Sue Semrau: Florida State Head Coach

Coach Sue is in her 19th season as the Head Coach at Florida State University (FSU) where she reigns as the all time winningest coach in the program’s history. Since arriving at FSU she has completely rebuilt the program and has taken them to 11 NCAA tournaments including two Elite Eight appearances during her tenure at FSU. Her long list of incredible coaching accolades is highlighted by being awarded as the WBCA and ESPNW National Coach of the Year in 2015, followed by a four-time ACC Coach of the Year, a 2013 Kay Yow Heart of a Coach Award recipient and being the President of the Women’s Basketball Coaches Association from 2013-2015.

People, Students, Athletes

When speaking of the culture as it pertains to her players, Coach Sue says that they prioritize the person first, the student second and the athlete third. This philosophy guides the decisions she makes everyday as to what is the right direction for the program. This includes all others involved with her Seminole program as well, people always come first!  While a great majority of head coaches are either the offensive or defensive coordinator of their programs, Coach Sue takes an interesting people-first perspective when delegating responsibilities between her staff members. She has a recruiting coordinator, offensive coordinator, defensive coordinator and leaves her main responsibility as building relationships with players.

From an outsiders perspective, coaching is incredibly strategic and X’S and O’s based. While learning the X’s and O’s may be the focus of many young coaches, Coach Sue told us she set herself up early for success in coaching by being a servant and putting people first. Coaching is not about grand gestures or doing big things to get ahead as much as it is building genuine relationships with others as that has served her better than anything else she has done in coaching.

“I make sure that my players understand that I care about getting to know them as much as I care about how successful they are (on the court).”

~ FSU Head Coach Sue Semrau

To Know and To Be Known 

Coach Sue says that,”We all have an individual need to know and to be known and I want to know about my players but I also know that they want to be known.” While building relationships with her players and helping them to develop in many aspects of their lives Coach Sue doesn’t put players into a “box” because of where they come from, what they look like or who they are perceived to be. She makes it a point to get to know them as individuals and realizes that everyone expresses who they are differently and gives them opportunity to do so in an appropriate manner.

While speaking on this topic Coach Sue continued on to tell us that there is an educational piece that needs to take place about the subject. It is important to be aware that because of your gender, your appearance or how you carry yourself, you are going to be looked at a certain way. This however does not mean it’s ok for people to be labeled or put into a box because of those factors. What has been taught to some to be”cool” and “acceptable” isn’t fair to judge everyone else by and put them into a box and assume you can know them by those judgements. Coaches cannot define players by what their own background has taught them to believe. They must understand who their players really are and where they come from in order to embrace their individuality and connect with them.

Small Societies 

While every player is assigned a team “buddy” for the year to pair up with and get to know, FSU also utilizes small group time which they call “small societies”. Certain members of the team are put into groups to work on things and grow together in an area they can all improve on. For example, Coach Sue says that on a typical practice day they can begin in their small societies where one group is having a meeting with Coach Sue off the court, another group is in the weight room and another group is doing individual work on the court. The people that are in each society change as they meet their individual or collective goals and they then create new small societies where they focus on improving in other areas. Their societies and objectives are dependent upon the individual needs of the players and the collective need of the unit that fits into the biggest unit of all, the team.

Quick Hitters from the AP National C.O.Y

  1. Take a day off every week and realize there are ramifications for not taking time off properly.
  2. A coaches greatest commodity is not their time but rather their energy. As a coach you have to decide what and who you are going to put your energy into. That is the most important thing you have to offer others.
  3. If you ask anyone in the FSU program what their goal for the program is they will answer “build a top ten program”. If you ask them why they will say to “positively impact people’s lives.” They want to help mold strong young women with character who are self-disciplined and prepared to succeed in the world.
  4. Legendary coach Pat Summitt built her dynasty at Tennessee with one of her core values being ‘discipline yourself so others don’t have to.’ One of Coach Sue’s core values aligns perfectly with Coach Summit as she emphasizes self-discipline to her players. The highest form of discipline is self-discipline and she wants players to be self-disciplined when they leave her program.
  5. “Don’t give someone responsibility without giving them authority.” Whether it is assistant coaches, graduate assistants, support staff or players, you cannot handcuff someone by not giving them the authority to complete their assigned responsibilities.
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