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Sarah Barnes

Ph.D student, Kinesiology & Health Studies

Shooting for the Stars: Sarah aspires to broaden the advantages of athletics


photo o f Sarah-Barnes

Sarah Barnes - doctoral student and former varsity athlete for Queen's

By Christine Elie

3rd April 2013

“My experience as a varsity athlete positioned me well to give back to Kingston and the Queen’s community that shaped so much of who I am.” Reflecting on the importance of athletics to her development as both an athlete and a basketball player, doctoral candidate Sarah Barnes believes that within sports lies the potential to enhance community: “sports can be a great contributor to healthier individuals and stronger communities, but this isn’t always the case.” It was this factor that motivated her to study the socio-cultural aspects of sports at the doctoral level.

Sarah entered into the arena of Kinesiology and Health Studies driven by her own experiences with sports and athletics. “Like many,” Sarah says, “I had some negative experiences in sport and these experiences prompted me to think about how sports are structured and taught.”

Sarah’s relationship with sports extends far beyond the academic. She has been an active member of the Queen’s Basketball community since 2005 and has played many different roles from athlete to scrub. “I’m always impressed by the heart that so many athletes, coaches, and volunteers consistently dedicate to making the Queen’s club and varsity programs topnotch,” Sarah believes that sports played a seminal role in her university experience: “Playing a university sport is a rare privilege and I have such fond memories of my time as an athlete at this school.”

While the demands of academic life has seen Sarah step-back from actively participating on the Queen’s Basketball team, she remains an active member of several other Kingston sporting communities. “Kingston itself has an amazing basketball community and being a part of it has enhanced my life.” Currently she is volunteering with the Knights of Columbus Basketball League, a cornerstone of the local sports community for 58 years. Reflecting of this transition, Sarah believes that “there is such a strong sense of tradition and of giving back as evidenced by the number of volunteers in the league who at one time were athletes in the program themselves.”

Since her days as a varsity player, Sarah has stayed involved in the game through coaching, a position that she adores: “I learned something new every day and I felt constantly inspired by the commitment and tenacity of the women on the team.” Transitioning from the role of player to coach comes with its challenges, but Sarah feels that she is well equipped for the change: “As an athlete I was lucky to play for Dave Wilson, gaining the opportunity to work alongside him and Bob Freeman as an assistant coach of the women’s basketball team was beyond my imagination.”

Sarah has since taken on a new role as apprentice coach and team manager with Canada Basketball, which she has done for the past two summers. This experience has shaped Sarah as an athlete and helped contribute to her understanding of international sports. Sarah sees these experiences as formative; “I’ve observed some of the country’s best basketball coaches on and off the court teach everything from basic skills to complicated systems,” she says.

This is only one of the valuable lessons that she has taken from her time at Canada Basketball. She states: “On a different level, I learned a lot about traveling internationally and negotiating all that comes with working in different contexts, where not everyone shares the same language, expectations or assumptions.” Ultimately, though, Sarah summarizes her experiences with Canada Basketball in saying that it has “expanded how I think about sport and what counts as good coaching.”

As she enters the second year of her doctorate, Sarah aspires to continue to participate in athletics: “I plan to continue coaching in the Kingston community and I would eventually like to teach at the university level.” Eventually, though, she hopes to pursue her academic career with the same drive and tenacity that has fuelled her athletics. “My goal,” says Sarah, “is to combine my experiences as an athlete and a coach with scholarship that contributes knowledge about how to make sports work for a greater range of people.”

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