Go to any Dalhousie Tigers men’s basketball game and you’ll see the team’s Head Coach, Rick Plato, pacing near the bench, waving his arms and yelling at his players for turning the ball over.
Behind him is a person who is nearly the exact opposite: a blonde-haired woman, sitting calmly and keeping track of turnovers and timeouts by the Tigers.
Her name is Andrea Plato, she is Rick’s wife, and the team manager. Hey, opposites attract.
“Rick is the enforcer, he’s the coach and I am kind of the offset to that. Our personalities are quite different,” says Andrea.
They manage the basketball team together. Rick coaches while Andrea is in charge of most of the responsibilities off the court.
Here are some of her tasks:
On road trips, she finds the best restaurant deals, organizes roommates, and makes snack bags for the players. During pre-season road trips, her duty list grows to include organizing flights, hotels and laundry. She also gets pictures framed for the graduating players and she gets nametags printed for Dal basketball camps.
“It makes my job as a coach that much easier so I can concentrate on just the coaching,” said Rick Plato. “A lot of the other coaches wish they had a wife who was that understanding, or who is that involved and is interested.”
Andrea started her basketball journey with Rick when they were dating in high school in Ridgeway, Ontario during the mid 1970s. A lot of their dates was at the gym where Andrea helped Rick practice basketball by timing his speed, or rebounding his shots.
In 1988, Rick became the head coach of the Mount Saint Vincent University men’s basketball team. Andrea joined him to keep track of shots and stats. Her job wasn’t as busy because the Mount plays in a lower level then Dal. For example, instead of planning meals at a restaurant, they just stopped at whatever fast food restaurant was on the way to the game.
The Platos stayed at the Mount for 25 years and won 13 Atlantic Collegiate Athletic Association championships.
Rick was hired as the coach of the Dalhousie Tigers during the 2013-2014 season. He retired as a teacher at Charles P. Allen High School in Bedford; Andrea retired from her job at Scotiabank. They took on the new challenge together, which meant more of a workload for both of them.
“I don’t mind, whatever I can take off his plate so he can focus more on coaching,” says Andrea. “It keeps me busy, which I don’t mind that way, I just can’t sit here.”
But it hasn’t always been easy. Rick spends most of his days at Dal. He usually stays late because practice is during the evening to accommodate the athletes’ class schedules. During the season, they usually only eat dinner together two times a week. When it snows, she goes out with the snow blower to clear their long driveway before he gets home.
They also have two puppies, so Andrea takes care of them a lot.
“At least we’re (running the team) together and we enjoy it together, otherwise we would never see each other I don’t think,” she laughs.
Rick is ultimately in charge of the team as the coach, which means he is technically Andrea’s boss. He sometimes gets on her for missing stats.
“She is a lot stronger then myself because she has to put up with me and I am not easy to deal with,” said Rick. “I’m very fortunate to have her here and so are the guys,” says Rick.
Her nickname is the team Mom because she does so much planning, provides snacks for the players and gives words of encouragement to them on the bench.
“They’re all like my kids,” said Andrea. “I think because we didn’t have a family, we always treated the players like they’re our own and we enjoy doing it obviously. We have always been lucky to have good kids.”
Cedric Sanogo is a fourth year guard on the team and moved from Montreal to Halifax to go to school.
“If you had to put a picture next to selflessness, caring and loving, Ms. Anne should be right there,” said Sanogo. “When I first came to Dal, I wasn’t really sure how I was going to fit in to the team, but she welcomed everyone with open arms and she makes us feel at home.”
In Sanogo’s second year, he separated his shoulder and he wasn’t sure if he would be able to play again. Sanogo said Andrea would bring him food and both her and Rick would regularly check in on him. That was big for Sanogo because he doesn’t have family in Halifax.
“Sometimes I think about it and I want to tear up,” said Sanogo. “They care about the basketball side but they care about the people side too.”
After 31 years of managing basketball teams, it is not certain how many more years are left to go, but Andrea loves the ride.
“I can’t imagine my life without this.”