O'Donnell Reports from WBCA Coaching Workshop

O'Donnell Reports from WBCA Coaching Workshop

Senior Jane O'Donnell attended the "So You Want To Be A Coach" Workshop at the WBCA National Convention and shares her experiences at the workshop, convention, and the NCAA Division I Women's Final Four.

Friday, April 2

My road to the Women's Final Four and the WBCA's (Women's Basketball Coaches Association) “So You Want To Be A Coach” workshop started early on Friday morning! Arriving at the Philadelphia International Airport at 4:30 a.m. I was excited to begin my journey to San Antonio, Texas. I would be spending five days in San Antonio, three days participating in the “So” workshop and the other two enjoying the WBCA National Convention and the Final Four games.

A layover in Chicago made it feel as though I had been travelling for days, but I finally boarded my final flight to San Antonio. As the plane began to descend into Texas I could feel the 2:30 a.m. wake up call begin to take its toll on me, but I could not have been more excited to begin the “So” workshop. I arrived in San Antonio by 11:00 a.m. (Central Time). I met up with Washington College Women's Basketball alumnae Christie Rogers at the airport. Christie was planning on attending the WBCA National Convention and had attended the “So” workshop the previous year. She knew what to expect and gave me some advice as we boarded the shuttle bus to our hotel. We arrived and checked in. It had been a long day of travel and the fatigue hit me even more after I saw the big, comfortable beds in my room, but there was no rest for the weary!

Registration began at noon and the “So” program began promptly at two. After registration where I received my information for the conference and my Final Four tickets, I made my way to the conference room where the program would be held. I entered a room with about fifteen long tables and a podium at the front of the room. I found my nametag and took my seat. I could not wait to get the opportunity to hear from so many successful coaches in the field of women's basketball. After a few more minutes the remainder of the participant's trickled in, eager to begin their journey as well. After introductions and a welcoming speech by LaChina Robinson, our program director, our first session began. The assistant coaches at University of Pittsburgh, East Carolina University and Tusculum College spoke to us about their experience breaking into the coaching world. They provided us with advice on how to make a good impression from the resume to the interview. We then found out that after each session the participants were able to have one on one time with the speakers. I took full advantage of that, taking the time to introduce myself to every coach who came to speak to us that weekend.

The next session was a discussion with the ACE Panel. ACE stands for “achieving coaching excellence” and the coaches who spoke to us were a bit more established than the previous session. It was interesting to get a more long-term viewpoint. After the first two sessions, we were able to enjoy a nice dinner while hearing from the associate head coach of Northern Illinois University on the importance of recruiting. She spoke about recruiting philosophies, strategies, and various types of recruiting software. The head coach at University of Alabama-Birmingham presented the final session of the day and it involved dealing with angry parents. She presented an opportunity for participants to role-play and provided some comic relief after a long day.

Around 9:15 p.m. the first day of the “So” workshop was over, but there was still one more event to attend.  “Shootaround with Beth and Debbie” was next on my agenda. Beth and Debbie are women's basketball announcers who add an edge of comedy to whatever they are doing. They put on a show in the hotel in which they spoke to all of the coaches of the Final Four. They auctioned off University of Connecticut head coach Geno Auriemma's tie to the Baylor head coach Kim Mulkey. After the coaches exchanged some quick quips and everyone made their predictions for the games, the entertainment for the night was over. Exhausted from a day of traveling and my first day of the program I headed back to my room to rest up for the next few days.

Saturday April 3

I woke up at 8 a.m. and headed right to the convention center to begin day two at the “So” Workshop. I entered the room and took my seat. Not long after I was served a delicious breakfast of scrambled eggs, bacon, and fruit. While the participants and myself enjoyed breakfast we heard from head coach at Boston College, Sylvia Crawley on “Things to Know on Day One of Becoming an Assistant Coach.” She spoke about looking the part, feeling the part, and acting the part. She also spoke about her other endeavors outside of coaching, including fashion design, magazine editor and real estate mogul. I was shocked that she was able to balance all those professions along with coaching.

The next session was entitled “Coaching a Division II Program.” It was nice to hear a coach of a smaller school give their perspective because it strongly resembled the atmosphere of Washington College. I was able to relate easily to that session. The head coaches of North Texas University, University of Tulsa, presented the next two sessions, respectively. They discussed issues such as essential traits of an assistant coach and balancing a family and children with the coaching profession.

After lunch, I was able to attend an “on-court” session. At this time, Coach Kevin McGuff of Xavier University demonstrated his Pack Line Defense. He also demonstrated the drills that the Xavier Women's Basketball Team practice in order to perfect this type of defense. It was great to get hands on experience learning from an Elite Eight head coach. After the on-court session, we had to return to the conference room and heard from head coach Shimmy Gray of St. Louis University. She gave us various strategies on getting hired.

Saturday was a short day for the workshop, but I was happy that I was able to get out a little bit early because the men's final four games would be on television. I met up with Christie Rogers, a few other assistant coaches and “So” participants and we ventured into downtown San Antonio to find a place to watch the game. After wandering around the city for about 45 minutes, we finally came across a small steakhouse where we were able to camp out for about four hours to watch Duke and Butler advance to the championship game. While I was rooting for a Butler-West Virginia final game, I was happy to get the chance to meet more people while watching the game. After the games were over, I headed back to my hotel to rest up and prepare for my final day of the “So” workshop.

Sunday, April 4

It was another early morning in San Antonio when I headed to the workshop around 8 a.m.  I took my seat for another delicious breakfast provided by the program and heard from the Director of Business Operations from William Jewell College on interview preparation and optimum performance. I diligently took notes during this presentation, as I wanted to make sure I was prepared for any interviews that may come my way! After the interview session, we were informed that we would now be participating in a mock interview session. I got the opportunity to interview with Coach Swinson, head coach at University of Tulsa. It was a great experience and the mock interview went really well. The next session was about the importance of networking. In this profession, it's all about who you know, therefore, it's so important that young coaches learn to put themselves out there. We then participated in several more sessions about balancing life, family, and the coaching profession. Coaching is a round the clock occupation and if you're not careful, you can lose track of many of the other aspects that are important in life. Hearing from so many successful coaches about the sacrifices and demands of the job was a bit intimidating, but I was so grateful that they were able to be honest about the true requirements of the job.

The “So” participants and myself then took part in conflict resolution skits. The emphasis was on how proper communication can alleviate a lot of problems that can arise. Immediately following the skits, it was graduation time! Betty Jaynes, the consultant for the WBCA arrived and handed us our certificates. I was so excited to have completed the program and made some important contacts in the process. After the closing of the workshop, it was time to hurry back to the hotel and get ready for the Final Four games! The Alamodome was a five-minute walk from the hotel, so after I got changed out of my business clothes, I left the hotel and followed the crowd of fans over to the site of the Final Four. I found my seat that was a few rows short of the nosebleed section. I didn't mind how far I was from the game; I was just excited to be there! In the first game, Stanford defeated Oklahoma and the incredible, undefeated UConn continued its streak against Baylor. After two exciting games, I headed back to the hotel, exhausted from the jam-packed weekend.

Monday, April 5

Monday was my first free day in San Antonio. Even though the workshop was over, the WBCA National Convention was still in full swing. I was able to attend various programs sponsored by the WBCA including “Utilizing the Power of the Mind: Enhancing Player and Team Performance” and “Unique Habits of Ultra Successful Teams.” I was also ale to attend the 2010 Russell Athletic National Coach of the Year Luncheon. The luncheon honored the Coaches of the Year in all divisions (DI, DII, DII, NAIA, Junior College and high school). The Rookie Coach of the Year was also recognized. I was so honored to be a part of the ceremony. It was so exciting to be surrounded by such successful coaches.

After the programs, I made my way back to my room to get ready to meet up with Christie and find a place to watch the men's championship game. We ended up in the same steakhouse we found during the men's Final Four and we enjoyed dinner and the game. Although, I would have enjoyed it much more if Butler would have beaten Duke! After the game, we made our way back to the hotel and sat in the lobby for a few hours. The host hotel's lobby is where a lot of the coaches come to relax and network. I was able to meet many people at this time such as Caroline Peck, women's basketball commentator, the head coach from Temple,  and the coaches from Clemson University (it helped that Christie was with me for that one!)

Tuesday, April 6

My last day in San Antonio seemed to come too soon and although the national convention was winding down, there were still some presentations I was able to attend. I woke up early and attended the “Assistant Coaches Roundtables Presented by Nike.” This was a session in which various assistant coaches presented at different stations on different topics and the groups moved from station to station after a 20-minute period. I attended the station on end of game situations presented by Xavier assistant coach, Mike Neighbors. For those of you who saw the Xavier-Stanford game in the Elite Eight, you could see how ironic this topic seemed to be! Nevertheless, it was a very interesting presentation on how to get prepared for those situations. I then attended presentations on 3-point shooting drills and guard development, which wasn't a very big stretch for me. So, for the next session I decided to branch out and attend the presentation on post drills and development. The last session I attended in the roundtables was on recruiting and the importance of getting quality student-athletes into your program. The Roundtables provided a great opportunity to learn specifics from successful coaches in a more close-knit environment.

I then made my way to the WBCA Awards Luncheon that honored the various Players of the Year from all divisions. The luncheon also honored the Defensive Player of the Year, the Lifetime Achievement Award, along with several other awards. After the luncheon, I went to my last program at the national convention, “ Clutch Performance-How To Get the Best from Your Players in Big-Game Pressure.” This was one of my favorite presentations of the weekend. Every year countless games are won and lost based on just a few key possessions, a few key rebounds, and a few key free throws. This session explored what happens to the mind and body during the intense heat of big game pressure and how to get the best from players in these critical clutch situations. The keys to competition focus, poise, and confidence were discussed. A plan to develop and improve mental toughness was also presented. With all our close games in the beginning of this past season, I kept wishing my team could've heard the presentation before the season!

After a long day of attending various programs and sessions, it was time for the Stanford-UConn championship game. This time I was lucky enough to get seats in the second row, thanks to Christie and the coaching staff at Clemson. It was so exciting to get to be so close to the action, despite the poor shooting and low score in the first half! I was hoping Stanford would be able to pull away from UConn, but Geno and the Huskies proved yet again why they are 78-0!  UConn made their way to their second straight NCAA National Championship. It was amazing to be a part of such an exciting time for everyone (except Stanford).  After the game, it was time to head back to my hotel to get some rest. I had an early wake up call in the morning to begin my journey back home.

I am very grateful to have gotten the opportunity to attend the “So You Want To Be A Coach” workshop and the WBCA National Convention. It was an amazing jumpstart to my college coaching career and I would like to thank everyone who made my trip to San Antonio possible!