Two Women’s Basketball Coaches on Mentorship and Adjusting Expectations

WASHINGTON My first season at Daytona, that was the topic of conversation between myself and my assistant coach [Russ Jackson]. I had gotten my second technical foul and I was always yelling at the officials. We had a conversation after one of the games. And what he said was, it’s not the officiating that’s not very good — the team is not very good. We go back and I’m watching film and fortunately it’s very close to Thanksgiving break, so I’m able to go back and watch all of the games. I’m like, “Maybe I need to adjust my expectations for this group and go from winning to where are we seeing growth?” Because I expect to win.

We know what the other team has. I know what we have. And maybe my expectations of our players are much higher than the product actually being put out there on the court. Having somebody that you trust say that to you — it’s different when it’s fans or parents. But when it’s somebody that’s in the practices, they’re at the games, they know what your team has.

REEVE The willingness to empower. A mentor’s job is to understand where people are trying to go, and that you’re in a position to help them get there. Somebody helped you get where you are.

WASHINGTON One of the quotes on my calendar is: “You can have everything you want in this life if you help everybody else get what they want.” The goal for us is to constantly be able to provide good, positive, effective leadership for the people that we want to see be successful. It’s different for every single one of them. What each of them wants out of their experience here at Lincoln is something totally different. We’ve got a very high academic group of kids. Some of the girls on our team that may not play as much as they want, they’re going to leave here and be doctors and dentists. Being able to just help them be successful in a team environment is so vital. Because when student-athletes graduate, those are the people that companies want — people that know how to play on teams, people that know how to play in the sandbox.

REEVE Regardless of the level, the biggest challenge facing women’s basketball is societal norms and being held down. We’ve seen exponential growth in women’s sports, largely due to the perseverance, the persistence of women in leadership who have pulled us forward. And I think that continues to be the largest barrier as we continue to get less than five percent of the media coverage. We continue to receive a low percentage of the global marketing dollars. There’s a great opportunity, however, for growth, that’s going to catapult the game into places that people never thought we’d be.

WASHINGTON There’s a big push within the N.C.A.A. with the 50-year anniversary of Title IX. Last year, for our conference tournament, our women’s game brought in around 13,000 fans, and the men’s game brought in around 17,000. Being able to market the product that we have is something that we need to consistently work on and keep striving to improve. The W.N.B.A. started the end of my freshman year in college. I remember my teammates and I all huddled around this little box TV, watching all the games. Part of the reason that I played basketball is because people told me that I couldn’t. There’s nothing for you out there with basketball. Why are you up in the yard dribbling the ball at 6 in the morning?

As women, especially in the sport of basketball, we’ve always been told that we can’t do it. There’s not enough places for you to play. Why don’t you all lower the rim? Why don’t you move the 3-point line? There’s so many things that people want us to do to change our product, to meet them where they are, when we put out a fantastic product already. When people come and watch it, they’re like, “Man, these games are exciting. I didn’t know women’s basketball was this fast-paced.” It’s because they haven’t given it a chance.