Assistant at Tulane University
At Tulane, Coach Woods has her hand in recruiting, developing perimeter players, and monitors the student athletes’ academic achievement. Before Tulane she was with the University of Missouri for two seasons, and three seasons as an assistant and recruiting coordinator at Oregon State University. Prior to her time with the Beavers, she served as an assistant at New Mexico State for a year and was an assistant at her Alma Mater Western Illinois University for three years. Throughout her coaching experiences Woods has been responsible for a slew of all-conference and all-freshmen players, as well as the Alaska and Gatorade Player of the Year while she was at Oregon State.
Let Your Work Ethic Guide You
When we first spoke with Coach Woods, we were excited to hear more about her path into coaching. She played two years at a Community College and then transferred into Western Illinois. When she was done playing she knew she wanted to become a graduate assistant. Once she had the graduate assistant position at Western Illinois, an assistant left, and she was promoted to an assistant position. Every coaching job that she has landed she has not applied for but coaches have seen her hard work and commitment and recruited her to be on their staff.
Division I “Transfer Epidemic”
One idea that Coach Woods presented, to help the Division I “transfer epidemic” is to consider moving back the home visit date, currently in September. By moving it back to spring of junior year, as coaches we may be able to take the pressure off of these young players to make decisions so soon. Once coaches step into the homes of players, this can create added pressure to make quick decisions.
These quick decisions are not necessarily always wrong, but coaches can create an environment with less anxiety over making rushed decisions. With commitments coming earlier and earlier, coaches in turn also feel more pressured to begin talking to players at an earlier date. In some situations, freshmen in high school may give commitments based off of the name of a big school or the attention they receive early on. They aren’t necessarily putting in the research to find the school that is the best fit.
Recruiting: Getting them there, keeping them there.
In addition to her coaching roles she has gone out of her way to speak at roundtables at the WBCA conventions. One of her presentations has been on guard development drills, an area she has been responsible for at every school she’s coached at. Her second presentation was on the topic of recruiting. In this presentation, Coach Woods discussed strategies and how coaches work to land recruits as well as what coaches need to do to keep them at the school once they’ve committed. For this, Coach Woods stresses the importance of making and developing sustainable relationships. She will go out of her way to send handwritten notes to players randomly, to congratulate them on an achievement, or just to let them know they’re working hard. Coaches utilize the handwritten notes frequently in the recruiting process and it’s important to not let that go by the wayside once they arrive on campus. Each coach also has an “academic team” that tracks the players’ academic process, and they often use this time to not only check in on academics, but to get to know the players better outside of a gym setting. It wouldn’t be unusual to find one of the Tulane coaches touching base with a player at the local coffee shop!
While coaches are typically excited for their recruits to step on campus as first year student-athletes, it is possible for individual’s to not always meet the expectations that were created during the recruiting process itself. It is a difficult problem to address, but Coach Woods was kind enough to share her thoughts on this topic. Recruiting is always a gamble and many coaches recruit heavily on potential. Some players can meet or exceed it, and others may struggle. She believes in a very honest recruiting process, and continuing that once the players step on campus. For example, the coaches may have to have the conversation of “This is why we recruited you, we saw potential in xyz, and this is where you are right now as opposed to where you need to be.” In her six seasons at Tulane, the team has only had one transfer and they boast a 100% graduate rate.
As an overarching rule, Coach Woods preaches that once you get to the school, it’s all about the degree. Even if a player is not excelling on the court, the coaches can still develop relationships with the players and help them towards their academic goals. It is important to help find other ways that the student-athlete can be a part of the team, which sometimes means changing their expected role. Coach Woods has also worked with programs that believe if they cannot help the player grow and develop, they will work with the student-athlete and guide them to find a program that will be better suited for them.
Moving Past the Stigma of “Atypical” Paths
Coach Woods, who transferred in from a junior college to Western Illinois, has used her own experience to help those who transfer in make the most of a clean slate. Where she is from, playing junior college was more of the norm than the exception. Today, people sometimes stereotype junior college, or not playing AAU basketball as less efficient and effective ways of doing things. However, it is critical to remember that individuals all have unique experiences and sometimes something as simple as geographic location can lead to a difference in the “normal” path.
Building a Program vs. Entering an Established Program
Throughout her coaching journey, Coach Woods has been a part of a diverse spectrum of programs. When it comes to helping build a program, she highlights the fun and excitement that comes with everything being brand new; you get to start from scratch. Additionally, the student-athletes might also be excited for the change, making the atmosphere an enjoyable one to be a part of. Some of the struggles that come with building a program are finding ways to sustain the new culture and working out the kinks that come along with new staffs. While at Western Illinois, her coach was fairly new when she began her playing career there. Being a member of the program while the culture was being created and then being on staff watching it all come full circle was an rewarding experience for her. With an established and respected program, sometimes head coaches are more likely to entrust the assistants to lead drills and have more authority over their responsibilities. This can create an environment of coaches learning and growing from each other in more on court roles.
- Sometimes as new coaches, we can step into a coaching role and coach the way we think we’re supposed to. Rather, to be more effective we should be focusing on coaching in a way that suits who we are.
- How you work when no one’s watching will define the type of career you have. Do the job where you are and work like you want the next job, and it will happen on it’s own.