INSTILLING belief in his Stirling Senators remains coach Glenn Clarke’s biggest mission and last week’s quarter-final Game 1 win over the Willetton Tigers has him feeling they are starting to see why he is so buoyant about their 2017 prospects.
Clarke arrived as coach of the Senators to start the 2016 Women’s SBL season tasked with the job of making them first a playoffs force, and ultimately a championship contender using his vast and successful experience as a three-time championship winning coach at Willetton.
There were signs of improvement in 2016 in Clarke’s first season in charge even though ultimately they did fall short of a playoff appearance.
But Clarke learned a lot about the group and who he would be able to bank on moving forward, and what he needed to add from the outside.
He has further leaned on Amber Land and Taylor Roberts this season and been rewarded while Rebekah and Hannah Thorns have been among the young players he has put faith in and who are delivering breakout seasons.
Then with the additions of imports Kisha Lee and Jasmine Martin, the Senators were able to put together an impressive regular season finishing in fourth position and then beating the Tigers last Saturday night in Game 1 of the quarter-final series.
The Senators took out the tight 79-74 victory at Warwick Stadium to see them have two chances to advance to the semi finals this weekend starting Saturday night at Willetton Basketball Stadium.
Clarke has always had the belief in the Senators that they could be a real force in 2017, but getting the players to believe that themselves has been a bit of a tougher process.
But their confidence and belief in what they could do built throughout the regular season and then certainly grew an extra leg with Saturday night’s win against the defending champion Tigers.
Given he knows all about success as a triple championship-winning coach, Clarke has been trying to give his emerging group some guidance as to how to become success and having belief in themselves is a major part of it.
“It’s more of a guidance thing. If I can guide them to not worrying about any intimidation, trusting what they know and their shot, then they will buy into it and they’ll be right out there,” Clarke said.
“One of the things is that if they can keep the confidence up and their shots are going in, and they are doing as they are asked on the court, the biggest thing is that belief. If they can even start to believe in themselves even more then they have half the chance of going to the next level.”
One player who illustrates that better than most is Taylor Roberts. She is, and always has been, a knockdown three-point shooter. But her improvement in the latter part of the season has been largely on the back of Clarke getting her to trust herself to contribute in other ways.
“One of the things with Taylor is that she’s a good outside shooter but if that wasn’t going on, she was almost putting her bat back in the bag and off she’d go,” he said.
“So at training we’ve been working hard on her getting to the hole and getting that mental attitude right. That’s shown her that she can get to the hole and beat her opponent to get a layup. It’s all about having that confidence and belief that she can drive to the hole and make a layup.”
Clarke knows Willetton well and still has a connection to the club not just because of that past success, but with son Mitch playing there. But come Saturday night, Clarke’s focus is solely on ending his old team’s season and championship defence.
“We get to Game 2 on Saturday night at Willetton and it’s a toss of the coin, heads or tails about who turns up the best which is the way I think it will go,” he said.
“My son still plays Men’s SBL with the Willetton team so I still go along there quite a bit and I still have a big place in my heart for that club. It’s a good club but this is playoffs and I want to beat them.”
A hallmark of Clarke’s teams he coaches are always that they are well drilled and they execute well, and are disciplined.
It has been a work in progress with this Senators team, but he feels they are now starting to show a lot of those traits on a consistent basis.
“It’s all about being disciplined and knowing to get to the right spot for the screen and where the pass is going, and how you get open. It’s all those small drills we do and the breakdown drills that you do over and over again before they become a habit,” Clarke said.
“Then you do it without even realising and that’s when it starts to click during games. They kick the ball to the wing, they throw the ball in the post or there is a seal going on, and it all becomes automatic for them. It’s good to see those things begin to work.”
Photo by Deprimo Photography