Melissa D’Amico assumed the role of assistant coach at Yale University in New Haven, Connecticut before the start of the 2015-16 season. She helped lead the Bulldogs to a 14-17 record this past season.
Tell us a little about your background?
I am from Long Island, New York. I played college basketball at Notre Dame (2004-08) and made an NCAA Sweet 16 appearance. I played professional basketball for five years in Europe (Spain, Greece, Poland and Czech Republic) and China after college. I then went on to coach at Colgate University for two years following my playing career. Currently, I coach at Yale University where I just completed my first year as recruiting coordinator.
What do you like to do in your free time?
I love long-distance running (ran a half marathon in college), sports (basketball and tennis), going to the beach, and traveling. I normally do one mission trip every year. I just returned from Kenya where I took two former players and one current player to work with children and teach sports.
When did you know you wanted to be a coach?
I decided to pursue a career in coaching during my last year of playing professionally. I received the chance to mentor one of my teammates (a 6-foot-6 Bulgarian who was new to the sport and had played volleyball most of her life) during that time. I enjoyed the process of teaching her the game and spending extra time with her outside of practice, more so than the playing. I knew it was time to retire and begin my coaching career.
Do you have any pregame rituals?
Some of my rituals include listening to music while getting ready; completing drills with post players during warmups; praying during the national anthem; and signature handshakes with the staff before every game.
What is/are the most challenging part(s) of your role?
Not getting caught up in just completing the multitude of tasks we have as coaches, but taking every single day to really invest in the lives of the players and coworkers around you.
How do you work through these challenge(s)?
I have an amazing support group/staff around me. I make sure I take my players to lunch regularly or to play laser tag — doing things outside of basketball to invest in them as people. I ask them about their day and even ventured to Kenya with some student-athletes!
Briefly state your coaching philosophy. What values are important to you that you try to instill in your student-athletes?
My philosophy is be more than just about X’s and O’s. I think it’s really important to be real with these young women. Show them your true self which gives them the courage and the trust that allows them to be their true selves. These young women need to feel empowered in their own skin; just how they are. I want my kids to know I’m invested in them as people, not just athletes.
What is your favorite memory in your current coaching role thus far?
My trip to Kenya with the three players I earlier mentioned. I got to see them help, pray and teach others less fortunate. I was able to see them make a real difference in this world outside of their sport. To see them grow as people right in front of me and knowing their process even from recruiting them out of high school brought me much joy. Isn’t that the reason we all coach?
What does it mean to you to be recognized as a WBCA “Thirty Under 30” honoree?
It means a great deal that my peers would recognize me in this way. I have so much more to learn in my coaching career. There are so many people to look up to and gain knowledge from in this business. I’m lucky to be a part of this association and helping to effect change in the lives of young women/athletes.
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.