By Andrew Morong
Head Coach, Central Maine Community College
Most of our programs are battling for credibility. Whether it is at your institution, in your conference or national association, or our own community, establishing and maintaining credibility can be a delicate balance. It can be hard to gain … and quick to lose.
Credibility within your institution
If you want to build a strong, successful and lasting program, you need a solid foundation. Institutions will exist with or without our women’s basketball programs, so establishing internal credibility should be the top priority.
Most institutions of higher education are data-driven. Things like graduation rates, GPA, attendance and student-athlete conduct are often tracked and reported. These are the data points that your program should value far more than any basketball statistic. Goals should be set. Not only should your student-athletes be aware of these goals, they should help set the standard.
Engaging faculty and staff around campus can go a long way as well. Have your players personally invite their instructors or advisors to a game, or even a practice. Seeing someone in a different environment can often lead to a more personal investment.
Credibility in your community
Engage your community on multiple fronts. Volunteering, camps and clinics, and working with youth programs (rec leagues, YMCA, etc.) goes a long way – especially if you are tying it all in with social media. Not only is this good for your program and for the community, it is good for your student-athletes. They should know they are being valued and entrusted by more than just the coaching staff.
When people in our community used to talk about our program, they would say, “Wow, they win a lot.”
Now they say:
“Did you see them volunteering again?”
“I heard they are all honors students.”
“Did you know that they have players from all over the world?”
This is the kind of depth we want our community to engage our program with.
Credibility of your conference or national association
We are members of the United States Collegiate Athletic Association (USCAA). It is not as established as the NCAA or the NAIA, but it is growing in membership and reputation. The USCAA is quickly emerging as a strategic choice for small colleges, as they provide quality service and the opportunity for all stakeholders to meet their objectives.
One of the most important and unique strengths of the USCAA relates to its diversity of membership. The USCAA accepts members with unique organizational structures and educational missions. For example, some USCAA member schools are two-year private or vocational colleges. Other members are three-year trade or apprentice schools. Many members are four-year public colleges and others are four-year Bible colleges. The USCAA works cooperatively to ensure that all institutions have a place to compete. No other national athletic organization or association has such a variety of member schools with different backgrounds and organizational structures.
We are proud members of the USCAA, and it is a perfect home for us. The more credible they are, the more credible we are. However, it works both ways. We want to help carry the torch. While we spread our message, we carry theirs, too. For those of you in more established associations, maybe it is your conference that is still vying for credibility. Be a part of the solution. Dare to take on the fight.
Winning helps! It, however, is not the answer.
We have won two national championships in the last three years, with two additional runner-up finishes in the last five years. We have won our conference tournament championship six out of the last eight years and our conference regular season championship in five of the last seven years. Throughout all of this success, our credibility is what continues to fuel our fire.
We are a community college in Maine, one of the least populated states in the country. We do not expect our “brand” to span coast to coast, but we do want to educate people about our program and our college. Winning regionally, and certainly on the national scene, can provide the stage necessary to share what truly makes your program special.
Some coaches care solely about winning. They believe the student-athlete is just a tool to accomplish the task. How credible is that?
If you take care of the student-athlete, and foster relationships within your institution, community and association, the winning will take care of itself.
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The Champions Series features articles written for the WBCA by member coaches whose teams have won national championships.