Coaches Corner: Andrea Robinson
Andrea Robinson, who is in her fifth season as the girls basketball head coach at DeSoto High School in Texas, served as a court coach at the 2019 USA Basketball Women’s U16 National Team Trials.
At the start of the 2019-20 basketball season, DeSoto was ranked No. 1 in the nation by USA Today, and the team finished 2019-20, which was cut short due to the COVID-19 pandemic, with a 13-1 record.
In 2018-19, Robinson’s squad finished 26-7 and advanced to the second round of state playoffs.
She also spent six seasons at Fort Worth Dunbar High School in Texas (2002-03 to 2007-08), where she led the team to a 4A state title in 2005 and 2007, and five seasons at Cedar Hill High School in Texas (2008-09 to 2012-13), where she reached the 2010 5A state semifinals.
USA Basketball spoke to Robinson to get her insight and perspective on coaching.
What things do you try to accomplish in the preseason?
One of the biggest things, especially when you're coming to a new or newer program, is we really work on refining and polishing up mentality. We work a lot on getting our mentality right. We also work on strength conditioning and trying to get our kids in shape, but a big focus in the preseason is mentality.
We work on really pushing grit and toughness and hard work. So, in our preseason, all our drills in everything we do, is really there to challenge them to be competitive and just be mentally tough. We try to get our kids to be competitive and tough during the preseason.
Of course, we do skills development and strength and conditioning, and we focus a lot on whatever their individual role is, or who they are as a player. We will tailor their player development drills during that preseason to cater to them as a player, so our player development is not necessarily about the whole team. Our preseason player development is about sharpening whatever the vision is, that we need for that player. If you are a guard and you are shooter, we develop your shooting skills. If you're a slasher, we really fine tune the slashing skills.
What do you wish you knew about coaching when you first started out?
To be honest, I wish I would have known it was this hard. It is tough. It is a tough profession. It is so much bigger than X's and O's. When I was younger, I thought that if you could learn as much as you needed to learn about all the X's and O's of coaching, that you got it figured out, but that is so far from the truth. Coaching is about motivation, getting the best out of kids, mentally, understanding each individual player and being able to coach to each player's needs. I've learned that you have to coach every player different. There is no set team formula for you. I have really had to learn to coach every player and give it so much effort.
What is the most rewarding aspect of coaching for you?
I think for me, winning is rewarding, but the most rewarding thing is watching kids grow and develop to be great young women. A lot of kids in my programs, they need these scholarships to further their education and further their future. Just the joy of watching them be able to go on to the next level, to get scholarships, go to college, get degrees and just develop into being great women is super rewarding. And I love when they come back and get into coaching. Or they come back and tell me how successful they are as young women. That's probably the most rewarding thing.
Are there general principles you rely on in terms of how to deal with parents and guardians?
I have learned over the years that it is better to communicate with parents. When you're first in coaching, you are kind of taught that parents should stay out of the program. Now, I've learned that it's a partnership. We really try to communicate well with parents, and we meet with them. We have individual meetings with every parent of every player at the beginning of the season. We kind of partner with the parents and tell them what we see in their kid, what their future is with the team and how we look at their role. We give parents the opportunity to discuss how they feel. So, we really communicate a lot with parents, and we really sell the fact that it's a partnership. We all have your kid’s best interests at heart, and we're going to partner together to make this a successful experience. And that, to me, has been a big shift. We don't have an open-door policy. There are certain things we don’t discuss, like we don't discuss a lot of playing time issues during the season. But we do have a policy where parents can come in and talk, because I feel like if they we can communicate with us, then they're more willing to trust in our program. We have kind of flipped the playing time discussion to where we talk about where we see their kid and where we feel they need to improve, and the parents really respect that. When we communicate that, they are more likely to understand why they're not playing. We're very upfront with that, because that's usually the biggest conversation parents want to have, so we kind of address it ahead of time, before it begins to be a problem.