We've got a Q&A with Vicky Milner, the Head Coach of Team Solent Kestrels U16 Girls' Team, as well as the lead on the Girls' Programme at the club.
What brought you into coaching?
I was playing for Solent Suns and was asked to do some coaching by the late Bev Guymon for the junior boys programme. I really enjoyed the process with the younger groups, seeing their development as players and people and I guess that just stuck.
What were your original thoughts when you moved into coaching?
How much this sport relies on volunteers to survive – at every level! When you are playing you have a focus and you expect coaches to be at sessions and to have a good performance pathway to move through. As a coach you start to realise that most of us are out here for either no money or limited, when starting out you are pretty much paying to coach with travel expenses and buying equipment.
What did you find most interesting to learn as a coach?
Since moving from the boys Kestrels programme to create a girls' programme it has been really interesting to see the difference between motives and behaviours. I have had to change the way I coach in certain areas, I really enjoy and am fascinated by the psychology of sport and as a coach this has been one of the most interesting areas to learn about.
What was the most rewarding part of your coaching journey so far?
Watching players grow as basketball players and people, seeing our players that have come through the youth system and are now representing at senior level in this country or over in the States. The growth of the girls programme since starting to build it last year, going from 8 players to a club of over 60 girls has been amazing! To have the under 16s and under 18s top of their leagues while the under 14s are 3rd certainly shows the hard work all of the girls have put in thus far.
Which parts of coaching do you like the most?
Training sessions – teaching and developing throughout the session and ensuring each and every player has come out better off with feedback each session. I really enjoy being in that practice coaching environment and being able to influence athletes positively. Seeing the development from session to session is really one of the most rewarding parts of coaching young athletes!
How did coaching qualifications slot in with your current life?
I am a PE teacher at Itchen Sixth Form College and they have been really supportive of my coaching, the college have an AASE academy with a Men’s team in the EABL and an aspiring women’s team. I gained my L2 and L3 qualifications really early into coaching so for me now getting back into coaching it is about networking and CPD. I am really luck to work alongside some great coaches at the college in Matt Guymon and Jack O’Keeffe which has helped a lot on continually learning new things.
Where are you now? How are you using your coaching skills?
I oversee the Team Solent Kestrels girls junior programme and I am with the Team Solent Kestrels under 16 Head Coach it is my second season coaching and mentoring the under 16s team while heading up the programme. Using my skills to help mentor younger coaches coming through the programme – we really need young coaches in this game and for us this is a key focus. The idea behind building the girls' programme was to eventually get to a standard that we could enter a team into the WEABL with Itchen College, I believe we are there or there about and we're ready for the following season!
What is your coaching niche and why did you choose it?
I’m not sure I have a coach’s niche, in training we are all about high intensity and giving everything while always having your team mates back. This is something I feel the players take into everyday life with them. Our programmes, both boys and girls, has always been built on teaching basic fundamental skills of the game as the base for each young player so I would also say that that is a focus of mine.
What is your coaching vision for the next 2 years?
Keep learning and soaking up as much knowledge on how to get better as a coach while building the girls programme to be able to compete in the Premier Junior Divisions and the WEABL. If we can create some National team players on the way that would be excellent for the girls to gain that type of exposure.
What is your favourite coaching question from athletes?
“What can I do in my own time to improve?” Players who want to get better and will work out in their own time is what we want in this programme, young athletes that recognise the amount of hard work it takes away from practice with your team are usually the ones who maximise their development.
What do you enjoy most about being a coach?
Helping young athletes, being able to use basketball as a way of increasing confidence and life skills used off the court. Having the positive influence on so many young people is a privilege.
What legacy would you like to leave behind you?
I would like to look back and see a girls programme with a structure that allows for players to play at all abilities – as many girls in the programme as boys who believed they could make it to the next level. If I can or have helped any of the players I have coached either with basketball or life I would be happy with that!