Misha Jackson assumed the role of assistant coach at Emory University in Atlanta, Georgia, before the start of the 2014-15 season. She helped guide the Eagles to a 13-12 record this past season. Jackson joined the Eagles’ staff as a volunteer assistant for the 2013-14 campaign after wrapping up a three-year playing career at Emory. She participated in the WBCA’s 2015 Center for Coaching Excellence that was held in Atlanta before the start of the 2015-16 season.
Tell us a little about your background?
I was born and raised in Atlanta, Georgia, and have lived here all of my life. I graduated from Emory University with Bachelor of Arts in Psychology and was on the track for Physical Therapy school.
What do you like to do in your free time?
In order to make sure my basketball reputation stays intact I have started to pick up tennis in my spare time with my head coach. Both of us were college athletes, but the tennis court has a way of humbling you. When I am not on the court I enjoy trying new restaurants and new events that are popping up around the city.
When did you know you wanted to be a coach?
It was the summer before my sophomore year of college that I started having doubts about my career path. That summer, a previous coach from high school asked me to coach an AAU team. I thought it would be fun to get back to the AAU circuit. Spending all day in a gym, five games a day, who doesn’t miss being able to do that? Once I started getting into the swing of things, I knew this just wasn’t going to be just a hobby. I found myself researching drills, making practice plans, coming up with our defensive strategies, etc. We had our first game about two weeks after practicing and as much as I tried to remain calm on the sideline, emotions were high. I would like to say that I won my first game as a coach, but that would be a lie. I don’t know what I expected to feel during and after the game but what I felt wasn’t something you experience when you are just picking up a new “hobby.” I have only felt emotions as deep as that one in one place before … the court.
From that point on, coaching was something that I had to actively convince myself that I was not interested in. I am a meticulous individual — I already have my outfits for the entire week picked out. Yes, I am that person. With that being said, for me to go outside of my academic track at the time was a difficult decision. Now that I have embraced my passion, my inner struggle has subsided. My attention to detail, however, has not.
Do you have any pregame rituals?
Being in this profession requires a lot of adaptability. On game day, however, I go over the scouting report at the very least 2-3 times, eat two red Starbursts and, of course, make sure my game day outfit is on point!
What is/are the most challenging part(s) of your role?
Being able to coach at my alma mater has truly been an enriching experience and opportunity, but with every role there are challenges.
One of the biggest transitions you have to make from being a player to a coach is letting go. I don’t mean letting go in the sense of giving up, but being able to affect change indirectly. As a player, you are used to being able to physically make a change — actively making the next stop happen, taking a charge etc. As a coach, we all have that feeling when we just want to lace up and get the job done, but that clock has run out.
The new challenge that arises is learning how to reach your players. You cannot physically make them understand “it.” Learning how to understand and reach them. As we know, every player is different and they don’t come with a road map.
How do you work through these challenges?
So far I have found one way to overcome this. You have to have their trust and you have to have their respect.
Briefly state your coaching philosophy. What values are important to you that you try to instill in your student-athletes?
When they enter our program I want our student-athletes to have a bond so deep it consumes them — well beyond the X’s and O’s. A bond that has nothing to do with the back of their jerseys, but has everything to do with the name they represent on the front. Trust and respect … these are two values that are essential for our program to succeed. You can’t fake them and when you have them you can’t define it. However, you can feel it!
What is your favorite memory in your current coaching role thus far?
There isn’t one single moment that has defined my career thus far, but there is something about watching a player get “it” that pulls on my heart strings. Whether it is watching them knock down a shot in a game that they have been practicing all season, getting a job offer, or watching them overcome their fears. Being able to be a part of that is one of the most rewarding experiences a coach could ask for.
What does it mean to you to be recognized as a WBCA “Thirty Under 30” honoree?
Going into my fourth year in coaching I couldn’t be more honored to be a member of the “Thirty under 30” inaugural class. There are assistant coaches in this class who are tremendous forerunners of our game and that I admire. To be mentioned in the same category as these coaches is truly a blessing. I recognize that with this recognition comes a responsibility to better myself, not only as a coach but as a person so that I can continue to give to the game we all love.
Thank you to all coaches and, of course, to the WBCA for continuing to grow our game.
The WBCA recognizes annually the WBCA's Thirty Under 30 recipients. This recognition was created to honor thirty of the up-and-coming women's basketball coaches age 30 and under in the sport at all levels of the game. For more information on the award, click here.