The Basketball Podcast: EP254 with Sue Phillips on High School Coaching

RELEASE DATE : 08/02/2023

In this week’s coaching conversation, Archbishop Mitty head coach Sue Phillips joins the Basketball Podcast to share insights on building a program and applying performance psychology.

Sue Phillips, who is also a math teacher, has coached more than 50 players who went on to play in Division I and has more coaching wins than any girls high school basketball coach in Northern California history at 760+ and counting. The Tradition of Excellence she has established has led to 33 League Titles, 30 Central Coast Section Titles, 14 Nor Cal Championships, 6 CIF State Titles and her 2018 team earned top national rankings from ESPN, MaxPreps and USA Today and was declared the mythical national champion by USA Today and espnW.

Sue Phillips has been named National Coach of the Year by the WBCA, Naismith and Gatorade, and in 2019 coached the McDonald’s All-American Game. She won gold medals with USA Basketball’s U16 national team at the 2013 FIBA Americas tournament and the U17 team at the 2014 FIBA World Cup. This summer, she won U17 gold again at the FIBA World Cup in Hungary.

Listen Here:

Sue Phillips Quotes:

“We have a program like a triangle . . both the freshman and JV feed into the varsity. Every day, we have an hour, which we call split shift, where we take three to four JV or freshmen players that practice an hour with us and then an hour with their particular team. We take great pride in how our players develop over the course of four years.”

“As a coach and coaching staff, we try to get out into the community to speak at coaching clinics or get out and coach in AAU environments so that the community can get to know us and we can get to know them. What we’re trying to do is just grow the game from the ground up, and try to put out a great brand of basketball both at the elite level and the high school level.”

“I think it’s important for my staff that all the players hear their voices, and that they are in charge of teaching things that they’re comfortable with and that they feel they’re very knowledgeable about.”

“As a coach, it’s important, daily and regularly in practice, you are exposing your players to adverse circumstances. We can do different things to have our players be comfortable with chaos. It does allow them to focus on the task at hand and rid them of excuse-making and complaining.”

“One of the things we talk about is, you may not be feeling confident, but you can walk confidently. If you’re extremely tired, you don’t need to look tired, you don’t have to have your hands and your knees. We talk about facial expressions. So, when there’s frustration, we need to make sure that our facial expressions and our body language are demonstrating this idea that we are determined, we’re not discouraged. We’re not frustrated, we’re focused.”

“We’re not asking you to play mistake free, we’re asking you to be resilient. So, in those moments, we want to be process-based, not outcome-based.”

“We try to make practices competitive without becoming divisive. Practices can be competitive by beating the clock or two teams trying to do a shooting drill and trying to get a certain amount before the other team does.”

“We like to set the tone, the tone of intensity and focus, that we are trying to be efficient in what we’re trying to do.”

“As far as leadership goes, we want our players to communicate with each other. We aren’t going to just correct it. We decide it’s going to be better next time. If tensions are riding high in practice, it may be, ‘Hey, you two need to talk. Understand, we’re trying to make each other better.’ And so, getting them to communicate, hear themselves talk, and to be able to receive peer feedback and to give peer feedback is so big.”

“[We want] to get them to speak the game, to commend someone or call someone out and say, ‘Hey, you need to step in there. You got this. Get the next one.’ I think it’s a work in progress and every player needs a little more pushing or pulling in the leadership category.”

“We are developing leaders, not just jump shots. Our job is to get these players to be flourishing in the community at large, in the classroom, and in their relationships. That’s a really important component. We believe we’re teaching life lessons through athletics.”

“If a player is taking 10 shots, they should have some steals and rebounds and assists that equal 10. If they are contributing in these other categories, then it’s starting to paint a picture that they’re playing a well-rounded game.”

“If you’re just jacking up shots and you’re not contributing on the defensive end with steals or you’re not creating for your teammates, making the next best play, then you’re kind of selling yourself short of your potential as a basketball player.”

“If a student is getting an A in English, but an F in math, they’re really just a good English student; they’re not a good student. So, if you think you’re a good basketball player, when all you’re doing is just making shots, you’re actually a good shooter, you’re not a good basketball player.”

“If you want to be a really good basketball player, you’ve got to be able to fill up a stat sheet and contribute when the ball is not in your hands. Contribute not just with scoring but with assists, with screen-setting, with communication, leadership, all these things that can impact the game.”

“Are you the kind of teammate you want to have? And when you get to the next level . . do you think you’re just going to be permitted to shoot 25 times a game and not contribute in other ways?”

“Having higher standards is a gift because, essentially, we’re saying you’re capable of doing that. It’s also an incredible responsibility. Right. With those opportunities comes great responsibility.”

“Never apologize for being a winner. never apologize for wanting to be great. Wanting to be great is wanting to hear the truth, the brutal truth, not just being applauded because you’re working hard. That’s the price of admission at the door, you’re expected to work hard. Coachable means that you’re actually welcoming feedback, you’re digesting the feedback, and you’re making immediate corrections.”

“I encourage our parents to have their daughters talk to the coaches [about playing time] because I won’t talk to parents about playing time. Just won’t do it. They’re not at practice. Now, if their daughter wants to talk about it . . Absolutely.”

“I often talk about ‘match my intensity’, because we are really big on mental agility. Mental agility for us is the ability to switch gears quickly, whether that’s offense to defense, or all of a sudden, there was a quick switch defensively and you’re able to manage that mismatch or you’re able to see it and deliver the basketball where it needs to be. And so, in practice, we do a rapid-fire drill, where we’re just barking, switching offenses quickly and switching defenses quickly.”

“We are ready to go get the basketball and we are determined and fired up to compete . . You’ve got to love to compete more than you fear fatigue or fear mistakes. You’ve got to love being in that moment of great competition more then you fear the outcome.”

Sue Phillips Breakdown:

1:00 –  Planning a Season
4:00 – Beginning a Program
6:00 – How to Develop Coaches
8:30 – Shaping a Successful Program
11:00 – Coping Strategies
13:30 – Art of Coaching with Science
17:30 – Practice in Modern Era
22:00 – Supporting Players
25:30 – Coaching Talents
28:30 – Higher Standards as a Gift
30:05 – 30:45 – Immersion Videos AD
32:30 – Managing Player’s Parents
40:00 – Carrot and Stick Approach
45:00 – Managing Player’s Hype
50:00 – Rules Around State Associations
54:00 – Handling Officials
57:00 – Conclusion

Sue Phillips Links from the Podcast:

Sue Phillips

Haley Jones

Kara Lawson

Archbishop Mitty High School

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