Linking, Learning, and Elevating Elite Level Women Coaches

Mim Haigh
Sports Writer – Athlete Assessments

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When Madeleine Albright so famously said, “There is a special place in hell for women who don’t help other women” she obviously hadn’t met or been involved with a unique group of women coaches brought together by Basketball Australia. Here, it’s quite the opposite.

“To be among such inspirational, extraordinary, successful, and just excellent ladies, and to learn from and be part of their journeys is a blessing. The theory that we are not competitors but rather allies in such a competitive world, has never been truer.”

That’s how Jackie Brown, who coaches at both the State and National level, explains her experience of the program she has the opportunity to be involved in through Basketball Australia. 

We invite you to meet a group of elite level women basketball coaches – the first cohort in a pioneering program created by Basketball Australia to provide elite and emerging female coaches with professional development, formal training, and opportunities for mentoring. Announced in early March 2020, the program aims to grow the depth of elite and professional coaches in Australia. This year sees the group almost halfway through the Elite Female Coach Advancement Program (EFCAP) and we proudly bring you an update on their progress. 

The program attracted a highly accomplished group of women coaches who bring a wealth of international and national experience playing in the WNBA (USA), WNBL (Australia), and European Leagues. The group includes Katrina Hibbert, WNBL Sydney Uni Flames Head Basketball Coach; Kristen Veal, Head Coach of Basketball Australia’s Centre of Excellence Women’s Program; Jackie Brown, Head Coach of Queensland South U18 Women’s State Team and Assistant Coach for the U17 Women’s National Team; Dee Butler, the Head Coach of the Hume City Broncos Championship Senior Women (Big V League) Team and U19 National Head Coach; and Larissa Anderson, the Assistant Coach of the Melbourne Boomers WNBL Team (read more on their impressive coaching and playing backgrounds at the end of this article).

Athlete Assessments is one of the service providers involved in the program, CEO Liz Masen says, “Professionally, I am inspired by the genuine efforts Basketball Australia are making and the results that they are achieving; and personally, with both my daughters in basketball, I love that they have women coaches they are being mentored by, contributing to their basketball and life experience, and that they are seeing women in these important leadership roles to show them a path to stay with the sport they love for a lifetime.”

We asked the inspiring group about the program and Katrina Hibbert opened with,

“I’ve learned that there are a lot of strong and amazing female coaches who juggle so many aspects of life on and off the court, but are so passionate about the growth, development, and advancement of women’s basketball in Australia.”

She adds, “For me the most valuable part of the program is connecting and having discussions with other like minded and passionate female coaches in basketball. It brings a sense of camaraderie and a space where we can share knowledge and our different experiences and perspectives. Everyone involved in the program has taken a different pathway as players and coaches to get to where they are now, and with that brings a wealth of basketball knowledge but also life experiences. All involved are wonderful role models and mentors to other young athletes and coaches.”

The opportunity to build stronger networks, both breadth and depth, has been one of the key benefits identified by the elite coaches. Larissa Anderson says 

“I believe that networks are so important and not something that female coaches have traditionally developed or been a part of. This program provides that network opportunity for us to connect, support and inspire one another.” She adds that she highly valued many of the side conversations and informal discussions that have occurred, over coffee and phone calls, throughout the program so far. 

Specifically, Larissa says, “The mix of a professional business perspective that Liz Masen brought to our discussions, and the professional high-performance sport perspective that Bo Hanson brings, broadened my own perspective and directions that aren’t the run of the mill, what everyone else sees, concepts and ideas.” 

She also highlights that having an extended group, both within the program and external to it, has meant she feels more supported and rallied behind, which she felt was missing before the program, and she’s actively working to do the same for other coaches in her circle.

The EFCAP runs over two years and is coordinated by Basketball Australia’s Director of high-performance Coach Development. It includes input and leadership from industry and academic professionals across a raft of formal training, experiential learning, and mentoring opportunities. 

Dee Butler emphasizes, “The EFCAP program has helped develop another pool of resources for us all. It has been extremely valuable to hear everyone’s experiences and to be provided a different lens to look at things. I have found this course has helped me condense learning and my development in a time effective way, whilst juggling multiple other external factors with coaching, work and kids.” 

As part of the EFCAP, an Individual Development Plan is created for each coach, they earn the Basketball Australia Performance Coach Accreditation, in addition to receiving formal training in Sportscode and other industry-based skills. Coaches have 12 web-based meetings over the two years and are each assigned a mentor for ongoing dialogue, feedback, and support. The EFCAP is delivered primarily through online seminars, external study, and experiences in each coach’s home state or territory. 

“Knowledge is power, self-improvement, player management, developing relationships, gaining tools to build better people, players and teams… take your pick or all of them – This program does all that, and is a wonderful tool for any coach or team striving to reach or exceed potential.”

says Kristen Veal. 

Larissa Anderson identified a moment in the program where she strengthened her confidence as a coach as it provided the space, tools, and reflection to balance out some of the negative experiences she faced in the past. She says, “This program came at an ideal time for me, I had just endured my first challenging time in my coaching career and this program helped me get back on track to focus on building on my strengths that had helped me achieve previous successes. Instead of doubting myself, I felt reassured that what I bring as a coach and my coaching style, does work and produce great results. The program also challenges you to stretch, to be able to be more confident and responsive to situations that come up.” 

Early on in the program participating coaches completed their Athlete Assessments’ CoachDISC Profile which details their coaching style, individual strengths, limitations, and environments they perform best in. To extend on the self-awareness that the CoachDISC Profile facilitates, each coach had two one-hour private consultations to debrief their results and apply the learnings directly to their coaching. The one-on-one debrief time was designed to ensure an individualized experience, so the coaches had an opportunity to focus purely on their own coaching style and to take the discussion, reflection, and application in their own unique direction. The time between consultations gave coaches valuable time to incorporate learnings into their coaching style, and reflect on the effectiveness of different coaching strategies and approaches. It also gave coaches time to consider the different DISC Profiles of those they coach and work closely with. Feedback from the group gives us a window into their experience.

Katrina Hibbert says, “Learning through the DISC model has given me a self-awareness of knowing what works for me as a coach and what doesn’t. It’s also given me an insight into which behaviors are most effective for the individuals I coach, along with my team as a whole, and how to adapt to certain situations which is helping me become an overall better leader.” 

Dee Butler says, “In the past, I have been involved in seminars where communication and leadership styles have been workshopped, however not to the same length and detail as the CoachDISC profiling. I found it extremely valuable and eye-opening. It gave me a number of areas to be proud of and a number of areas to focus on in multiple ways. The follow up consult with Bo not only allowed me to break down my strengths and weaknesses, but to understand how to identify traits and behaviors in the athletes I coach. I had never really considered the importance of this during recruiting and the impact it may have on a team’s culture and overall buy-in.”

 Jackie Brown concurs, “The CoachDISC Profile was truly one of the of the highlights and an extremely crucial starting point for my development and betterment as a person, coach, and leader. Players look for that authenticity. How can I be the best version of myself if I do not know who I am. Bo’s face to face analysis, and observer feedback component presented truths, reality, and a deeper understanding of myself and my athletes, which I needed to discover to be true to myself and authentic for my athletes. Having a deep level of understanding and insight into the behavior, profiles, and type of athlete, is so crucial to the efficiency of the learning, planning, the ability to connect with each athlete, and build that relationship, trust, and culture that successful teams reflect.” 

After receiving their individual CoachDISC Profiles, coaches also took advantage of their profile’s 360 Degree Observer Feedback capability to extend their development and include feedback from those they work closely with. The 360 Degree Observer Feedback capability is optional and is available with every Athlete Assessments’ DISC Profile.

Kristen Veal says, “Through completing my CoachDISC Profile and unpacking it with Bo to have a better understanding of what it all means, I have learned more about how I think, behave, and relate to others. I’ve learned about the strengths of my behaviors, and how to consciously adapt behaviors to have more worthwhile interactions with other coaches, management, and players.”

Kristen nominated this self knowledge and knowledge about the team and their styles as the most valuable takeout from the program. She adds, 

“The 360 allowed me to get an abundance of feedback from a range of people that may have taken years to gather without this process – working through this has allowed me to identify some key development areas, as well as take a moment to reflect on the work and the impact I am making.”

Jackie Brown also highlights the impact of extending this to the teams she coaches, “When coaching, a blanket approach won’t work. The phrase ‘coach the person then the athlete’ has never been truer. The key motivation for learning is success. How can I put my athletes in positions to be successful if I’m unaware of how they learn, how they behave in certain situations, what motivates them, and who they truly are? To create buy in, to build trust, and to be able to create the most effective learning environment for my athletes, I need to truly know my own, and my athletes’ identities, strengths and weaknesses, be open to feedback, and make necessary changes to be better. This being an ongoing process.” 

Overall, Katrina Hibbert sums up the program, “I think it’s a great opportunity to build a community and support network within basketball, it also provides opportunities to stay up to date with latest trends and advancements within the game itself, and to discuss and analyze the game.” 

And to complete the discussion, Jackie Brown shares, “In my line of work*, I know life can be unpredictable. I have learnt that courage doesn’t mean you’re not afraid. Courage just means you do not let fear stop you from doing what you want. Being amongst such inspiring leaders and learning that coaching is more than just X’s and O’s, I know there are many more great female leaders that can fill coaching roles and are letting fear of the unknown stop them.”

2020-2021 Basketball Australia Elite Female Coach Advancement Program

Larissa Anderson

Assistant Coach of the Melbourne Boomers WNBL Team

Larissa Anderson

Larissa played almost 300 games in the WNBL and in total has head coached at the Elite level for over 15 years. For 10 years straight, Larissa head coached at the Dandenong Rangers Basketball Club, 6 years as the SEABL/NBL1 Head Coach (level just below WNBL) and then the last 4 years as the WNBL Head Coach. During this time she achieved 4 x SEABL Championships (three of them in a row (three-peat) from 2010-2012), a WNBL Preliminary Final and a WNBL Grand Final appearance. Over that time was awarded Coach of the year 5 times. For the last 2 years has been with the Melbourne Boomers as Assistant Coach.

Dee Butler

Head Coach of the Hume City Broncos Championship Senior Women (Big V League) Team and U19 National Head Coach

Dee Butler

She embodies a phenomenal work ethic combining a playing career including 13 years at the WNBL, national, overseas, and professional levels, with a career in the Victorian Police. Totaling 251 WNBL games, she was awarded Life Membership in 2013. Recently, she has been assisting with the National Performance Program, coaching SEABL Women’s and Diamond Valley Men’s SEABL Teams, and since 2015, coaching the Australian Women’s U19 Gems, including Head Coaching the team to a silver in the 2019 Bangkok World Cup. Dee remains integral in Victoria Police Basketball, being inducted into their Sporting Hall of Fame in 2013.

Jackie Brown

Head Coach of Queensland South U18 Women’s State Team and Assistant Coach for the U17 Women’s National Team

Jackie Brown

Head Coach of Queensland South U18 Women’s State Team and Assistant Coach for the U17 Women’s National Team, shares a wealth of international playing experience amassed from playing 5 consecutive seasons in the German Premier League for Gottingen, and as a student athlete for University of California Berkeley playing in the Pac-10 Conference. Throughout her playing career Jackie also played for WNBL teams; the Brisbane Bullets, Adelaide Lightening , Brisbane Blaze, and the Gold Coast Gators. Away from coaching, *Jackie works as a Fire Fighter with Queensland Fire and Emergency Service.

Kristen Veal

Head Coach of Basketball Australia’s Centre of Excellence Women’s Program

Kristen Veal

As a player Kristen won her first WNBL Championship with the AIS team (now the CoE) in the 1998 season, went on to win another three WNBL championships for the Canberra Capitals, and was also a WNBA first draft pick. At the time of writing, Kristen remains one of only eight Australian Players to be drafted in the first round of the WNBA, and at the time of drafting she was the youngest player to ever play in the WNBA. In addition to her international experience Kristen was also an integral player for the Australian national team, the Opals, throughout the early 2000’s.

Katrina Hibbert

WNBL Sydney Uni Flames, Head Basketball Coach

Katrina Hibbert

In addition to her coaching experience Katrina brings a wealth of playing knowledge from her time in the WNBA as a Seattle Storm draft pick with the honor of scoring the franchise’s first ever points, and the WNBL playing for the Bulleen Bloomers. During her playing career she was twice named the Most Valuable Player, and twice numbered among the WNBL All-Star Five. Katrina also played on Australia’s National team, winning a Commonwealth Games gold medal as part of the 2006 team.
Where to from here?

At Athlete Assessments, our Get Ahead Programs are the very best value packages we offer. As an individual program, it is an excellent personalized professional development exercise, to build self-awareness, communication and relationship skills, with a strong focus on personal success. Working directly with Bo Hanson, the program is tailored to you to ensure you get the most value from the program. Find out more about our Get Ahead Packages here.

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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Where so many other factors in sport, across sports programs and organizations are very similar, effectively managing the ‘people side’ is what differentiates the mediocre and truly great. DISC Profiling will take your team’s performance to the next level, allowing you to get ahead and stay ahead.

Our team packages include our sport-specific DISC Assessments plus importantly, a series of consultations via video conference. Our goal is to use the information of the DISC profiles to the benefit of your program and coaching and make it as useful and practical as possible.

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Bo Hanson

Senior Consultant & Director

Bo Hanson’s career within the sport and the business sector spans over 25 years, delivering leadership, management, and coach development. In addition to his own athletic career comprising of four Olympic appearances and including three Olympic medals, Bo has worked for many years with coaches and athletes from over 40 different sports across the globe. Bo was also the winner of the Australian Institute of Training and Development (AITD) 2023 Award for L&D Professional of the Year, for his dedication to L&D and transformational work across various industries.

After a successful career in sport including four Olympics and three Olympic Medals, Bo co-founded and developed Athlete Assessments in 2007. Bo now focuses on working with clients to achieve their own success on and off ‘the field’, and has attained an unmatched track-record in doing exactly this.

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Now, watch us interrupt him for a round of quick fire questions.