“Throw out everything you think you know about coaching. The coaching part is just a small part of what you actually do. Don’t coach just to draw up cool plays and win big games. Those are the wrong reasons to coach… You have to coach because you want to serve young women and make an impact on their lives.”
-Coach Shimmy Gray-Miller
Our conversation with Coach Gray-Miller began by asking her how she keeps her passionate fire for coaching day after day and year after year. She answered by telling us that there is an undeniable truth about the overused word passion… You can’t claim passion without being willing to suffer for that passion. If you have spent anytime in the college coaching profession you know that it requires great sacrifices and at time personal suffering. At times your relationships will suffer, your health will suffer, your personal life will suffer, but your passion will propel you through and help you to fulfill the purpose that the passion has been given to you.
It Isn’t About You
In a perfect world, coaches would have players that listen and do exactly what they’re told, but in actuality players are young men and women that make mistakes and are under growing great growth as people. When players don’t listen, young coaches often take it personally. It’s important to remember that a player’s actions aren’t always about you.
“They don’t make decisions to intentionally hurt you. These are 18, 19, 20 year old kids making decisions that are based on their feelings at that current time. They aren’t intentionally trying to hurt you.”
It isn’t personal, it is just kids trying to learn and grow and as a coach you have to continually help them to understand how their actions effect others.
Coaching Real Life Issues
The reality of coaching is that there will always be difficult issues to address. Mental health issues are a very real thing and Coach Gray-Miller has made it a point to address them head on. She’s even gone so far as to use her blog (Shimmy’s Blog) to give individuals a safe place to have a voice and share their experiences in battling these issues.
When Coach Gray-Miller has had players on her team with issues such as depression, eating disorders or mental health issues they address it directly.
“You can’t ignore it… It can be easy as a coach to sweep things under the rug, especially if it involves kids that you need (in order for you to succeed on the court) but at the end of the day you have to look in the mirror and know what you did is the right thing… You have to take off your coaching hat and put your compassion hat on.”
As coaches, we are not always equipped or trained to handle all situations, especially when it comes to mental health issues. It is critical to know our limits and know who to refer players to in times of need. Directing players to the correct resources to most effectively help them is key. After that comes the healing process. The entire team is often affected in some way, and bringing in counselors or conducting individual meetings can be extremely beneficial. We as coaches may also need to lean on our own support systems to help us through situations like this. Coach Gray-Miller said she is thankful for the circle of resources including close friends and family that she has been able to lean on when dealing with difficult issues.
Her Path and Her Strength
Many assistants have aspirations to become a head coach and run their own program but Coach Gray Miller doesn’t believe that is her path. She has the outstanding credentials to do so, but she currently does not have a desire to become a head coach. Although she won’t mess with God’s plan and she never says never as to what the future holds, she currently finds her success in being a really great assistant coach. As an assistant you get to make lots of suggestions for the head coach and then the head coach makes the decisions. She takes pride in passing on suggestions and owns her role as an assistant.
At Florida, she has the opportunity to work as a member of a “coaching team” that is well-versed in recruiting. As the recruiting coordinator she’s often in meetings filled with a variety of inputs, providing her with the opportunity to learn from her peers, helping her grow as well.
As many coaches try to climb the coaching latter and get the “next big job” as quickly as possible, she has other advice for them. As a coach, “Just be present, just be engaged where you are. Wake up every day and work really, really hard. Try to learn, try to grow try to impact as much as you can. And whatever happens, happens… just enjoy what you do!”
X’s and O’s in Coaching Post Players
- Watch a lot of film!
- Pete Newell’s big man and big girl videos are phenomenal. Look them up and study them.
- Watch as many other coaches as you can do workouts. Go to other teams practices and see how they do things. She goes to a lot of WNBA training camps such as the Indiana Fever, Tulsa and Atlanta dream to see the drills and skills that they teach and then adopts them to her players. The WNBA coaches are AWESOME about opening up their practices and letting others in. Most college coaches are as well, you just have to build a relationship with them and ask!
- When Coach was a head coach she had young point guards (a sophomore and a freshman) and needed to learn how to coach point guards. She decided to go to Point Guard College with her two young point guards and it was an incredible learning experience. She claims that it was the best thing professionally she has invested in.
“You have no idea how much of an impact you have on these kids.”
-Coach Shimmy Gray-Miller
As a player Coach Shimmy Gray Miller was a four year letter-winner at her alma mater Michigan University and spent time playing professionally for Olives Football Clube in Coimbra, Portugal. Her first coaching job was at the University of Washington where she spent three seasons that included a Pac-10 Championship and two NCAA berths. Her next stop found her as an Assistant at the University of Arizona where she helped the Wildcats to their first women’s basketball Pac-10 championship in the schools history. From there she became the head coach at Saint Louis University where she spent seven years leading the Bilikens and had 10 All-A 10 awards winners as well as a top 25 WBCA GPA honor roll in 2006-07. Prior to her time at Florida she spent three years at the University of Nebraska which included a sweet 16 appearance in 2012-2013 and a Big Ten Tournament Championship in ’13-’14. She begins her career as a Florida Gator in the 2015-16 season where she serves as the co-post coach alongside fellow assistant Mariel Page and is the team’s recruiting coordinator.
You can follow Coach Gray-Miller on Twitter @shimmy33
Follower her blog at: http://www.coachshimmy.com/blog.html