Melissa Downer has recently been appointed assistant coach for Basketball Australia’s Centre of Excellence (CoE). She has had a long relationship with basketball beginning in her younger years. Downer played in three state championships as a Southern Districts Junior Player from U14s – U18s. She then went on to play QBL for the Cairns Dolphins for two years before making her debut in the WNBL with the Perth Lynx. From here she played for the Stirling Senators in the Western Australian State League before returning to the Cairns Dolphins for a final season in the QBL.
Downers first foray in to coaching was conducting Aussie Hoops clinics at schools all over Brisbane when she was 18. She explains that coaching was originally a bit of fun while she was at university and still playing. As she had some spare time she decided to start helping out with some U12 club and rep teams. After assisting numerous junior rep teams Downers first gig as Head coach came in 2002 at the Northern Australia Basketball Challenge, where she lead her U15 Girls South team to victory, winning the challenge and also earning the inaugural Trish Cockrem Female Coach of the Tournament award.
Since then Downer has coached various rep and Queensland North state teams, been assistant coach to the Cairns Dolphins QBL and attended two Australian Development Camps. Downer explains that, “[Coaching] was a natural step as I got older and started to move on from playing. I still enjoyed the game and wasn’t ready to give it up completely.”
As a coach Downer gets the most enjoyment out of seeing athletes enjoying themselves and excelling in the game after watching how much hard work they put in during the preparation phase. She also finds that coaching female athletes is very rewarding to her when she can see their development and consequential success as players.
As Assistant Coach with the CoE Melissa Downers primary role includes assisting Associate Coach Paul Goriss and the Women’s National Head Coach Brendan Joyce. The program is designed to fast track the individual development of targeted national athletes with potential to be selected as Australian team members. This is achieved by delivery of a Daily Training Environment where athletes live on site and are provided with everything that an elite athlete needs to thrive. Including team and individual coaching, shooting practice, strength and conditioning, nutrition, psychology, Personal Excellence, physio, massage, recovery and physiology.
Throughout her career Melissa Downer found it useful to have mentor coaches, people with experience who offered their support in her development as a coach. With this little bit of advice Downer also encourages people looking to start coaching to, “Involve yourself in anything that you can, seek out other coaches, ask lots of questions and listen, you can learn something new or different from anyone.”