Sometimes, the desire to teach the basics trumps the rush of coaching at a higher level.
Known as “moving down the ladder,” coaches who leave the college game to work with high school athletes often rediscover the joy of developing a player from scratch. They”re taken back to a time when they were slightly older than their pupils, teaching the game while still in their own coaching infancy.
At that stage, coaches either fall in love with high school sports and elect to make a career out of it or they jump to the college game for the chance to work with more developed athletes and to test themselves at a higher level.
Some coaches who make the jump find themselves missing the elements of high school athletics. Whether it”s the teaching or community involvement, the appreciation of the prep sports will always be there, even if a coach doesn”t realize it, Starkville Academy girls basketball coach and athletic director Glenn Schmidt said recently.
“Looking back I really didn”t realize I preferred the high school game and being a part of the families and the big picture,” said Schmidt, who coached 11 years at Mississippi University for Women. “It”s a profession that”s very rewarding. I enjoy the preparation and watching the players develop as a high school coach.”
Prior to taking over at MUW, Schmidt spent 15 seasons coaching at Starkville High, where she won a state title and even coached the boys basketball team during her final two years at the school. Her move to MUW wasn”t about a bigger paycheck as she took a pay-cut for her first chance to coach NCAA basketball.
It didn”t take long for Schmidt to notice the drastic differences in the two jobs, namely recruiting.
“In the NCAA, you don”t get the chance to work with your players year round,” Schmidt said. “You spend a lot of time on the road and away from the players. I had a lot of support, but that was a big change for me. I had to influence people to make a decision to move from their hometown to come play. Recruiting is bigger than everybody knows, whereas the focus in high school has been, I have the players, but I have to develop them to fit into a program.”
Not including offseason conditioning, the NCAA limitations meant Schmidt had roughly four to five weeks to prepare her team for the season. Basketball tutelage was reduced and player and team management was at the forefront of her job. She enjoyed it and admits she”d still be at MUW if athletics weren”t discontinued.
But when the university made the decision to disband athletics, Schmidt was forced to make a decision of whether to accept an offer to coach at another school within the conference or search for a job in the Golden Triangle, where she”d bought land and raised horses.
An opening came up at Starkville Academy and she jumped at the opportunity to stay in the area and return to coaching fundamental basketball. Developing players form junior high up to their senior years gave Schmidt a satisfaction she missed in her 11 seasons at MUW.
“You take a junior high athlete and go through the progression of learning, which, like everything is application,” Schmidt said. “This is dribbling, this is shooting; whatever you get at the end of that is a result of what you”ve taught. College, you get the kids and you have a couple of weeks to work with them before you play. It was about finding what they could do instead of teaching them to play.
“When I was a player learning, you didn”t realize you were learning all these fundamentals, you just went to practice. Coaches bear a great responsibility and that”s what I like.”
Schmidt found a similar situation to Starkville Academy football coach Jeff Terrill, who after 18 combined years in the junior college ranks, returned to the prep game when he was hired last winter to resurrect the Volunteers” program.
Like Schmidt, Terrill spent significant time coaching high school ball before moving to college. His experience leading Kosciusko for seven years and growing up in an academy setting made his transition easier, he said.
Still, he has daily reminders of the differences between both levels and the adjustments he must make.
“I”m used to a different intensity level and speed of the game,”not just in the game but on the practice field,” Terrill said. “At the same time, coming back to high school in a smaller situation where kids are playing both ways, and sometimes, playing three positions, learning how to shuffle that and making sure kids are getting enough rest is important.”
The other part of Terrill”s challenge is re-acclimating himself with teaching high school players.
“At the college level, if I went out there to put in a coverage or something, they probably had some kind of experience with it,” Terrill said. “It might have been called a little different, but you had a foundation to build on. When you use a term with high school kids, they don”t yet know what you”re talking about. Part of that is difficult, but part of that is fun.”
For Terrill”s players, they”ve already noticed Terrill”s affect on the program. From the teaching to the attitude Terrill has brought to the team, players have bought in because of Terrill”s college experience.
“The way he carries himself, the way he explains it in detail. If you don”t get it right, he gets on you until you do. We really didn”t have that last year,” Starkville Academy linebacker Ryan Mann said. “You can see it in what we”re learning now and how practices are. We have a bunch of form tackling drills making sure we”re getting our helmets on the right side, wrapping up the way we should with hips and body.
“When he talks, you listen. He has a way of making you feel like you can win the game, and that”s something we needed around here.”
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