Selecting a championship-winning team can be rigorous. It is imperative you have a plan. Dallas Lightning head coach and director of operations Alicia Thompson, who was instrumental in helping establish the Women’s Minor League Basketball Association (WMLBA) which begins play this summer, shares the 10 essentials she used in selecting from scratch her team for its inaugural season.
Essential No. 1 — Create your vision
By visualizing the makeup of your dream team, you save yourself time and energy throughout the process. What kind of point guard do you want? What height is she? When you create your vision, you can then easily spot a player who doesn't fit your team’s dynamic.
Essential No. 2 — Know your style
You should have decided this during the visualizing step. Are you going to be an up-tempo team that runs the floor the entire game? Or, will you run a patient offense and work for the perfect opportunity to score? Whatever your style, be comfortable with and confident in it so your players buy into your system.
Essential No. 3 — Scouting
Identify players who fit your vision by taking time to watch them showcase their skills and talents. It is important to learn the position a player feels most comfortable playing versus taking her current position at face value. Sometimes athletes play specific positions simply because they are tall or because they might have been the best fit at that time. Ask each player the position they prefer, because the more they enjoy playing, the better they will perform.
Essential No. 4 — Off-court presence matters
Don't forget to evaluate off-the-court responsibilities, attitudes and work ethic. You can learn much about an athlete by being in their environment. I tell my athletes I'm more concerned about their character than what they can do on-court. I would much rather coach an athlete with a good attitude and work ethic than an athlete who is negative and whose work ethic is poor.
Essential No. 5 — Let them compete
Learn about athletes through intense competition. Sit back and let them play! This will separate the leaders from the quitters and the hot-heads from the motivators. The best part of this step is finding out the players who genuinely love the game. Those are the ones who are fun to watch.
Essential No. 6 — Coaches roundtable
This is where things get tight in the war room. Consult your staff. Coaches aren't always going to agree on selections, but remain open-minded about each player. One assistant might help you snag an athlete who might be a hidden gem. Trusting your assistants’ input helps them be more invested in the program and in your vision.
Essential No. 7 — Making the cut
No coach wants to tell a player they didn't make the cut, but we’ve all been there. It is important to share with the athlete the reason they weren't selected, and offer drills or tools they can use to improve their skill levels for future tryouts. Empathize, encourage and set expectations for improvement in certain areas.
Essential No. 8 — Panel interviews
Athletes passed the physical test, now it’s time for players to meet the coaches off the court. The panel interview gives more insight into the player’s history, attitude, personality and level of integrity.
Essential No. 9 — Roster shake-up
At this point, you have a complete team. Practice is beginning. You are making final changes. Although we would like to think the process is complete, remain observant as you might have a player come out of nowhere and shake things up. It is good to always be prepared for last-minute additions or cuts.
Essential No. 10 — Celebrate
Provide the opportunity for the team to celebrate being whole. This gives them the chance to take in the moment. Let them know you recognize their hard work and dedication and that you appreciate the effort and passion they have for the game.