Jimmy Dolan, Weymouth HS, MA
Taking Over a Program : Year 1
After a year away from the sidelines the Girls Varsity Basketball position opened up at Weymouth High School, where I am a physical education teacher. Despite coaching for over 25 years on the boys side including a successful 12 year run as the Boys Varsity Coach at Weymouth, I had never really thought about coaching girls. A few of the members of the team who I had in class encouraged me to apply, fast forward 6 months later and it was one of the best decisions of my life.
The interview process was something that was very beneficial to getting our program off and running in the right direction. When preparing to take a program over it is a great time for self reflection and evaluation. First things first, we needed to create a 3 year action plan before we ever stepped on the gym floor. Our purpose would be to create a successful high school basketball program where student athletes are challenged to become better players on the court and involved school citizens off of the court. To run a program that complements the athletic culture and enhances the overall school experience of those involved. Identity pre-season goals and get to work.
Pre-season : *Develop a coaching staff that is second to none. Quality coaches on all 3 levels .
*Provide professional development to our staff including local coaching clinics.
*Help create the practice and game schedule with at least 2 scrimmages and a full season with 20 competitive games. 13 league games and 7 non-conference games. (varies state to state)
*Promote and hold sign-up meetings to create a positive buzz around the program. Run an intramural open gym program for select dates leading up to try-outs.
*Hold fair tryouts and evaluations to come up with 3 levels of our program.
*Take care of all housekeeping matters including uniforms, travel gear, practice gear, sneakers, coaches gear etc,
*Hold a parent meeting once teams are selected and outline your program.
Fast forward to tryouts and I feel very comfortable that we reached our preseason benchmarks. The vibe in the gym was amazing and the idea of a full program was starting to come together. Make sure that you are involving the entire coaching staff and sub varsity programs. Come up with a team motto or slogan that you can put on shooting shirts. For years we have always used the word – FAMILY. During the season you will be spending more time with your team than at home, so I always thought that was powerful. Also do not underestimate the impact that team gear can have. Especially when building culture you want the kids to feel part of something special.
I would be very hesitant in the beginning to focus on wins and losses. Focus on the process and start to create a culture of competing. If you are doing things the right way in terms of skill development and team building eventually the wins will start to come.
Here is a list of some in-season benchmarks to use year one.
*Create an excitement around the basketball program that will help school spirit and athletic culture.
*By positively promoting program increase the number of candidates and ultimately fill each roster – Varsity, Junior Varsity and Freshman to maximum capacity.
*Build an environment where academics come first and provide support to those student – athletes who need help.
*Reach out to youth program and work to build a relationship. Including getting kids involved in clinics, camps and practice sessions. Also work to build a youth presence at all of our home games.
*To promote and encourage community service opportunities in order to better overall school community.
* Use a skills based approach to player development with consistent training practices used throughout the program.
*Control what we can. Expect that everyone have a positive energy and attitude with a competitive effort.
*Compliment on court development with a commitment to strength and conditioning.
* Use resources such as film and Hudl along with scouting reports to best prepare our team.
*Have fun while being a part of something special. Enhance the overall high school experience with a positive healthy activity and being part of a team.
*Start to create an alumni base and make them feel part of the program.
So in terms of building a program it is important to focus on a few more things. Engage your senior class. Even though they may not reap the benefits of everything you do, they deserve a great season. I hit the jackpot this year with 3 outstanding kids who were great teammates and leaders. They certainly help to build a legacy of pride. Another important key is to get your school involved. We were blessed to have outstanding support from our school principal, athletic director, school staff and parents.
Looking back we won 5 games and in some ways it was one of the most successful seasons I have ever been a part of. Think about what went well and how this translates into a springboard for the future.
● We won our season opener on a buzzer beater – kids will never forget
● Late in season we avenged two 25 + point losses – including a win over defending state champ and league rival on senior night.
● Great team building events going to local college game and supporting boys team.
● Our 3 seniors are going to college
● We have 10 returning varsity players including an all league guard.
● We participated in several charitable events including helping out at a local food pantry and volunteering at an autism center.
● Girls are currently working on a project to help nurses involved in fighting Covid 19.
Now it’s time to start preparing for next season. Before you do, take some time to become a better coach. There are so many on-line webinars and resources, film exchange, connect with other coaches, read a book etc. Also remember to take a minute during these crazy times and be thankful to all of our doctors, nurses, first responders and anyone else working now to keep us safe and well. Please do not hesitate to reach out with any questions. Good luck.
Jimmy Dolan Varsity Girls Basketball Coach Weymouth High School @HoopWhs