Since our first interview with Mercer University Head Coach, Susie Gardner, she and the Bears have captured back-to-back regular season conference championships. In her previous post, viewed HERE, she talked in depth about changing culture, professional development, and making the most out of your graduate assistant years. Without a doubt, culture has played a large part in her program’s success.
With two successful seasons in the rearview, we asked Coach Gardner how they ensure the culture remains unwaivering. Here’s what she had to say:
“As a coaching staff we constantly remind our players about how we got here. We reinforce the motto “Get Better Every Day” as simple as that may sound. We talk about being good people….the importance of saying thank you. We talk about what is happening in America and how that affects all of us and how we want to be a symbol of togetherness as a basketball program for our community. If someone strays from the foundation of the culture that we have set, I am far less tolerant today, because it took years to establish what we have now.
Learning Never Stops
This past summer, Gardner found herself more dedicated than ever before in studying the game. By “the game” we don’t just mean the x’s and o’s. She took a vested interest in studying her relationships, how her players learn, and overall diving deeper into the things beyond the x’s and o’s. Gardner reached out to colleagues, utilized outside resources, and listened to podcasts.
“I talked to someone that is well versed in the differences in players and their learning styles. I have to remind myself constantly that none of my players are like I was as a player and I need to coach each person differently. Even though I have been coaching for a while, this is the first year that I REALLY took time to study, listen, and learn about meeting the players where they are, which has made me a better coach.
I also have started to listen to Podcasts as I travel to recruit. I may be late to the Podcast discovery, but it has been productive for me to listen to insight about a variety of topics, not just athletics. It helps you realize that most successful people endured times in their lives where things were exceptionally hard; what made them successful was simply persevering or believing in themselves enough to keep the faith. As simple as that sounds, sometimes we just need to be reminded of these things.”
Costa Rica – A Rewarding Trip
In August, Gardner and the Bears took a trip to Costa Rica. This trip was more than team bonding as it was also her way of thanking the juniors and seniors for their commitment to the program. In addition to a couple games, the Bears went ziplining, volunteered at an orphanage, and enjoyed all that the Costa Rican culture had to offer – a trip that they will all surely remember!
“A big part of our job in coaching is team building. We come up with games, have meetings to open up about ourselves. Our trip to Costa Rica was primarily to thank the Juniors and Seniors for believing in a program that wasn’t very good when they signed. They worked hard and when they were Freshmen and sophomores we won a regular season Championship. I just wanted to provide for them an opportunity that many would otherwise not have in traveling out of the country.”
“I love coaching this team. They are great people, hard workers and they represent Mercer every day in a positive way. I am a coach that loves practice. I enjoy the process of preparation. With a team of juniors and seniors it is my job to keep them engaged and not become bored with the process. I get energy by coming up with new drills and new wrinkles in plays to keep the 2-3 year starters interested. Most of the time players just want to tip it up and play. I take pride in coming up with creative practices so they work hard, but also look forward to practice.”