Coaches Corner: Ruth Sinn
Ruth Sinn, head women's basketball coach at the University of St. Thomas, has served as an assistant coach for USA Basketball, helping the 2019 USA Women's U16 National Team to a 6-0 record and gold medal at the 2019 FIBA Americas U16 Championship in Puerto Aysen, Chile.
Sinn recently completed her 15th season (2005-06 to present) as head coach at the University of St. Thomas. Over the past eight seasons, Sinn has led St. Thomas to three NCAA DIII Final Fours (2012, 2017, 2019) and also advanced her team to the 2013 Sweet 16. Sinn has been named region Coach of the Year twice (2012 and 2015) and Minnesota Intercollegiate Athletic Conference of the Year four times (2008, 2012, 2015, 2017).
Sinn was inducted into the Minnesota State Girls Basketball Coaches' Association Hall of Fame in 2002 and has served on the Minnesota Ms. Basketball Committee since 1988. She has 15 former players now involved in teaching and/or coaching at various levels.
USA Basketball spoke to Sinn to gain some insight and perspective on coaching.
During this time, what type of coaching duties are you doing daily?
I think the biggest thing right now is how we stay connected with our current athletes and our future athletes, particularly current athletes, and how do we keep that relationship and connection going. We have done some Zoom chats and have had speakers that have come in. We are just trying to keep present in their lives, we are all isolated, but yet we still want to have a connection and to still be growing together. So, that's been the biggest thing we are trying to come up with. Then, obviously with our possible recruits, trying to keep connected with them in this time of isolation.
It's interesting, because the first few Zoom calls everybody is just kind of staring at each other. And as you move into different realms and have different topics, we've even done it where we can have breakout sessions where we can have small groups and then we come back. We do things throughout the season like book reads and trust groups and things like that, so we are just continuing that with our team, and it is helping to use Zoom as a platform to keep these small group and big group discussions going.
I coach college, and the difficult part about it all is that this is a time in these young ladies lives where they are meeting their core people that are eventually going to be traveling life with them for 10 years and 20 years, maybe having families together, and they are missing out on this time to really bond and get connected. So, we are just trying somehow to keep that connection and to keep fostering those relationships.
What is the most important characteristic you work to develop in your athletes?
This is something that is really coming to the forefront right now. One of the traits we really work at is to really be fully present in where you are, and now is the perfect time for that, because right now we don't know what the next week is going to bring, or the next month is going to bring. But, we really do work on having them take ownership and engage and be fully present in maximizing whatever opportunity is in front of them. So that kind of transcends into that growth mindset, always looking to grow and improve and give it your best, but you can't do that unless you are fully present. That is something that we really talk about with each of our participants is that we want you to bring your gift, we want to look for what you can bring, but you've got to come to the table and really own this experience and make it yours by being engaged, asking questions and really delving in. Now that we kind of have been in this time, a lot of our athletes have had to go back, and they are going back to their old communities and homes, and they are having to be more creative and figure out new ways for them to continue to improve and develop. It's kind of a good thing. We have gotten to where we are always giving them the information and pouring it in, and now we can't continue that. They have to take a little bit more ownership. You know, being fully present is a really big thing and in this time especially, they are taking more ownership. I think sometimes when you do that, you grow even more.
What is a characteristic or that you would like others to associate or recognize in your teams?
I think if you were ever to watch our team, what you would see is that ownership and that engagement, but you also see the passion and the love and really the true emotion that we are so fortunate to be able to play this great game and play it together. So, hopefully, that fully present mindset would also spill into the idea that you see how grateful we are to be able to be in this situation and play this great game together. So, you see that passion and that energy and that purpose, just that love of what we are doing.
What made you pursue a career in coaching?
I was very fortunate. When I was in college, I had a great coach, and I was an education major. So, he allowed me the opportunity to play and coach a grade school basketball team. I right away fell in love with the idea of coaching, and I coached that basketball team and I coached the softball team. From those experiences, I saw these young ladies really start to get confidence in themselves and who they are. I still remember an example of coaching a little softball team and we are in the championship game, and one of our second basemen, she was a good player, but she had a great game the game before, and she comes in and she has this t-shirt that says, 'l'm somebody. I'm a softball player'; And it was like, wow. You could just see that she was starting to see the self-worth. That's why you coach - when you start seeing these young ladies just start seeing who we see in them and it's just incredible. It's incredible to watch and see them become strong, confident women, and so that's kind of why I pursued it. I really enjoyed being a part of that process of watching them take those big steps in that self-discovery process of who they are going to become. I always tell the girls that the big win in this whole situation of sports is the person that you become in the process. It is a self-discovery process where you start learning more and more about yourself, and you start putting the pieces together in building this strong, incredible woman. That's the enjoyable part as coaches - we get to be along for the ride and share in that. And they get to help develop who we are as well, because it's not only individual, it's collectively who we become as a team as well.