Women’s World Cup: Australia takes bronze in 74-44 rout of Turkish hosts

Posted in Uncategorized on May 24, 2016 by Helen

Lee Michelson, Helen Wheelock contributer

To the disappointment of a crowd of 7,000 highly partisan fans at Fenerbahçe Arena in Istanbul, Australia roared out to a 17-0 lead over the host country Turkey and never looked back, finishing with a 74-44 win to take the bronze medal at the 2014 FIBA World Basketball Championship for Women on Sunday.

“I’m very proud of the way this team played together and fought,” said Australian guard Penny Taylor (Phoenix Mercury). “They put their bodies on the line and gave it everything they got.”

Taylor was particularly impressed with the 25-year-old post, Marianne Tolo. “She just stepped up unbelievably. I’ve known her over the years, she’s a great player, but it’s hard sometimes to measure her against the best in the world. This tournament, we can say she’s really one of the best post players in the world right now. Had we had Lauren (Jackson) or Liz (Cambage), she may not have had that opportunity. I’m so proud that she took it with both hands.”

Tolo led Australia in the medal game with 21 points on phenomenal 73-percent (8-11) field-goal shooting. She also added six rebounds, an assist and a steal.

Taylor also finished in double figure with 13 points, plus nine assists, five boards and two steals, while Cayla Francis chipped in 11 points, five boards and three assists.

Nevriye Yilmaz, who posted 13 points and four rebounds, was the only Turkish player to finish in double figures. Lara Sanders (formerly, LaToya Pringle) had performed well for Turkey earlier in the tournament, but struggled on this night, posted just eight oints on 2-6 from the field. Sanders did lead the team in rebounding, however, with eight boards, something Turkey could have used a lot more of, as they were out-rebounded by the Opals, 51-23 overall, and 19-8 on the offensive glass, an advantage Australia turned into 20 second-chance points.

The Australian defense also forced the Turks into 17 turnovers, resulting in 23 points for Oz; meanwhile, Australia coughed the ball up just nine times, though Turkey made the most of those errors, turning them into 13 points.

It was obvious that the Turkish team was disappointed and emotionally exhausted after their tournament run, but there was pride, too. “I’d like to congratulate the Australians on their win tonight,” said Turkish coach Ceyhun Yildizoglu. “They fought really hard to get this win, and it was a particularly powerful performance coming off their loss to the United States last night. For us it was just the opposite. We weren’t able to bounce back from the game last night (Turkey’s loss to Spain).”

“To participate in a tournament like this was a great thing,” added Turkish forward Şaziye İvegin. “We did not achieve the goals that we set out, but nonetheless it was a great achievement. Against a team like Australia, we came out and we were down 17 points and they’re a very tough team to come back against in that kind of situation. We tried to do our very best to represent our country and I congratulate my teammates on giving everything they have. I also want to thank our fans for the support they provided us. It was truly fantastic support and I hope they’re pleased with the basketball that they saw. We’re a team that has had increasing success year after year and hopefully, in the years to come at World Championships and Olympics we will continue to have increasing levels of success.

Turkey’s performance in this tournament was a major accomplishment for a team that had never before made it as far as the semifinals in the Women’s World Basketball Championship. Likewise, though Australia is no stranger to the medal stand at either the World Championship or the Olympics, the bronze-medal finish marked a significant improvement from the Opals’ fate at the 2010 World Championship, when Australia was upset by the Czech Republic in the quarterfinals and forced to settle out of the money in fifth place.

In Sunday’s classification games, Canada topped China, 61-53, to finish in fifth place and France beat Serbia, 88-74, for seventh place.

Of Note In a special ceremony following the bronze-medal game against Australia, veteran Turkish point guard Esmeral Tunçluer was honored for her 14 years of service to the Turkish National Team. Tunçluer has appeared in 274 games for Turkey, including tonight’s, scoring 2,005 points, and has been a cornerstone in the steady progress Turkish women’s basketball has made in recent years. She helped lead Turkey to a fifth-place finish at the 2012 Olympic Games, the first-ever women’s basketball Olympic appearance for Turkey, as well as to the bronze medal at 2013’s Eurobasket Women.

In addition, she has been floor general for several different Turkish club teams, guiding her clubs to 10 separate Turkish Women’s Basketball League Championships, five Turkish Cups, and six President’s Cups between 2001 and 2013.

The veteran guard will retire followig the 2014 FIBA World Championship for Women, according to a statement released by the Turkish Basketball Federation, “but she has plenty left to contribute on and off the court.”

“Since the first day she dedicated herself to basketball, she has been a very special player with her personality, with her approach to being a teammate , and being a team player,” said Senior Women’s National Team head coach Ceyhun Yildizoglu. “Not just on the court, but off the court, as a teammate, as a friend, with her dependability, she’s a very, very valuable player.”

Tunçluer, who was born in the Netherlands, came to Turkey when she was seven years old with her older sister to continue her education. Five years later, she visisted the Beskitas athletic facilities and soon fell in love with the game of basketball.

“When I went with my friends to play at the Besiktas facilities, the coaches there saw me and with their offer I started basketball,” Tunçlluer recalled. “That was a turning point in my life. From that day until now it’s been exactly 22 years.”

Tunçluer, who can play both the 1 and the 2 positions, said that the success both she and the Turkish National Team have enjoyed are no overnight phenomena, but rather the product of more than a decade of hard work and investment in the process. She looks forward to starting a family after hanging up her hightops.

“I’d really want it,” Tunçluer said when asked if she would want her child to become a basketball player. “Of course, I’d really want that.”


Women’s World Cup: USA sweeps to gold with 77-64 win over Spain, October 2014

Posted in Uncategorized on May 24, 2016 by Helen

Written with Lee Michelson

After a semifinal game against Australia that offered some moments of drama and tension, the United States dismissed any doubts early on as to who would emerge victorious in their gold-medal match against Spain at the Fenerbahçhe Arena in Istanbul, Sunday.

Tina Charles (New York Liberty) opened the scoring with a layup, Maya Moore (Minnesota Lynx) scored the first of her team-high 18-points on a silky smooth three off a dish from Charles, and before Spain could say “hola,” the United States surged to a 13-point (18-5) lead. From there, the lead at times ballooned to as many as 25, and Spain never got closer than 7, as the Americans rolled to a 77-64 victory to earn their second consecutive Women’s World Basketball Championship gold medal under coach Geno Auriemma (University of Connecticut), and their ninth World Championship gold overall. With the win, the Americans secured their berth at the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro.

“It’s very difficult to win these championships,” said Auriemma. “There’s a lot of great teams and they’re getting better all the time. For us to be able to do that, even though everybody expects us to do it, that doesn’t make it easier. Yesterday’s Australia’s game and today’s game against Spain were perfect examples of how difficult this is to win.

“I’m really proud of our team,” he continued. “These guys just finished playing in the WNBA and a lot of them are getting ready to go play in Europe. It’s a tremendous sacrifice that they made for their country and I can’t be more proud of them.”

The United States’ offense was at times elegant – as when Diana Taurasi (Phoenix Mercury) bulleted a court-long past to Seimone Augustus for one of her game-high assists – and at times muscular, as when Lindsay Whalen (Minnesota Lynx) ended the first quarter with a crowd-pleasing drive to the basket.

“I just tried to be aggressive and get in there and do my thing,” said Whalen, who was one of five Americans in double figures, finishing with 12 points. “That’s what I try to do for the team — come in and provide a spark. Each night that might be something different. It might be rebounding. It might be points. Tonight, it was driving and putting their guards back on their heels. I was able to do that and get in there, and help keep things flowing for us.”

“She’s a tank,” said Taurasi of Whalen. “When she gets going, nobody can stop her. Those points were huge for us.”

“We wanted to come out and jump on them as early as possible,” said Whalen of the game plan against Spain, who had had to battle hard on Saturday to get past Turkey into the final. Mission accomplished.

The U.S. did its best work early on, with Moore, who won tournament MVP honors, knocking down three treys and a mid-range jumper in the first five minutes alone. When Moore wasn’t lobbing them in from downtown, Charles and Brittney Griner were busy inside, dropping in layups, as the Spaniards at first seemed powerless to stop them. The Americans shot a sizzling 71 percent (12-17) from the field in the opening quarter to take a 28-17 edge by the end of one.

After firing off four unanswered points to end the first quarter, the U.S. then reeled off an 11-0 run to open the second. Though the U.S. shooting cooled a bit from their, Team USA finished having shot 61 percent (20-33) from the field for the opening half and 54 percent (32-59) for the game as a whole.

With the exception of a late-game stretch when the Americans seemed to take their foot off the pedal, allowing Spain to outscore them 14-2 and to whittle the U.S. lead from 25 points to 13, the U.S defense was top form, too, holding the Spaniards to 27 percent shooting in the first half and 31 percent for the game. Taurasi drew the assignment of defending potent guard Alba Torrens, who had scorched Turkey for 28 points in Saturday’s semifinal. On Sunday, Taurasi and her relievers held Torrens scoreless for the first half and to 4-for-14 shooting on the night. The Spanish sharpshooter did not notch her first points until late in the third period, when she finally netted a three, and though she finished with 10 points, by that time, the game was in hand for the Americans.

“She’s a great player,” said Taurasi of Torrens, who together with Spain’s Sancho Lyttle, joined Moore, Griner and Australian Penny Taylor on the All-Tournament Team. “I’ve played against her a million times and we’re going to be teammates in Russia. I just really concentrated on doing my best to make it hard for her.”

The U.S. took a 19-point lead (48-29) with them to the locker room at the break. Despite the substantial U.S. lead, the Spaniards never gave up, however, playing with physicality and passion throughout. They traded baskets with the U.S. throughout the third period. At one point, Spaniard Laura Nicholls, hit the deck hard, for the second time in as many minutes, as she and Griner ran up court. After being whistled for a personal foul, Nicholls angrily advanced on Griner, appearing ready to fight. Griner stood her ground though restrained by several teammates. Though cooler heads prevailed and no fisticuffs ensued, a replay showed that Nicholls’ tumble had been precipitated when Griner caught Nicholls her with an elbow. The two were assessed offsetting technicals, and Spanish coach Lucas Mondelo later chalked the incident up to two players both wanting, and trying hard, to win.

Play resumed, with neither side gaining or losing ground, the U.S. lead still at 19 (67-48) heading into the final frame.

The U.S. briefly extended its lead back to 25 points (75-50) in the first five minutes of the fourth quarter, but from there, on the edge of victory, they seemed to lose focus, while Spain, capitalizing on its offensive rebounding — though the U.S. controlled the defensive glass to the tune of 26-14, Spain dominated the offensive boards, 18-4, and turned that advantage into 17 second-chance points to just five for the Americans — as well as a series of U.S. fouls and turnovers took off on an 14-2 run to cut the margin to 13 points (77-64) with a minute and 20 seconds remaining.

Griner attempted to ice the American victory with a jam in the final seconds, but was thwarted by a foul. (Spain’s Nicholls showed she, too, could dunk during warm-ups, but did not attempt one during the game.)

Four U.S. players joined Moore in double figures with Whalen adding 12 points, Brittney Griner 11, and Seimone Augustus and Tina Charles 10 apiece. Charles also led the U.S. campaign on the backboards with eight rebounds; Augustus hauled down four.

Scoring apart, the most effective U.S. player in this game, as measured by her +/- score, was Taurasi, who finished the day at +24. The numbers bear testament to her efforts as a defender and facilitator as Taurasi finished the day with just six points, but eight assists, to her credit.

Lyttle led the way for Spain with 16 points plus 11 rebounds. Anna Cruz posted 11; Nicholls finished with a double-double of 10 points and 11 rebounds, plus two assists and two steals, and Torrens chipped in 10 points. Despite the final loss, the silver medal marked an historic accomplishment for Spain, which had never previously reached the Women’s World Championship final.

With Sunday’s gold medal, her third, to go with the bronze from 2006, Sue Bird became the most decorated athlete, male or female, in FIBA World Championship history. Asked about the record Bird replied,“I know when I hear 2006 [when the USA returned with the bronze medal], it still makes me mad.

“But,” she continued, “I don’t really know how to feel about it right now, to be honest. It’s kind of surreal. I’ve had a lot of great coaches along the way; some amazing teammates along the way. I definitely didn’t do this by myself. I just tried to be whatever it was that my team needed me to be and try to be consistent at that. I feel very lucky that I’ve been able to do it for this long.”

Moore had a similar reaction to winning World Championship MVP honors to go along with her WNBA MVP hardware for 2014.

“It hasn’t really hit me,” Moore said. “I’m just excited that we won. If one of us is talking about what MVP means, it means our team won. So, that’s what I’m most excited about. I’m just grateful to be able to contribute to this phenomenal team. Just the legacy of USA Basketball is unparalleled.”


Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame Class of 2014: Michelle Edwards — The Miracle of “Ice”

Posted in Uncategorized on May 24, 2016 by Helen

If someone had told a young Michelle Edwards that 2014 would find her preparing to be inducted into the Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame, she might have reacted the same way she did when she got the news in 2013: Disbelief. But, perhaps, for a different reason than you might expect.

Growing up in Boston in the mid-70s, Edwards’ sport of choice didn’t sound like the squeak of sneakers on a court, but rather the “swoosh” of skis hurtling down a mountain.

“I actually was playing tennis and skiing,” explained Edwards. “It’s funny because my initial dream was to become the first African-American downhill skier.”

Basketball didn’t become a focus until her teens.

“I used to always hang out with my older brother Rodney. We would walk from the house to the park, and the first piece of the park was slides, the swings and the sand. I would stop there where the girls were and he would continue to the basketball court. But, when you get to the age of 14, or whenever you start noticing boys, you say, ‘Hey, what’s going on there where the boys are?’ So I followed my brother over there one day and I just sat on the sidelines and watched.”

There were girls playing, she recalled, but as much as she wanted to play with them, she was too shy to approach them. But she sure did want to play – and when she did, boy, could she play! In a 1998 Los Angeles Times article, Sean Jensen recaptured those playground battles:

“To a chorus of oohs and occasional ha-has, she broke down foes with head fakes, crossover dribbles and hesitations. Sometimes she lost, most of the time she won. Concrete casualties and courtside crowds alike called her by the nickname she had earned: Ice.

“‘She lived up to that name because she was so smooth,” Chris Jones said, recalling his playground battles with Ice. ‘Everything she did on the blacktop was cold.'”

The play of this young hotshot spread, and local coaches and organizers took notice.

”This guy named Mark Oliver, he came to where I’m from, from Roxbury , and he basically said, ‘Hey, you want to come and maybe play in this league where I need you to try out?'” Edwards recalled.

Since she had never played organized basketball before, there was a steep, and occasionally painful, learning curve.

“I was so fast that sometimes I would always shoot the basket and miss layups. They were laughing at me, because I missed layups and I was like, ‘Oh, my gosh, this feels horrible, but am I going to quit or am I going to suck it up and keep going?’  I learned that lesson very early on.”

Those lessons served her well during her career at Boston’s Cathedral High School (‘84), where she became the first girl in Massachusetts history to score over 2000 points. Her skills brought her to the attention of Alfreda Harris, a legend in the Boston-area basketball scene. At Harris’ invitation, Edwards joined an AAU team which, in turn, brought her game to the attention of national college programs. It seemed that the 5-9 guard had a career at Virginia or USC in her future.

Then Edwards encountered a woman who was trying to build something new at Iowa University — second-year coach C. Vivian Stringer — and suddenly the Midwest was her destination.

“It was like a clean slate,” Edwards told the Des Moines Register. “Let’s see what could happen.”

Together they transformed the Hawkeyes’ program and Edwards redefined her nickname “Ice” with her ability to hit the clutch shot. Following a freshman season in which she helped lead Iowa to a 20-8 record, the Hawkeyes made back-to-back NCAA Tournament regional final appearances (1987, 1988) and held a No. 1 national ranking. During Edwards’ four seasons at Iowa, the Hawkeyes went 97-22, with Edwards leading the team in scoring in each of her final three seasons, earning first-team All-Big Ten honors and finishing her career with a total of 1,821 points, 431 assists and  235 steals.  In 1990 she became the first and, so far, only Hawkeye to have her jersey retired.

After college, Edwards played professionally in Italy from 1988-97, earning three Italian League All-Star Game MVP awards in the process. She also who won a bronze medal at the 1991 Pan-American Games, once again under Stringer’s leadership.

When the WNBA began in 1997, “I was really getting ready to take my shoes off,” admitted Edwards. “I was tired of going overseas and not being with my friends and family.  And I wanted to start trying to work on my Plan B.”

But Edwards couldn’t resist the opportunity to be part of that inaugural season. Tapped by the now-defunct Cleveland Rockers in the inaugural 1997 draft, Edwards ultimately played a total of five seasons (1997-2001) in the WNBA, spending her first three seasons with the Rockers, them moving to the Storm after the first three games of the 2000 season. She finished her pro career with a career average of 9.7 points and 2.8 assists per game.

“The first group that came in, we understood the importance of putting a product on the floor that not only women want to come see, but families want to come see,” recalled Edwards. She also remembered the time and energy her colleagues put into laying a strong, community-based foundation for the WNBA.

“I think young ladies today just want to play basketball and don’t really care as much about the business scheme and the long-term goals of the league,” said Edwards.

If she could say one thing to the players of today, it would be simple: “Care about your sport.  Be passionate about your craft.  Work on your skills — not only on the floor, but off the floor. I mean if you’re not connecting with the fans, how’re they going to know who you are? Why would they come to support you?”

In 2002, Edwards reunited with coach Stringer at Rutgers, serving in a variety of roles, including radio analyst, assistant coach and currently as the director of basketball operations. Reflecting back on her long relationship with coach Stringer, Edwards flashes on a memory from her freshman year.

“We had 22,127 fans crammed into Carver-Hawkeye Arena.  We were playing Ohio State, and coach –- basically her vision when she first came was to fill the arena — and she did it in that season.  And I was just thinking, ‘Man, this lady is incredible and powerful.’ That game was so intense; I’ll never forget it. We lost, but there’s a shot of me taking a layup and my face just looked like I was just trying so hard, like I just want to make it. But I bricked it. I remember her saying, ‘Do you see that picture? That is how intense that game was and that is the level of play we need to operate on every time we hit the floor.’”

“I just love the way [Coach Stringer] operates in terms of just commanding excellence, no matter what we’re talking about, what she’s dealing with,” continued Edwards. “As a player, of course, you know your coach one way, but then when you come back and work for her, it’s different. But it’s similar because all of the same principles are pretty much at hand: ‘I demand the best, and we’ve got to do what we’ve got to do to get it done.’ And we have the same competitive mentality. But also,” Edwards added with a grin, “it’s nice to see her smile and tell jokes, because, at least when I played, I didn’t see that side of her you know,”

As for the upcoming induction ceremony, Ice still shakes her head in disbelief.

“When I first heard, I was like, ‘What?!’ Then I went online to see who else had been inducted — Lin [Dunn], Yolanda [Griffith] and Jazz [Perazic]….  I mean, Lin Dunn was my coach [with the Seattle Storm]! Then I thought about all the great players that have not gotten in. Then I started thinking back on my career asking myself, ‘Was I really that good?’ It blows my mind, when you really dissect it, because I’ve played with some great players.  And some great players came after me. I’m definitely humbled and feel blessed. I hope my teammates can come because I really want to thank them ….”

Edwards took a deep breath and regrouped, as she looked ahead to next month’s formal induction ceremony.

“I’m going to take it one day at a time and try my best to just take it all in.”

This was the first in a series of profiles on the six players, coaches and contributors who will be inducted into the Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame on June 14 as part of the Induction Class of 2014. The 1976 U.S. Olympic Team will also be honored as “Trailblazers of the Game.”

Even more audio: WNYC’s The Takeaway – UConn streak broken

Posted in NCAA/College with tags , , , , , on January 6, 2011 by Helen

Link: Stanford Breaks UConn winning streak at 90

More Audio: The Takeaway, Mechelle & Helen on 89

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , on December 22, 2010 by Helen

UConn Women Break UCLA’s Winning Record with 89 Straight Wins

Listen: The University of Connecticut Women’s basketball team won their 89th straight game last night, surpassing John Wooden’s UCLA men’s team, who won 88 games in a row from 1971-1974. Connecticut’s Huskies beat Florida State 93-62; Maya Moore led the team with a career-high 41 points and 10 rebounds.

Mechelle Voepel writes for ESPN.com and watched the game, as did Helen Wheelock, a devoted UConn fan.

Supporting the High School Coach: Information, Education, and Certification

Posted in Uncategorized on December 21, 2010 by Helen

When asked about the idea of a high school coach certification program, Mary Klinger’s response was unequivocal. “Am I for it? Absolutely,” said the Rutgers Prep (NJ) Athletic Director and girls’ high school basketball coach. “I’ve been in the business for 27 years and I’m still learning. If it’s going to make you better, if it’s going to improve the game, improve your kids, why wouldn’t you want to do it?”

The devil, of course, will be in the details.

“I think that the people leading the charge have to put a product out that people want to be a part of,” said Klinger. “There needs to be a lot of investigation into what exactly is going wrong and what is needed to go right.”

Not surprisingly, any discussions of what a certification processes might entail reflect the changing landscape of the non-collegiate coaching profession. While the majority of high school coaches have an education (though not necessarily physical education) background, more “lay coaches” – people who may have played the game but have had no formal training in teaching it – have entered the picture. This is happening at both the high school and younger levels, in and out of the educational system, and may be a trend on the rise.

“I think all Athletic Directors would rather have someone within the school or someone that is a teacher/coach” said Stan Benge, who is in his 24th year of coaching Ben Davis High School (IN). Not only would that person be formally licensed by the state, but also they’d be more likely to be integrated into the overall goals and policies of the individual school. “But, because of all the requirements demanded of teachers, many don’t want to coach because of the time commitment,” explained Benge. Consider, for example, Kem Zolman, who teaches math and coaches at Wawasee (IN), just north of Benge. In his 13th year, his in-season day starts at 7am helping students with their homework and ends at 9:30 after he’s graded papers and prepared for the next day’s practice.

As for the perks of that “second job?” “It’s not a monetary reward by any stretch of the imagination,” laughed Benge. “I’ve been National Coach of the Year, but I didn’t get any more money. People say, ‘Oh, you’ve come a long way. You’ve won two state championships in a row.’ That’s great. That’s fun. But,” he noted, “the last month [when he coached the tournament] is all free. I don’t get paid for that. “

Addressing the realities of time and money, Benge thinks “the certification process would have to be simple, especially for those who teach. If you’ve taught, you’ve gone through four or five years of college already and most of your classes have covered what you’re going to need to know. If you’re going to talk about certification for the lay coach, even though they’re good coaches, and very good people,” said Benge, “they should probably all be required to take that basic test to see what they know and then what they don’t know get that covered. If they couldn’t pass it, they would need to do some sort of course work to be certified.”

“There has to be a methods course,” added Klinger, reflecting on her own college training in Sports Administration. “I hire young coaches – they don’t understand sequence — you start here to get here. It’s not just ‘throw the ball out.’ I think a lot of the good and great coaches do have a teaching background. They understand that you start at block A to get to block G. You start at the base to get to the pinnacle. I think certification would really help to understand about the fundamentals and how important they are.”

Whether someone is a scholastic, lay, or summer coach, Klinger sees a need for a universality of expectations across the board. “You should be held accountable,” she explained. “Not only for minimum coaching knowledge, but behavior, too. This is their classroom. If some of these coaches behaved like that out in the business world they would be fired. If they acted like that in the classroom, they’d be fired. Why not the same thing?”

Thinking about the possible reaction of his fellow educators to a certification process, Zolman wants to be clear on the motivation behind any effort. “If they want us to be certified because they don’t think we’re qualified, I probably couldn’t disagree with them more. If they want us to be certified to make sure [coaches] coming out of college have been properly prepared? That quite another story.” For Zolman, that “preparation” speaks specifically to understanding the pedagogy and purpose of athletics in high school education and the complexities and pressures of the job.

“The push now is to have a program where, year in and year out, you’re competing for big time stuff. Well, I’m here to tell you, unless you can recruit — as good as coach Summitt is, nothing against her coaching ability, she gets the best women’s athletes year-in and year-out. The same with Geno [Auriemma] at Connecticut. But we don’t have that luxury. A school our size – we’re about 1000 – we’ll have someone come along like Shanna (his daughter, who attended Tennessee) maybe once in a lifetime. So, I’m not talking about women’s basketball where the goal is to go to college and play basketball.”

“So, now, what do we do high school basketball for?” asks Zolman. “Am I here about this person, or am I thinking about what that person can do for me? It’s not about me,” he stressed. “I’m only as good as what they’re going to be. It’s more about them as people. You’re sending them out as people.”

“I guess I have mixed emotions,” concluded Zolman, “but I’m leaning more towards the certification because it’s dealing with more than just the athlete itself – it’s dealing with the whole person.”

Obviously, whether talking about a coach “certification” or “education” program, questions about time, cost, content, and access and benefits need to address the different populations. The National Federation of State High School Associations and iHoops (a joint venture of the NCAA and NBA) are rolling out online programs that try to find a balance between the conflicting needs and realities. Specifically targeting the high school coach, at NFHSLearn.com you’ll find the National Coach Certification program, which includes 1) the Fundamentals of NFHS coaching, 2) First Aid for Coaching, and 3) Fundamentals of Coaching (Sport Specific) or Teaching sports Skills. The Sport Specific – Fundamentals of Coaching Basketball course has four units – Introduction to Coaching Basketball, Teaching Skills for Offense, Teaching Skills for Defense and Coaching Wisdom. The goal, said Mark Koski Assistant Director at NFHS, is to “look at coaching as a whole.” It will be offered through the State Associations and the cost to the individual can range from $35-$60. Whether they course will be “strongly recommended” or required, will be up to the individual state, but an incentive for taking the course be that coaches can double the liability insurance coverage the Association offers.

ihoops’ Director of Athlete & Coach Programs Neil Dougherty makes it clear that their program is not a certification process (which implies approval or disapproval of a candidate, background checks and on-going assessment) but is intended as year-round educational program. “Specifically,” said Dougherty, “we’re trying to improve the ability to teach the game of basketball and to handle everything that goes along with it. The psychology of how to handle different age groups. How to handle parents. How to better instruct the fundamentals of the game, individually and team-wise. From health issues to how to organize practice if, for instance, you initially thought, ‘I’m just taking my 9-year-old to play his first game of basketball’ and by the end of the first meeting you find out you’ve been asked to coach the team. We’re talking from the very beginning to advanced levels of AAU or summer programs.”

Having spent 20 years as a coach, Dougherty understands all the potential roadblocks that could easily make such a program a non-starter. But, it’s the changes he’s seen in those two decades that motivates him. “We’ve kind of legislated a big wall between our college coaches, our high school coaches and, further down, our grassroots coaches. We’ve got to do something to beat that wall down a little bit, where there’s more sharing of information, more ability to not just share but to grow the future coaches of America. That just isn’t going on the way it was 15-20 years ago because of the recruiting aspects that are in the way. For the good of the game, we’ve got to do something by way of sharing knowledge about the game. What we’re trying to start – maybe a ‘reversal of culture’ is too strong – at least opening the doors to talk about just coaching the game of basketball and the daily things that go along with it.”

Of course, there are naysayers but, said Dougherty, “What I’ve learned is that there are more people that want to learn to be more efficient and do a better job. That we’re recognizing that we have issues, particularly in the grassroots areas. I’ve been pleasantly encouraged by the amount of people who want to buy in to this way of thinking. I think we have to stay positive and push the notion that most people, if given the opportunity to learn or get help, that’s what they want.”


More Audio: Talking the UConn Streak – 88 on The Takeaway

Posted in NCAA/College with tags , , , , , on December 21, 2010 by Helen


The Huskies, the University of Connecticut’s women’s basketball team, tied UCLA’s men’s basketball record of 88 consecutive wins on Sunday when they defeated Ohio State at Madison Square Garden. Helen Wheelock is a huge Huskies fan; she was at Sunday’s game and can’t wait for them to go for number 89, and sole possession of the record, tonight against Florida State.