As an inspiring young coach within the NBL, we've got a Q&A with WNBL Division 2 side Worcester Wolves' Head Coach Ryan Emery
What brought you into coaching?
I was a student at Brockenhurst College where I was part of the basketball academy. An opportunity came up to coach within a local primary school, I wanted a career in sport and this was a great opportunity to me to develop as a young coach. From there, once I got my level two coaching qualification I got involved with the Solent Suns junior programme through one of the players at the primary school.
What were your original thoughts when you moved into coaching?
I had always had an interest in sport and wanted to work within the field either as a P.E teacher or something within Sport Development so coaching was naturally something that I wanted to develop alongside those other options.
What did you find most interesting to learn as a coach?
I am currently doing a Masters in Sport Coaching Science at the University of Worcester and its really interesting trying to apply certain theories into my practice. It’s really difficult but I feel like I’m pushing my understanding deeper and using a wider range of coaching practice which will only improve me as a coach.
What was the most rewarding part of your coaching journey so far?
Seeing the University of Worcester and Worcester Wolves Ladies basketball programme grow in the last three years from having 7 athletes to now having over 20 athletes in our programme.
Which parts of coaching do you like the most?
Being a part of the player’s journey here in Worcester, and watching them learn and grow as an individual but also as part of our basketball family. These players form lifetime friendships with people they met at university, its kinda cool knowing that I have been a part of that.
How did coaching qualifications slot in with your current life?
I have just finished my Level 3 coaching qualification, which links into my academic studies. Its great being in the environment I am in at the minute, being able to draw upon real life examples and apply the theoretical understanding to them.
Where are you now? How are you using your coaching skills?
It’s strange because before I started my Masters I thought I was doing well, my team was winning games, we made the playoffs and there was a good vibe around the team. Now, wow! I couldn’t be further from where I want to be, I have developed a new understanding around learning as a whole and what my role is as a coach and I am wrestling with different perspectives and the application of those in a real world setting.
What is your coaching niche and why did you choose it?
I love defence (I’m not sure my players do but hey!) so I’d say that is my niche. I like to play an up tempo style of basketball while holding high standards around discipline and fouling, which is hard and it takes my players a while to understand what we are asking them to do because they aren’t used to these standards, they need to in great shape and have the ability to still make good decision under stress and fatigue. In practice we often play 4v6 or 5v7 and the 4 have to guard the 6 and stop them scoring. You see the players shaking their heads like, "Why are we doing this coach, we aren’t going to play against 6 players!" But if you can stop 6 players scoring you shouldn’t have a problem stopping 5!
What is your coaching vision for the next 2 years?
I want to be part of the Regional Development Programme here in the West Midlands and then work my way into the national team set up through being an apprentice. I still want to continue working with the current group of players I have, they are great! They really work hard and are a joy to coach. The majority of my squad are here for two more years so I’m excited to see what they can do as a unit.
What is your favourite coaching question from athletes?
"Why are we running?" I’m kidding, I encourage them to question everything but we do a lot of things based in game situations and solving problems independently from the coaches. I can’t put the ball in the basket for them in a game so they need to figure it out by themselves in practice too!
What do you enjoy most about being a coach?
Having a positive impact on players' lives both on the court and as people.
What advice would you give to people who are looking to move into coaching?
Tough question! Coaches around my age (24) are trying to do it for a career option so the main thing I would say is go get yourself a mentor or three! One of the best things I have found is that you learn the most when you open up about your practice and you are honest with people about how you do things. They aren’t going to judge, they just want you to get better as a coach and a person.
What advice do you have for those coaches currently in training?
Don’t settle! Don’t be happy with your current position, there is always more you can do, whether that’s reading more academic literature or different reflective pieces. Coaches books are great, like John Calipari has a couple of really good books and so does Geno Auriemma. I love reading about what they have faced in their careers. I’m not John Calipari, even if I did try the platoon system he championed this season with very limited success.
What legacy would you like to leave behind you?
I want all of my players to have great careers and jobs after they leave Worcester. Whether they are going to go pro or not they know they have worked really hard both on the court and in the classroom and are set up for the next step in their careers when they leave us.