maple Leafs, Argonauts and Toronto Football Club.
After working with MLSE for seven years, Katherine has recently returned back to her home province of Nova Scotia. Following the move, she pursued the role of Executive Director of Basketball Nova Scotia. Despite a demanding schedule, Katherine made time to sit with me and share the insights and experiences of her varsity career that have continued to benefit her everyday life. In the interview below, Katherine shares her thoughts on the importance of hard work, what sport has taught her, and mentorship.
(Keevan Veinot) What sport did you play and at what level? How many years?
(Katherine Brien) “I played basketball. The highest level I played was the CCAA, I played competitive basketball for probably 15 years.
When I was growing up my parents were very conscious about putting us in multiple sports and activities when we were younger. Other than basketball, I played golf in the summer, dance, piano, and choir. At school I played whatever sports I could play at the time.
(KV) Why did you play basketball?
(KB) I played basketball because I come from a very big family. I have three brothers and two sisters, and my dad played basketball at St.Fx. Basketball was in our blood. My dad is 6’8”, so all my brothers were really tall growing up, and it was the sport we really played.
The community that I grew up in, all the parent group, all of the friends and kids all played basketball as well, so it was kinda the sport we play.
(KV) Are you still involved with your sport?
(KB) I am still involved with sports, both recreationally and in my career. When I graduated I stopped playing competitive basketball, but still played in summer, spring and co-ed leagues, and then obviously my job. It wasn’t the intention when I got out of school. Honestly, I had no idea that these jobs existed, it wasn’t like I graduated and thought I need to work in sport. That was never the intention. The path that I was on just took me there.
(KV) What was it like to know you weren’t going to play at that level again?
(KB) I was super lucky that in the last year I played, the last game I played was in a National final. I kind of skipped the whole I’m not going to play anymore because I moved to Ontario, I think that was a huge part of it.
The summer after my final game was normal because it is offseason, but that September I moved to Toronto. It wasn’t like I was sitting in the city, driving past the game thinking oh I’m not there anymore, I was in a completely different world. So I wasn’t really thinking about it. Toronto I think sidetracked my mind from I’m never going to play basketball again, to, here are some other cool opportunities where you life is going to be from now on. I think it was a little different than people who may have stayed in the same city.
The Role of Mentorship
(KV) What/who helped (or would have helped) you make the transition?
(KB) I would say that there was nobody in my life who I would have looked at, at the time, and [specifically] called them a mentor. All of the people that played that role in my life were my coaches. My dad was my coach for a bit, I had great coaches in high school, I had two amazing coaches when I was at the mount. I think that those people played the role as mentor, and they were the ones who taught me all the skills outside basketball, and what you learn from playing the sport.
The other people in that role, would be the older girls on my team. Anybody who when I was a rookie (and older), they were people that I would look up to, they would show me the ropes- for a lack of a better term. I ended up playing that role for younger teammates. You mostly saw it in high school and university, but it is a natural progression as an athlete. That is the role of your veterans versus rookies.
That’s really what a mentor does, they give you advice, show you how things work, and you make your own path for yourself. They are someone you lean on to ask questions and help figure out what you’re really doing. I would say my coaches and older teammates at the mount would be unspoken mentors.
Moving Forward After Sport
(KV) Did playing high level sports impact the start of your “after-sport” career?
(KB)The first job I worked was under the title Intern of Basketball Development. I just stopped playing basketball, so it was a pretty easy transition for me. But playing sports definitely helped me. I remember one of the questions they asked me at my internship interview was; what’s your biggest strength? I would always go back to adaptability. You can put me in any situation, and I’ll figure it out. I’ll make friends, I’ll talk to people, I’ll do the job- whatever you need me to do.
I’m adaptable with people, and I think that’s because I played basketball with the widest range of people throughout my career. You end up dealing with people with different personalities and people who come from different backgrounds. Anybody who plays sports knows this; you learn how to talk to people, you learn how to work as a team, you learn to put yourself in uncomfortable situations. Sport helps in all of your life skills.
(KV) What was the biggest takeaway sport taught you, that you use in your career or has influenced your career?
(KB) I would say the biggest take away that sport taught me was how to be a gracious winner and loser. I think that I learned in my career that you are not going to be good at everything in life, you are not going to win in every scenario that you’re in. But in sports, it teaches you that you need to learn how to take the wins and loses and learn from both. Whatever the situation is, what are the takeaways from winning or losing?
(KV) In your view, how would a company like En Point impact your transition to a career?
(KB) I would say a company like En Point would 100% be helpful. The career I’m in, I didn’t even know it existed. I am an example of someone who literally took their sport and made it their career. I truly believe, all the other skills you learn in sports are going to be great for your career.
At the same time, I think that a lot of people who love the sport don’t realize you can actually work in the sport. Working at MLSE opened my eyes to the business of what sport really is and that business itself is growing. Having a conduit of people that can tell us that if you want to work in sports, there is a path for you.