A few nights ago Brandi Poole was gracious enough to take a break from draft prep to speak with me over Zoom. Coach Poole is currently an assistant coach of the WNBA’s Connecticut Sun. Her basketball background prior to that is extremely diverse. She played collegiately at the Division III level. From there, she coached at the Division II and Division I levels. Her division I coaching stops included mid-major and major conference schools. Given her two decades of experience, I heard some really great insights. I asked her out of all the players she coached what sets apart the select few that have improved the most. Not necessarily the best players, but the players that end up much better than they started out. Her answer in a word was commitment.
What Does Commitment Mean
One of the first words Coach Poole used to define commitment was “process.” Process is a term that has become a bit of a cliché thanks to Joel Embiid and the 76ers, but Coach Poole drilled it down further with the word consistency. The players that are committed find a way to get the work in day and day out. They take game shots at game speed. Some players wait until the game to do that. And many of those players are talented enough to get away with that habit, but they are failing to reach their full potential.
I followed up by asking Coach Poole her thoughts on form shooting. She was quick to point out that form shooting is very important and needs to be balanced with taking game shots. In her own playing days, Coach Poole valued form shooting at every level she played. Today she sees many high schoolers shoot and believes that with more consistent reps in form shooting they could fix their glitches. Many of the players at the WNBA still do form shooting as the first part of their warm up at practice.
Embrace the Monotony
Ultimately, players that are commit embrace the monotony. Those three words are going to be something I tell players that I come across again and again. Embrace the monotony. There could not be a better time than right now amidst quarantine to embrace the monotony.
The other day, I heard from two high school coaches that told me they change up their drills because players lose interest in them. And I agree with the general philosophy on changing it up. Inevitably though, a rebounding drill or small-sided game is going to be similar to whatever you did the week before. It is really on the players to embrace the monotony. The players that are truly committed and grow not only make the most of doing the drill for the one hundredth time, they are trying to do it better every time.
Off the Court
The biggest takeaway from her definition of commitment was the off-court mentality of the most improved players. The same philosophy of process, consistency, and embrace the monotony existed in the classroom for players at the college level. These were players that bought resisted temptations. In college, sleeping is a serious challenge because of roommates and electronics, but players that are serious know the value of sleep and have good habits around sleeping. Players were willing to change their diet and get in the weight room because they saw the value in changing the body.
I asked Coach Poole what triggered these players to make changes and she gave me one tangible example. She coached an undersized point guard. When that player was a freshman, their team played a tournament game. After the game, the point guard went back and watched the telecast. The broadcast team repeatedly mentioned her body type as being ill-equipped to handle the bigger opponents. The player used that as fuel to change her lifestyle and became a much better player and more disciplined individual off the court.
Mental Part of the Game
Coach Poole told me that players who fail to reach their potential and never grow are players that think they know it all. Coach Poole has been coaching for twenty and learns new things each year. Often the best players at the high school, college, or professional ranks are the players that have immediate success. Certain players will be great on talent, but they fail to reach their true potential.
I think that no player will ultimately come out and express that they know it all to a coach. It is not in the player’s actions that they know it all. It is in their inaction that they display a lack of humility and willingness to grow. By that I mean the amount of time that they spend watching film. Or more simply, going over to a coach and saying, “What can I improve?”. Players that take these steps are going to improve.