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Coaches Corner

Coaches Corner: Meet the Coaches Who Will be Answering Your Questions

  • Date:
    Dec 3, 2019

 • Photo Gallery: Tell Us About One of Your Strengths as a Coach

Carla Berube (Princeton University)
Tell us about a learning experience that impacted how or why you coach:
In my first years at Tufts I was known to be tough to approach. I felt like I had to be the hard coach that showed only tough love. During my fourth year of coaching, I had a player that was battling some tough mental health issues. She really helped me put coaching these young women in perspective. I had to be someone they could come talk to about anything. I had to be more empathetic to all that was impacting them on the court, on campus and in their day to day. Without knowing, this student athlete helped me understand how important my role was off the court.

Tell us about something that takes more work for you to accomplish:

Keeping practices and workouts fresh. I don’t want our practices to become stale and repetitive. It takes work to come up with new drills and ways to hammer home the important fundamentals of basketball while also keeping it fun and enjoyable and pushing the envelope. We want to help our players get better every single day while we get them ready for anything that could be thrown at them in a game.

Matt King (Arizona Basketball Coaches Association & CCV Stars Youth Sports)
Tell us about a learning experience that impacted how or why you coach:
The moments in my coaching career that have been most impactful are the moments of clarity where I was either reminded or able to clearly identify with, ‘This is why I do this.’ The most memorable one for me happened over the course of a season, where I realized that my team was getting better, but they were not having a great experience. The problem was not their attitude or their character. The problem was me. It was the way that I was coaching and teaching them. About halfway through that year I began a journey, a journey of realizing that my words, demeanor and tone matter, and that smiling and holding someone accountable can be done at the same time. I began the process of learning how to praise publicly and criticize privately and how to be slow to speak and quick to listen. I learned that my ceiling is not determined just by how hard I work and how much I know. Ultimately, my ceiling as a coach is determined by how I treat and serve the people under my care. That season reminded me “why” I got into coaching. To impact and serve others and create environments where people can be the best version of themselves. 

Tell us about something that takes more work for you to accomplish:
I often have seen the task before I see the person. I have had to learn, as I have hopefully matured, that nothing trumps people and how they are treated. I did not understand that when I was younger. Inspiring, teaching and motivating is at the heart of coaching, and that cannot be done without being able to connect with people. It doesn’t matter how much you know or how hard you work. It is very difficult to coach well if you cannot connect with people and create an environment that they want to be in.

Kara Lawson (Boston Celtics)
Tell us about a learning experience that impacted how or why you coach:
When I decided to go to the University of Tennessee, at that time as a high school player and as a college player, one of my goals at some point in my career was to become a coach. At that time, I also had plans on becoming an athletic director as well, after I was a coach, but I knew in making that decision to play for Pat Summitt, that coaching was going to be a part of my life at some point after I finished playing. So, part of the calculus to making that decision was to play for a great program at the University of Tennessee but to also play point guard for one of the greatest coaches in any sport in Pat Summitt. So, I knew at a pretty early age that it was something I would do in my life, and being around her for four years and certainly the relationship that I had with her even after I left the University, that was a big reason and is a big reason why I am a coach and inspired me to become a coach, because of the impact that she had on my career and my life.

Tell us about something that takes more work for you to accomplish:
Something I need to work on? This is probably going to sound funny, but one of the things I need to work on is not thinking that I’m actually going to get called into the game during the games when they are happening, because the only time I’ve been on benches before this year is when I was a player. And so, when you get into game mode, the competitive juices take over, and I a lot of times flash back to when I’m playing. So, I think that maybe during the next time out, Brad (Stevens) will sub me in, and I’ll play. But, that’s not really how it is. So, to be able to switch your frame of mind to the coaching standpoint as opposed to the playing standpoint is something that has been an adjustment for me. But, I think it’s going well. But, that’s probably been the hardest thing is just understanding that you are not going to go into the game at any point, ever, so you got to focus on making sure that the players that are going into the game that they are ready to go.

DeLisha Milton-Jones (Syracuse University)
Tell us about a learning experience that impacted how or why you coach:
An experience that sticks out to me greatly was when my Olympic coach, Nell Fortner, called me selfish and explained exactly what she meant by it. She didn’t leave me to guess as to why she considered me selfish, she took her time to explain in great detail what I was doing and how it impacted me, the team, her as a coach and critical moments within the game.

I would get very caught up in my emotions when I felt calls were unjust or missed, and it would take me moments to reel myself back in emotionally. During the lapses of good judgement on my behalf, I would get mouthy with the officials and get technical fouls, pick up ticky-tack fouls or have to be subbed out of the game. Coach Fortner showed me on video how the moment I was in mentally and emotionally impacted the team negatively, because I chose to focus on what was best for my feelings in those moments rather than being mentally tough enough to move on to the next play and continue to focus on my job. In a matter of two-to-three minutes, I would allow the other team to go on a 6-0 run from fouls, techs or from me playing extra hard to compensate for my mistakes that I would compound the situation by making more mistakes. I learned that one player with the wrong focus or displaced emotions could derail the success of the team in a short period of time. I also learned the power of the truth. Having Coach Fortner sit me down and talk to me about my actions allowed me to see that she truly cared and was fighting for me, even through her constructive criticism of me and my actions.

Tell us about something that takes more work for you to accomplish:
Recruiting doesn’t come easy for me, because while it’s easy to spot he best player in the gym, I’m also the type to find the good in every player, whether it’s based off potential or pure natural talent they possess in real time. This can become a problem, because I can become fixated on a player’s promise of potential, rather than what they can actually do well now.

I’ve been bred to think and see things this way, because I was the type of teammate that regardless of the limitation my teammates had, I always found ways how to work with the good they had to offer, so we all could flourish on the court together.

Brian Robinson (Bishop McGuinness High School, NC)
Tell us about a learning experience that impacted how or why you coach:
Funny, and ironic story. I was cut as a freshman in high school, and I told my friends I would never tryout for basketball again. Fast-forward to next November... tryouts were an hour away from starting, and my friends basically carried me to the gym to make me tryout again. Reluctantly, I did, and to my surprise I made the team. I share that story with my players from time to time when they get discouraged or want to quit at something. The decision not to quit way back when allowed me to have a lifetime of relationships and moments I cannot put a price on.

Tell us about something that takes more work for you to accomplish:
The game continues to change as do expectations. Expectations from players, parents and coaches continually change. The majority of my time in the off-season and in-season is making sure that no one associated with our program steps out of line and causes unnecessary disruptions or distractions. I've been fortunate to be at one school, Bishop McGuinness Catholic High School, for eighteen years. I spent the first couple of years building the foundation of a culture that I knew would lead to success. Once the success came, the challenge was to try and not forget what got us there. Success leads to expectations, which if not handled immediately or correctly, can lead to the downfall of any program. I constantly have my eyes and ears open to the goings on in and around my program, and I am fortunate to have a strong staff around me that does the same. We feel that the on court challenges will take care of themselves, but we cannot let off court things beat us. Everyone loves to be associated with a winner, but they have to understand that in order for us to be successful, things can't be done their way, it has to be our way. That's hard for some folks at first, but eventually they get in line, because it has worked and continues to work for team after team and player after player. The ones who have been a part of it are lifers – They love what the program did for them, and I owe it to our future teams to continue that type of consistency. It's a lot of work, but it is necessary for the health, wellness and success of our program.

Heather Stewart (Christopher High School, CA)
Tell us about a learning experience that impacted how or why you coach:
As a young and new coach, I had the mindset that coaching was all about winning. My experiences with athletes and learning how to best serve them over the years, in addition to becoming a Positive Coaching Alliance trainer, has shaped my understanding of my ‘why.’ I now coach to teach, mentor, empower, and develop young athletes for both basketball and life experiences.

Tell us about something that takes more work for you to accomplish:
I believe that one of the largest challenges that youth coaches deal with is managing parents’ roles within the team culture. This is an area I have dealt with throughout my 20-plus years and continue to evolve in my coaching toolbox. As a coach, it would be wonderful to focus primarily on teaching players game and life skills, however, it’s often managing so many other aspects of the environment.

Ras Vanderloo (Sioux City East High School, IA)
Tell us about a learning experience that impacted how or why you coach:
Deciding to become a coach was a natural decision. I grew up in a household of coaches. My Dad was a coach and my other three brothers are coaches, so the decision to get into coaching was a fairly easy one. It’s something that I love to do, and if I can make a positive impact in a kid life, it’s well worth it.

Tell us about something that takes more work for you to accomplish:
I think coaching now is different than it was 20 years ago. I don’t mean that in a bad way, but it is different. Coaches that have survived over time have had to adjust. Basketball is a great game that can bring people, young and old, together. As the game changes the people around it need to change as well.


Ask your questions on Twitter using @USABYouth and #CoachesCorner

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