Register for our Open Houses, October 24 & 25. Learn more.
branksome school logo

Branksome Hall News

Coaches’ Corner: Q&As with Ms. MacKenzie and Ms. Rotherham

While the Highlanders dominate the fields and courts, Branksome Hall coaches work hard behind the scenes to train, condition and most importantly, support students to help them reach their goals. This season, Highlanders sat down with two beloved coaches, Ms. MacKenzie and Ms. Rotherham, to discuss their journeys as athletes and coaches, their approach to coaching at Branksome and highlights from a remarkable year of Athletics.
What sports did you participate in when you were growing up? Did you have a favourite one? Do you have a favourite memory of being a young athlete?

Ms. MacKenzie: “Growing up, I had an adventurous spirit when it came to sports! I dabbled in a variety of activities, constantly exploring new ways to move my body and have a blast. From basketball to volleyball, soccer to cross country, and track and field, I tried them all during my elementary and middle school years. As I entered high school, my passion for basketball took centre stage, and I chose to pursue it competitively. I played club basketball and later represented my university, St. Francis Xavier, in Nova Scotia. Even during my years of working overseas, I couldn't resist the allure of the game and participated in women's leagues wherever I taught. Ah, some of my fondest memories as a young athlete revolve around those long bus rides, travelling to face rival schools. Our team was more than just a group of players; we were a tight-knit family. With their unwavering support and encouragement, my teammates felt like sisters. It felt like we were embarking on an exciting adventure, ready to face any challenge as long as we had each other. The bonds formed through team sports are truly remarkable and hold a special place in my heart.”

Ms. Rotherham: “Growing up, I engaged in a diverse range of sports including ringette, softball, swimming, track, diving, skiing and gymnastics. However, it wasn't until my time at CEGEP (equivalent to Grades 12 and 13 in Quebec) that I was introduced to rugby, and it immediately captured my heart. What drew me to rugby was its unique blend of physicality, technicality and mental prowess. I developed a profound fondness for the running and tackling aspects of the game. Among my most cherished memories is the exhilaration of winning the rugby championships during my final year at McGill University."

How long have you been coaching? What sports have you coached in the past?

Ms. MacKenzie: “Can you believe it? I've been coaching for a whopping 13 years! It feels like time has flown by in a whirlwind of inspiring moments and incredible growth. Throughout my coaching journey, I've had the privilege of guiding athletes in various sports. Basketball, volleyball, softball and track and field have all been part of my coaching repertoire.”

Ms. Rotherham: “I have been actively coaching since I joined Branksome 22 years ago, engaging with various sports such as basketball, volleyball, rugby, tennis, softball and hockey. Beyond the school environment, I have also taken on coaching roles in soccer and rugby. While I may not have personally participated in all the sports that I have coached, I firmly believe that my competitive nature, positive attitude and eagerness to learn have equipped me with the tools needed to be an effective coach. By embracing a growth mindset and fostering a positive environment, I strive to bring out the best in my players and help them achieve their full potential.”

What is your favourite part of coaching?

Ms. MacKenzie: “My favourite part of coaching is something truly magical. Imagine this with me… you offer your players the tools they need, patiently nurturing their skills. Then, like a symphony coming together, you witness their growth unfold right before your eyes. So inspiring! The countless hours of practice, and the determination to improve—it all culminates in a beautiful transformation. And when you see that spark of pride in a player's eyes, it's worth more than any treasure in the world. Witnessing their personal victories is an indescribable feeling of joy.”

Ms. Rotherham: “One of the aspects I cherish most about coaching is the opportunity to connect with athletes beyond the confines of a classroom setting. By getting to know them on a more personal level, I can better support their needs, aspirations and challenges both on and off the court. Building these meaningful relationships is not only rewarding but also crucial for fostering a positive and supportive team environment.”

What is your philosophy around coaching?

Ms. Mackenzie: Coaching isn't just a job; it's a philosophy and a way of life for me. My coaching philosophy revolves around nurturing the holistic development of athletes. It's about creating a supportive and empowering environment where players can thrive, not just in their chosen sport but also as individuals. I believe in instilling values like teamwork, resilience and a growth mindset. Every interaction, every practice and every game is an opportunity to inspire, motivate and help athletes reach their full potential. It's about fostering a lifelong love for sports, instilling a sense of discipline and nurturing character traits that extend beyond the game.

Ms. Rotherham: “My coaching philosophy centers around establishing a welcoming and enjoyable environment where athletes feel valued and actively contribute to the team. I prioritize teamwork, respect, sportsmanship and ultimately, achieving success together. Additionally, I encourage an open dialogue to ensure effective communication within the team.”

What is the biggest challenge of coaching?

Ms. Rotherham: “As a coach, one of the most significant challenges I face is allocating playing time. Competing in a competitive league, our primary objective is to achieve success and secure wins. However, I am constantly mindful of striking a balance between individual skill development, maintaining positive team dynamics and striving for victory. It is important to consider the overall goals of the team while ensuring that each player has opportunities to grow and contribute to our collective success.”

What was a coaching highlight for you this past year?

Ms. MacKenzie: “Coaching softball was an absolute delight! The Junior School girls transformed right before my eyes, embracing the challenges and embracing growth with such enthusiasm. They were an incredible group, oozing determination and radiating fun. I couldn't have been prouder as I watched them evolve day after day. And in our last game of the season, I beamed with pride as I saw how far they had come and celebrated their achievements.”

Ms. Rotherham: “One of my highlights as the senior basketball coach was having the privilege to coach several players whom I had previously coached during their time in Grades 7 and 8 and witnessing their remarkable growth and development over the years. It was also the first time I have coached the senior team and I am grateful for the leadership of the captains.”

What do you hope all BH athletes will take away from their time at Branksome Hall?

Ms. MacKenzie: “Branksome Hall isn't just a place for athletic development; it's a place where dreams take flight. My hope for all BH athletes is that they leave with more than just athletic skills. I want them to carry with them a deep sense of self-belief, resilience in the face of challenges, and the knowledge that they are capable of achieving anything they put their minds to. Beyond the victories and defeats in their sport, I hope they cherish the friendships and bonds forged with their teammates. Branksome School is a place that nurtures not only athletic skills but also molds remarkable individuals, ready to take on the world. GO Highlanders!”

Ms. Rotherham: “My hope is for every Branksome Highlander to create lasting memories from their time on a team. Through their involvement in school sports, athletes have the opportunity to cultivate essential life lessons and skills, including self-discipline, resilience and perseverance, which will positively impact their lives beyond the realm of sports. These qualities will empower them to flourish not only in athletic endeavors but also in various facets of life.”

Land Acknowledgement

We wish to acknowledge this land on which Branksome operates. For thousands of years, it has been the traditional land of the Huron-Wendat, the Seneca, and most recently, the Mississaugas of the Credit River. Today, this meeting place is still the home to many Indigenous peoples from across Turtle Island and we are grateful to have the opportunity to work and go to school on this land.
Branksome Hall
10 Elm Ave, Toronto, ON, Canada
M4W 1N4

Toronto's leading independent International Baccalaureate (IB) World School for girls. Study abroad in Grade 9.

We wish to acknowledge this land on which Branksome operates. For thousands of years, it has been the traditional land of the Huron-Wendat, the Seneca, and most recently, the Mississaugas of the Credit River. Today, this meeting place is still the home to many Indigenous peoples from across Turtle Island and we are grateful to have the opportunity to work and go to school on this land.

Setting the new standard for girl’s education everywhere takes collective action. From all of us.