Coaches Corner: Sharman White
Sharman White, head boys basketball coach at Pace Academy in Georgia, eight times has served as a USA Basketball coach.
In 2019, he helped the USA to a gold medal as an assistant coach for the 2019 USA Basketball Men’s U16 National Team, and he was a court coach at the 2019 USA Men's Junior National Team July minicamp. He also was as a court coach at the 2018 USA U17 World Cup Team training camp, a gold-medal winning assistant coach for the USA at the 2015 FIBA Americas U16 Championship and he was a coach at the 2014, 2015, 2018 and 2019 USA Basketball Men’s Junior National Team October minicamps.
White recently completed his second season in 2019-20 as the head boys basketball coach at Pace Academy in Georgia.
Previously, he was an assistant coach at Georgia State University for two seasons (2016-17 to 2017-18), where he helped the team to a 44-24 record (.647), including an NCAA Tournament appearance in 2018. Prior to Georgia State, White was a high school coach for 20 seasons (1996-97 through 2015-16). Eleven of those seasons (2005-06 to 2015-16) were as the head boys’ basketball coach and athletic director at Miller Grove High School in Lithonia, Georgia. At Miller Grove, White compiled a 268-60 record (.817), including six-straight state championships.
USA Basketball spoke to White to gain some insight and perspective on coaching.
During this time, what type of coaching duties are you doing daily?
The main thing is just staying abreast with all of the players, whether it is Zoom, text or even phone calls. Zoom is great, texting is great, but sometimes, I just like to hear their voices, so I’ll give them a call.
Also, just trying to get better as a coach, by honing my craft of coaching. There has been some X’s and O’s stuff, but primarily it is the aspect of getting better at leadership and team-building – things that promote a mental edge for not only myself but my players as well.
What is the most challenging aspect of coaching for you?
For me, it is managing and balancing time – trying to put the proper amount of time into family, work. It’s probably one of the most challenging aspects. Making sure that you are not underserving or giving a less-than effort in any of those areas. The X’s and O’x and preparation, I get up for those things. I really do love doing those things, and I don’t have any issues with that. Sometimes I give that too much time.
What are the most important things you consider in terms of developing relationships with your athletes?
I think you have to love first. I always say, if you love them hard, you can coach them hard. But, I believe you’ve got to love your player first, and they have to be able to feel that and see that in action. That’s probably the first thing.
When I say loving them – you have to get to know them first – outside of basketball getting to know them, what they like, what they don’t like. And not only you getting a chance to know them, but allowing them a chance to know you.
And then, I would say mentorship – teaching them about life and trying to help them reach their potential, whether that is in basketball or whatever the case might be. Those are probably two of the biggest things that stand out to me as far as developing relationships with your athletes.
Are there general principles you rely on in terms of how to deal with parents and guardians?
I think one thing you have to understand, and I get this from coach Don Showalter (USA Basketball Youth & Sport Development coach director), because we have had discussions about this early on in our relationship, is that a parent sees their child, and a coach sees a player. So, basically, you have to understand that a parent is concerned about their child, and that is their focus, whereas a coach has to be concerned about not just that child, but all 12 or all 15 players on the team.
Parents have to be a part of the culture, and you have to work for their buy-in when you are coaching. You want them to be a part of it. By being able to do that, you are able to keep the lines of communication open. I’m not one of those coaches that say I don’t talk to parents – I think I have to talk to parents. A lot of times I can get information from parents in how to deal with their particular son, or they give me things to understand that I might not have been familiar with. You have to try and have a good relationship. You have to try and figure out how to make it happen. It starts with being honest with them, being truthful and being trustworthy.
I meet with my parents out of season at least twice a month, and during the season I try to meet with them at least once a month. It is kind of tough once we get into the middle of the season to meet with them as often, but I try to be in touch with them. I communicate a lot of information to them. I send them any information I can that is going to be beneficial, as far as their child and our program. I set up NCAA informational sessions, so they can understand that process and how it pertains to their child. I just try to educate them and make them a part of the process. They are entrusting you with their child, so I think it is important to have dialogue with them.