Megan Buckland is entering her second year as an assistant coach at Presbyterian College of the Big South Conference. She serves as the team’s recruiting coordinator, handling correspondence with potential recruits and high school coaches. Additionally, she helps coordinate the team’s camps and is completing her Master’s Degree in Sport Administration from Liberty University. Buckland came to PC in June of 2016 after serving as the video coordinator for the North Carolina women’s basketball program for a season. Buckland was a four-year member of the North Carolina Tar Heel women’s basketball team, before graduating in May 2015.
It Starts in The Recruiting Process
The transition from high school to college is not an easy one for student-athletes. Buckland gives credit to her head coach, Todd Steelman, because his recruiting philosophy is centered around building relationships with the players. This sets the tone for the Blue Hose culture. Buckland states, “We get to know our recruits really well and make sure that they will fit our culture before we offer them. This is huge because we develop a mutual trust before their freshman year begins.” Building that trust allows players to come to Buckland or the other coaches and ask for advice without hesitation.
Summer: On the Court and in The Classroom
Buckland, a former member of the Tar Heels women’s basketball team, knows first-hand how important summer workouts are in regards to transitioning from high school to college. “School can be overwhelming in August when all of the students are back on campus. Summer helps players get acclimated to campus, schoolwork, and workouts.” Presbyterian College might be the smallest Division I school in the nation, but they don’t skimp out on their off-season work. Buckland says their early morning conditioning, court-work, and weights are all important because no matter how talented a recruit is, they still have to get used to the on-court intensity that exists at the collegiate level.
The on-court aspect is not the only thing that gets tougher at the college level. Academics are much more rigorous; therefore, the coaches need to be available as a resource to new and old players alike. The Blue Hose were in the WBCA’s Top 25 this past year due to their program’s dedication and commitment to working hard in the classroom. Buckland and her fellow coaches at PC divide their team into three groups that they call “academic teams.” Each week the players come in and report to their assigned coach about their academic progress. The coaches also communicate frequently with the academic advisor in order to know as much as possible about each student’s academic progress.
Leadership and Culture Make a Difference
The Blue Hose coaches consistently tell their returners that they are leaders and that it is their team. “We tell the girls that we are all one team. It isn’t the coaches’ team or one player’s team. We are all one unit,” Buckland points out. This helps the student-athletes recognize their personal responsibility to step up and assume their roles. The leaders have to help the new kids by showing them the ropes both on and off of the court.
Transitioning from high school to college teaches student-athletes how to deal with change throughout the rest of their life. Buckland’s former players have called her for advice before job interviews. “Whether they continue on to law school or a business career, everything they learn and grow through will help them down the road.” One of her favorite things about coaching is building relationships with players that last far beyond their four years on the court.
- Get to know kids during recruitment. Do they have characteristics that fit your culture?
- Have an open-door policy. Not only does this help you develop relationships with the players, but it lets them know that they can trust you!
- Prioritize time management! The academic rigor is harder than it was in high school
- Communicate with the academic advisor and other people on campus that can be resources to your program.
- Organization is key. As coaches, we can’t expect our players to be organized if we aren’t. Set the example!
- Instill leadership in the returners. Those kids have been through the transition before and can help the new kids feel more comfortable.
Follow Coach Buckland on Twitter: @MeganBuckland3
Guest Writer: Sammi Goldsmith
Sammi Goldsmith is currently a Graduate Assistant on Kenny Brook’s staff at Virginia Tech. Sammi is a recent graduate of Lynchburg College and is an aspiring women’s basketball coach who participated in the WBCA’s 2016 So You Want to Be a Coach program. She also runs her own blog, https://www.samsfitlife.org/blog and Instagram account @samsfitlife_ which features everything from healthy recipes to workout routines and overall wellness!