WBC nets National Head Coaches to foster high performance

WBC nets National Head Coaches to foster high performance
The Head Coaches of the Tall Ferns and Tall Blacks have been upskilling teams in the Women’s Basketball Championship (WBC) with an eye for future Tall Ferns.

In a first for the women’s basketball in New Zealand, a WBC ‘Combine’ training session was held on the second morning of the recent Women’s Basketball Championship (WBC) Tournament held in Tauranga.

The players were drilled through skills stations facilitated by Tall Ferns Head Coach Guy Molloy and Tall Blacks Head Coach Paul Henare. 

Basketball New Zealand High Performance Director, Leonard King, says it wasn’t a coincidence that the two national coaches were working on shooting skills.

“I have gone back over the Tall Ferns shooting statistics for the past few seasons and, to be frank, the numbers are pretty woeful. Last year at the Asia Cup, where the Tall Ferns failed to qualify for the World Cup, they shot just 21 percent from the three-point line.  We were the worst three-point shooting team at the tournament. We know that we not only need to be able to shoot better, but also shoot well under pressure. Shooting is going to be a major part of any new performance programme we roll out.”

The Combine was also a combination of physical testing and measuring stations. The analysis was monitored by Campbell Macgregor, Programme Manager at Toi-Ohomai Institute of Technology in Tauranga, while also being overseen by Tall Ferns’ Strength and Conditioning Coach Gavin Cross. 

“We discussed how we might broaden the programme of the Tall Ferns and create an opportunity to give the athletes an indication of where they sit in terms of their physical performance, while also trying to improve the high performance nature of the programme,” said Cross.

“The testing enables us to form a series of baseline measures and, from there, we are able to both set benchmarks and prescribe conditioning programmes. We can advise the athletes where they need to be at in three or six months’ time and say ‘here are the tools to improve your performance’. 

“We have a lot of data and research around the tests we did with the players at the weekend. Much of the comparable data comes from colleges in the United States, where they test in big numbers and have created benchmarks for players striving for the WNBA. This means we can compare the results of the guards or the bigs for instance. This kind of information is not only interesting from and strength and conditioning perspective, but it also helps from an injury prevention viewpoint,” said Cross. 

The tests undertaken were:

Height, weight and wingspan
Three bound hop test (two legged)
Vertical jump
T test agility 
30 metre sprint
Maximal push up test

Cross says there are major differences between the men’s and women’s conditioning programmes, and it’s vital to recognize that. 

“For instance there are different injury patterns and biomechanical issues – athletes I chatted to at the weekend have already had serious knee injuries and they are only 19 or 20, so part of my job is to help manage these and hopefully eradicate, or at least minimise them.” 

Leonard King said it’s important to collect this data as they look to work closer with the senior women’s programme. 

“We need to see which athletes are out there that are quick, the ones that are explosive, the one’s that shoot the ball well. Once we have the baseline figures we can start working with those athletes to try and improve them,” said King.

In an ideal world the players would be brought together solely for testing. It’s no secret Tall Ferns funding applications have been continually declined by High Performance Sport New Zealand, siting performance results on the world stage, so the resources are not there to cover those costs. While testing at the WBC is not ideal, especially when players have games to focus on, it is a rare opportunity when a good number of players are available. Despite the timing, King was delighted with the attitude of the large number of players that attended.

“The majority of the players and coaches have really brought into it and I have heard a lot of positive things about it. Yes there were some anxious players prior and some coaches who thought we were there to tire their players out so they couldn’t play, but nothing could be further from the truth.”

Cross summed up the attitude of the players at the WBC and the women’s game in general.

“Being involved in the women’s programme is extremely rewarding. I was lucky enough to be with the Tall Ferns at the Commonwealth Games, which was a wonderful experience in itself. I’m loving my time with the Tall Ferns programme, and have been enormously impressed with the diligence, engagement and professional attitudes of the athletes throughout the women’s game,” said Cross.

With a Commonwealth Games Bronze medal, an Asia Cup 3x3 Gold medal, record numbers of female players on basketball scholarships in the States, increased numbers of teams entering the WBC, and a 2018 Tall Ferns tour in the pipeline, the women’s game is certainly on the rise.