Coach Insight – Lori McDaniel

The art of coaching is one that requires study, social skills and the constant drive to improve. We talked to a few coaches who, during their time, have encountered some speed bumps, learnt from their experiences, and adapted to improve both themselves and those around them.

Lori McDaniel is well known in basketball circles. She is a Community Coach and Women’s Development Manager at Canterbury Basketball Association (CBA), as well as an Academy Coach at the Mainland Eagles.

Her involvement in Aotearoa’s coaching programme began after returning from the United States. She had been living stateside following her collegiate career as a student-athlete at Butler University.

Her first national role was in 2016 as Head Coach of the Under-18 Women’s team on the Koru Tour to Albury-Wodonga in New South Wales, Australia.

McDaniel says the experience opened her eyes to the demands of high-level coaching.

“While my sister had been on the Koru Tour several (lots of several) years earlier, I had no concept of what this tour would be like as a coach.

“It was my first introduction to how terrible I was as a coach and how much I did not know about the relationship and communication side of coaching.

“Unfortunately, it took me a few years to recognise some of my greatest faults and how to be myself and the coach that athletes need. In fact, that is still a huge work-on for me.”

Along the way, CBA and Basketball New Zealand has presented McDaniel with opportunities to develop through coaching courses and seminars. It was at these events that she talked to a wide variety of coaches, sat through lectures and watched a great deal of basketball at all stages.

McDaniel says she learnt a lot during this time observing and networking.

“I think the biggest thing was it allowed me to see the changes that have occurred in the game with more clarity and how coaching has changed dramatically in the past decade.

“It had seemingly gone from the directive and authoritarian approach to being player empowered and relationship-based.”

Some of the highlights of her coaching career have been the 2017 FIBA Under-17 Women’s Asian Championship, which then led to the 2018 Under-17 Women’s World Cup in Minsk, Belarus. She says these competitions exposed her to the skill, strength and professionalism that is evolving in basketball.

“Coaching in an Under-17 Women’s World Cup game against athletes that spend 45 minutes priming and activating muscle groups before they touch a ball, and seeing a final played where the victors only turned the ball over three times, are all things that have inspired me to become a better coach and to stay in the game of basketball,” McDaniel added.

“I think the biggest inspiration for me comes from the fact that as a small basketball nation, we are competitive at these events when we often have no business doing so given the resources, time and level of competition we have nationally.

“Our athletes and the programmes they come from are truly a credit to our country and how Kiwi’s find a way to get things done.”

Looking back on her career so far, McDaniel thinks it would have been more beneficial to have first been an assistant coach and found a mentor.

“My transfer from player to coach was not smooth and I did not put in nearly enough time, nor did I value the softer skills of coaching and having systems and processes in place.

“I regret not being aware earlier of all the aspects that it takes to operate a team successfully, and how important a growth mindset can be to development and learning.”

Notably McDaniel won the Carolyn Grey Female Coach of the Year for 2016 and 2017 at the Basketball New Zealand Awards and spent five years as Head Coach of the Alloyfold Canterbury Wildcats, which included an undefeated season in the 2016 Women’s Basketball Championship. Put all those lessons together and McDaniel has proven herself to be one of New Zealand’s great female coaches.