Focus on Women in Coaching: Maeve Coleman
May 09, 2020
A recent survey by Basketball Ireland of female coaches in Ireland found that there were many up and coming young coaches who wanted to hear more from experienced female coaches in Ireland.
Over the coming weeks – and as part of our ‘Dream Big’ #SheGotGame women in sport campaign - we will be featuring a host of female coaches who are currently (or have recently been) coaching at National League, international and/or Academy level here in Ireland, to learn about their background, their coaching careers and any tips and tricks they have for new coaches.
This week’s feature is on Maeve Coleman, who is the Coaching Director for Drogheda Wolves BC and has coached international teams down through the years.
Check out our Q&A with Maeve below.
Current coaching position:
Coaching Director for Drogheda Wolves BC.
Can you talk us through your playing background?
I played U15 to U18 with Whitehall Basketball Club, then from 1986 to 1990, I played National League with Marian BC. I have also played with Naomh Mhuire BC, Mid Sutton BC and Drogheda Ladies BC.
How did you get involved in coaching?
When I was in Marian BC I coached their U19 boys team. That was 34 years ago, and I haven’t looked back since.
What kind of teams have you coached over the years?
I coached Tolka Rovers National League women’s team from 1999 to 2002, then I moved over to Killester where I coached their Women’s Super League team until 2005. From there, I moved to Meteors. From 2001 to 2011, I also coached at Sacred Heart School Drogheda. In 2018, I coached the BIPPS Northeast Boys and Northeast Girls U15. I’m currently the coach of Drogheda Wolves U16 Men and I’m also the club’s Coaching Director. I coach at all age groups in the club as well from U12 through to senior men. I have also coached underage at Tolka Rovers and mid Sutton BC, the Men’s D2 Dublin team in Mid Sutton, and the Liffey Challenges at U13 and U19.
Internationally, I was head coach of the 2017 Ireland U20 women. I coached the Ireland U16 women’s team from 2014 to 2016. In 2007, I was head coach of the Ireland U20 women’s team and in 2006, I was head coach of the Ireland Senior women. Back to 2002 and I also coached the Ireland U15s at Four Countries.
Underage in Mid Sutton Basketball Club
Who would you say was a role model for you as a coach and why?
Gerry Fitzpatrick has been a role model for me as an international coach. He has been that person I could contact when I needed advice and support. Being a head coach at International level can be a lonely job, and it’s very important to have a go-to person that can give you some sound advice that perhaps at times, tell you stuff you might not want to hear.
What is the most important thing for you when coaching younger/teenage boys and girls?
That the kids respect their coach, that they respect each other and they respect their club. I want my players to enjoy their basketball, to learn the game the way I want to teach it and to play hard at every session. I want them to commit to me as their coach in the same way that I commit to them. 100%
Have you any tips you'd like to share on keeping girls engaged in sport - particularly at the 14-18 year old age group?
Keeping the environment positive and competitive is essential. There are so many distractions for young people today and at times, young women can get distracted by social media. But we as clubs need to promote women in sport and show the positivity of being involved in sport. We have joined up two clubs in our town in Drogheda, one was a girls club and one was a boys. One of the main reasons we did this was for the socialisation of these young people. We were very aware of the drop off of the girls and wanted to stop it happening.
Do you have a favourite drill you use for younger players to keep them engaged in the training session and if so, what is it?
My favourite drills would not be the players’ favourite drills! I work my players hard all sessions, I expect 100% effort so I plan my drills around this. Depending on what I want to work on, will depend on what drills I use at that session. I would hope that all my drills keep my players engaged.
Any tips you would like to give to young coaches who are starting out?
Enjoy it, love it and keep learning. Remember we can all keep learning as long as we are coaching. Go to games, watch training sessions, speak to coaches, have a go-to person that you can get sound advice. Use all the websites and workshops that are available. And get involved at the next level.
When you first stepped up to National League/International level, were you nervous about the step up and how did you deal with that if so?
I took a chance in 1999 when the Tolka job was available. I asked for a shot and Celine Byrne gave It to me. I hit the ground running and yes, I was nervous, but when you love something and are doing what you love, what more can you ask?
What would you say to other female coaches who are considering moving up a level in their coaching careers?
Do It ladies, you will love it. Yes, it’s a big commitment and if you have families, you will have to get buy-in from your other half. But it’s brilliant. To be involved at all levels is possible, you just have to have belief in your ability and confidence in what you do.
How do you measure the success of a training session?
I make a plan before training and I will know what outcomes I want. If the session goes as planned, If I get in what I want, If I get my message across and the team can execute then the session has worked. I reflect on sessions, and games and can look back and recognise that perhaps I didn’t communicate what I necessarily wanted. Reflecting as a coach is key to growth, having a growth mindset is key to becoming a better coach.
How do you measure success in broader terms?
Success for me is when kids/players keep coming back, that they have committed and my love for the game has spread to them. With the international squads, it’s to see them still playing years after I have been involved with them. My U15 Four Countries team were all still playing internationally five years later, then some went on to senior level. When I look at my U16 girls from 2016 and see the success they have had, then I feel that I positively contributed.
How important do you think it is for coaches to keep learning and developing regardless of level of experience?
Essential. The game is changing, players are changing, so us coaches need to keep up-to-date with the new skills. There is no excuse now with all the websites, apps, and coaching workshops popping up all over the country. Coaches love to talk about the game and coaches who want to learn should avail of this.
Have you noticed many changes in Ireland in coaching over the years? If so, what?
The game has changed - it’s much faster, run and gun now. I think some of the skill has left the game, that is, individual skill level. When I think of some of the players who played when I played or who I got to coach, I don’t think the players today are as skilled. But the game is quicker, the girls are more athletic. Defensively, I don’t see enough emphasis put on that part of the game and that’s unfortunate in my mind.
What changes would you like to see in basketball coaching in Ireland in the future?
I like what is happening with the Academies, but I would like to see regional basketball moving down to U10. Why not start at U10 blitz events? In Spain, they start playing at U8 into small baskets. I would love to see the Irish squads going back to weekend trainings. I can’t imagine how difficult it must be as a coach to get all your work into one day. Also, I think that the two-year programs at U16 are essential. I also want more women coaching both at Super League and international levels.
What is the most valuable lesson you have learned as a player?
To train hard, to play hard, to never give up. Be that player who will go harder than the others, who is tougher than the other players. She or he is the one that all coaches need on their teams. My memories are of Nicky and Lorraine O’Brien who played for me in Tolka, God they were tough, they beat their team mates up at every session and made us better. Lindsey Peat on the Senior Women, she brought us to a whole new level. Rachel Clancy on my U16 and U20 Women, tough as nails. They are the easy ones for me to remember.
What is the most valuable lesson you have learned as a coach?
That you make mistakes but will learn from them and get better as a coach. That you respect your players and they in turn will respect you. I have made mistakes, big ones, both internationally and in domestic competition. I held my hand up, I learned from it. Also, remember it is not about you the coach, it is about the players, they win the games, they work their assess off, they commit three times per week, or every weekend. Respect what they give us. And that they don’t make mistakes on purpose.
Anything else you'd like to add?
Thanks to Mary for all her work in pushing Women in Sport. I want to thank all the players who I have been lucky enough to coach over the past 34 years. I have fond memories of trips to Copenhagen with 34 u15 girls, or going to France to a sports school with the U16 squad. Travelling on a little plane with the senior women and Lindsay and myself holding hands as we both didn’t like flying. Coaching the Wildrovers Masters Team has been a real privilege. These women are still amazing, they still do things on court that blows me away. And lastly, to our club in Drogheda and all the wonderful volunteers, coaches and players who are making a real difference in the lives of 400 young people.