An Early and Important Impact on Athlete Performance

Performance Coach Darren Winterbine shares insights into the unique and holistic preparation Western Australia Country Basketball U16 Teams are doing for the National Championships
Mim Haigh
Sports Writer – Athlete Assessments

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When interviewing Darren Winterbine for this article, I was reminded of a quote by Andre Agassi in his book ‘Open’:

“…several sportswriters muse about my transformation, and that word rankles. I think it misses the mark. Transformation is change from one thing to another, but I started as nothing. I didn’t transform, I formed. When I broke into tennis, I was like most kids: I didn’t know who I was, and I rebelled at being told by older people. I think older people make this mistake all the time about younger people, treating them as finished products when in fact they’re in process. It’s like judging a match before it is over, and I’ve come from behind too often, and had too many opponents come roaring back against me, to think that’s a good idea.”

Darren’s contribution to Western Australia’s basketball program reflects his approach to developing and supporting athletes as they ‘form’. He explains that essentially his role is “to help athletes understand themselves, their teammates, coaches, and managers, so they can be more effective with their communication and be able to better adapt to situations.”

Not only are young athletes forming as individuals, they are also learning to be part of a team; to develop positive supportive relationships among team members, to problem solve as a group, and contribute in an effective way. 

Critically, this is also the age group at the highest risk of leaving sport, and the need to genuinely engage and support them to continue is prevalent.

The future of the sport and our representative success depend on this group – facts not lost on Basketball Western Australia which is investing in this group by creating a holistic role designed for Darren.

Of the voluntary position Darren says, “The role is more of a supervisory role where I get to provide some insights and observations, but let the coaches do their job and provide them with ideas, tactics, and strategies. I work more on the people management side of things like goal setting within the team structure, clashes of interest, how to do reviews with the players, and I give some insight about how different athletes learn and buy into concepts – the soft skills that are sometimes lacking in coaches. The first groups have embraced the profiles, coming to me to talk about who they think has different behaviors, and what they should do to get the most out of them.” 

Darren elaborates,

“As athletes at the start of the high-performance pathway, it’s important to show our young players that adaptability is the key to high-performance.

Both in this role and in his capacity as Head of the Midwest Academy of Sport (he holds the two positions concurrently), Darren has worked closely with Athlete Assessments. Bo Hanson, Senior Coaching Consultant says, “The role Darren is playing in the preparation for the Under 16 Nationals is unique and necessary. For starters, the tournament is an emotional roller coaster week, and Darren is helping players, coaches, and parents understand how they each behave in this environment. This helps to create understanding around how to best help one another when they need it the most. I have not seen other teams do this level of preparation and proactively build relationships amongst a diverse group of people to ensure they communicate and support each other when in emotionally charged times.”

To give you some perspective, Darren’s teams compete in the Australian National Championships, and for every sport, the National Championship is a peak event on the season’s calendar. Positions in state teams are the result of consistent outstanding performance in domestic and regional leagues, and these positions are prestigious and fiercely contested. Once the 10-player teams are announced, they compete for national honors in an eight-day-long tournament.

While every team has its challenges, one of the particular features of the Western Australia Country team is that geographically, the state occupies some 1,490 miles, or 2,400 kms.

On this point Darren says, 

“The Country athletes are from all across WA, as far north as Broome and Derby, Geraldton in the Mid-West, and down to Albany in the South. This means that getting the teams together is difficult due to massive distances apart and the extreme amount of travelling required. Therefore, time is very limited and used mainly for the on-court components, so anything that can help the team building and leadership processes like DISC is invaluable.”

Darren is trained to use Athlete Assessments’ DISC Profiling, enabling him to develop individual profiles for each athlete, coach, and administrator. The Athlete Assessments DISC Profiles used with the team detail the individual’s strengths and limitations, how they prefer to communicate, build relationships, approach daily tasks, the pace they are comfortable with, and importantly what they are likely to do under stress. Profiles give coaches and managers an insight into how best to work with players, and equally they increase the athlete’s or coach’s own self-awareness. The knowledge and self-awareness that DISC Profiles catalyze is invaluable, and Darren is trained to take the knowledge a step further, applying it in different scenarios to improve outcomes.

Describing his work with coaches at workshops and practice sessions, he says, 

“The coaches and managers have really enjoyed the DISC process and helping the athletes get to know their strengths and areas of development. One of the best advantages is getting to know the athletes better in a more meaningful way and showing them where they fit into the group through the team reporting.”

Elaborating, he says, 

“I have used DISC to help in goal setting both individually and for the team. The process allows us the opportunity to ensure that the coaches are equipped to better understand the motivations of the athletes and to include them better in the review and planning phases of team development.”  

We asked Darren if there was any reluctance amongst coaches to use the DISC tools, he says, 

“All of our coaches were always onboard as I had done some sessions with them previously over the last couple of years. Some coaches had completed their own CoachDISC Profiles and encouraged the others, so I didn’t have to sell the concept to them – they were excited to use DISC in more detail with their groups and have been keen to expand this onto their teams, and across more of the program.”

Another unique aspect of the WA program is that it is addressing all aspects of the young athlete’s development. Darren says, 

“I conducted a session with the parents to explain the AthleteDISC profiling and to show them how valuable it is to better understand their children’s needs and wants as athletes. Some parents have commented to me that this helps them with their relationships and communications.”

“When we explained the AthleteDISC tool to parents, I had the coaches in the room to answer any questions that came up during the session. One question that came up was whether we were using DISC to select the team. I went into detail about the process and explained how this was never the case, DISC was just used for knowledge and that if we needed more or less of a certain behavior, we would achieve this by individual athletes adapting.”

“Having the ability to understand your athletes in a more detailed and extremely accurate way is something that all coaches, regardless of the level they play should do. If they only take away what motivates their athletes, or some ideas on how to communicate with them more effectively, it will certainly lead to performance enhancement.”

Bo Hanson adds, “Darren brings critical coaching, playing, and leadership background to this role. He is uniquely qualified and has the credibility to influence coaches, parents, and the players. He has experience and a thorough understanding of the use of the AthleteDISC and CoachDISC, which enables him to help coaches better understand their players, players to understand their team members, and even for parents to understand their children in a way they are not typically familiar with. The outcome of this is a more cohesive and supportive environment, which gives everyone involved an opportunity to perform as close to their best as possible.”

Explaining Basketball WA’s vision, Darren says, “We started the role as a pilot, currently with the U16 Country men’s and women’s teams to give them a competitive advantage, but we are looking to expand it to all state teams next year. This is something that I have been discussing with the WA High Performance Manager – Dave Naylor for some time and he is keen to expand the work we’re currently doing. We have done some work with the coaches of the High Performance Development teams over the last couple of years, and have seen them significantly improve their communications and relationship management with their teams. We chose the U16 teams as I had been working with the coaches and athletes in a coaching role over the last few years, and wanted to add something to these groups to bridge the gap that is there due to the lack of constant touch points, like training every week together, and to enhance their chances of success at the National Championships.”

About Darren

Currently, Darren holds a dual role as Head of the Midwest Academy of Sport and Basketball WA Performance Coach with U16 WA Country Teams, working in a supervisory capacity to assist coaches and athletes with High Performance strategies, culture, mindsets, and DISC profiling. In 2020, Darren completed the Sports Coaching & Leadership Course at Deakin University, Australia, and he has worked extensively in athlete development and coach mentoring throughout WA for many years. A former Detective Sergeant, Darren is trained as a high-risk negotiator and knows first -hand the value of communication, understanding people, and the bonds that unite them. He is also trained in using Athlete Assessments’ DISC Behavioral Profiling as a Performance Consultant. Darren was the Director of Geraldton Amateur Basketball Association (Junior Development) from 2010 to 2020 and is a Level 2 coach. He played in the NBL for the Newcastle Falcons, as well as for the Goldfields Giants, Cockburn Cougars, Willetton Tigers and Geraldton Buccaneers. Darren also played for the Newcastle Hunters and was part of the CBA All-Star North team winning national and state honors. He was included in the Australian team and was 2x Player of the Tournament with an All-Star 5 selection when he played in the Australian Police Basketball Championships.

About Darren

Currently, Darren holds a dual role as Head of the Midwest Academy of Sport and Basketball WA Performance Coach with U16 WA Country Teams, working in a supervisory capacity to assist coaches and athletes with High Performance strategies, culture, mindsets and DISC profiling. In 2020 Darren completed the Sports Coaching & Leadership Course at Deakin University, Australia, and he has worked extensively in athlete development and coach mentoring throughout WA for many years. A former Detective Sergeant, Darren is a trained high-risk negotiator and knows firsthand the value of

communication, understanding people, and the bonds that unite them. He is also trained in using Athlete Assessments’ DISC Behavioral Profiling as a Performance Consultant. Darren was the Director of Geraldton Amateur Basketball Association (Junior Development) from 2010 to 2020 and is a Level 2 coach. He played in the NBL for the Newcastle Falcons, as well as for the Goldfields Giants, Cockburn Cougars, Willetton Tigers and Geraldton Buccaneers. Darren also played for the Newcastle Hunters and was part of the CBA All-Star North team winning national and state honors. He was included in the Australian team and was 2x Player of the Tournament with an All-Star 5 selection when he played in the Australian Police Basketball Championships.

Where to from here?

If like Darren, you work with emerging athletes, you can significantly add to their development by sharing with them the insights and self-awareness that DISC profiles bring. To understand more about using Athlete Assessments AthleteDISC, CoachDISC and Sport ManagerDISC and how they contribute to team building and management click here.

At Athlete Assessments we’re here to provide you with excellence in service and to help you be your best. If there is anything we can do to be of service, don’t hesitate to contact us.

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