Fifteen years ago, Dawn Staley made the move from playing in the WNBA to coaching the Temple Owls. It was a sudden move from someone who had never coached.
Fifteen years later, now as the head coach of the South Carolina Gamecocks, she has taken to The Players Tribune to explain her journey.
Staley opens with the truth. She never wanted to be a coach. She was a player.
“I never wanted to be a coach. But sometimes you think you know what you want, and then life happens,” she wrote. “I was a baller — a (relatively) short but determined girl from Philly with an intense passion for the game. Basketball was — is — my life.”
Staley took her head coaching role in 2000, but still managed to play in the WNBA until 2006.
A strong player she was named to six All-Star teams, a three time gold medalist at the Olympics, and now she has become a two-time SEC Coach of the Year. Staley made the transition from Temple to South Carolina in 2008. Years removed from the game herself, she admits that it is more difficult to connect with the players.
However, at the end of the day…
“I have to make these players believe that my vision is good for them. It’s going to hurt, it’s going to be uncomfortable, but it’s good for you,” she added.
“Everybody gets the same treatment — whether they have WNBA potential or not. We focus on their mental development as well as physical. Basketball IQ. Conditioning. Court vision. Fundamentals. Decision-making. We push them to push themselves.”
Success does not come easily. She has learned that and understands that, and that is the message she wants to give to her players. Fifteen years ago, Dawn Staley simply expected to be a basketball player, someone with a shelf life.
Now, she is surrounded by the game, and players, that she will love until the day she walks off that court for the last time.
*Featured Photo (above) credit to USA TODAY Sports