Schneider's Coaching Career Began With Love Of the Game
It was never a grand plan for Jill Rankin Schneider to become a member of the Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame. As a high school freshman who played volleyball, basketball wasn’t even on the radar.
“My high school (Phillips High School, Texas) didn’t even have basketball when I was an eighth grader,” said Schneider, who has won gold as both a player and coach for USA Basketball. “Our first year of varsity basketball was my freshman year, and we were terrible. My high school coach came in my sophomore year, and it was my first real introduction to the fundamentals of basketball.”
Schneider, who averaged 40.4 points a game and led Phillips to the 1976 state title, didn’t expect high school basketball to lead to college basketball, or college to lead to international play with USA Basketball and ultimately a coaching career. It just happened that way.
Named to the 1980 U.S. Olympic Team that did not compete after the U.S. decided to boycott the Moscow Olympic Games, Schneider helped the USA win gold at the 1980 FIBA Olympic Qualifying Tournament, 1979 World Championship, 1980 R. Williams Jones Cup, and a silver medal at the 1979 Pan American Games.
“I just played because I loved playing,” she said.
After graduating from the University of Tennessee, where she played one season for legendary Lady Vols coach Pat Summitt, Schneider became a graduate assistant for the team and did color commentary for the Lady Vols Network.
“I just wanted to have a way of getting into the games,” she recalled. “So I never really intended to get into coaching, but that summer Jody Conrad called me out of the blue and asked me if I’d be interested in being an assistant at the University of Texas. That was a great opportunity so I took that, and it just kind of evolved.”
In her fifth and final season at Texas, 1985-86, the Lady Longhorns became the first women’s team to go undefeated and win the NCAA national championship. After getting married the summer before, Schneider then went into high school coaching so she could have more time to raise a family and also focus on teaching, which she says is a passion. Schneider earned a master’s degree in math education at the University of Texas and teaches a college algebra class at Monterey High School in Lubbock, Texas.
Entering her 17th season as head coach at Monterey, Schneider has won multiple District 2-5A coach of the year honors. In addition to her success at Monterey, she has captured a pair of gold medals as head coach of USA teams that won the 2012 FIBA U17 World Championship in the Netherlands and the 2011 FIBA Americas U16 Championship in Mexico. She has twice been named USA Basketball’s Developmental Coach of the Year, winning the award in 2011 and 2012.
Schneider has also traveled the world to teach at clinics for both players and coaches – and she recognizes the difference between the two.
“They’re a little different in that the coaches understand – well not all of them – but they kind of understand the concepts you’re trying to teach and they are more observing. They’re not getting out there and actually going through the stuff.”
With players, Schneider explained, it’s more of a hands-on approach.
“With the kids we work on very specific skills work,” she said. “With coaches we’re working more on concepts and drills, putting skills together within the drills. That would be the major difference.”
In October, Schneider was in Illinois to help USA Basketball conduct a regional skills camp for girls – something USA Basketball is looking to do more of around the country for both girls and boys.
“That was a great time,” she said of the skills camp.
According to Schneider, the most important things a coach can teach young basketball players are the fundamentals.
“Just constant reinforcement of the proper shooting form,” she said. “Footwork -- a lot of footwork. The correct way to receive the ball to be a more efficient shooter off the dribble and off the pass. We do a whole lot of one-hand and two-hand form shooting. We do a whole lot of jump-shot form shooting.”
While some of the coaches for whom Schneider has played and coached are recognized among the best in the business, she is quick to note that a coach at any level can make an impact on youth basketball players.
“When I think back on my career, every single coach I’ve played for is in the Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame, with the exception of my high school coach. And he taught me the fundamentals. He taught me how to shoot the ball. And I’ve always taken that with me… He taught me a lot about the game. And he’s the least celebrated coach I’ve ever played for.”