DEANNA Black is looking forward to seeing how her Perry Lakes Hawks continue to grow through the second half of the 2019 season but in the bigger scheme of things, the recently-married championship coach would like more equality between the two competitions.
Black is one of just three female coaches currently in the SBL along with Megan Thompson at the Cockburn Cougars and Tanya Fisher with the East Perth Eagles, but that’s something the 2017 championship winning coach would like to see change.
It’s not just the number of female coaches that Black would like to see improved, but also the attitude to those that are coaching and also for more equality within the Men’s and Women’s SBL.
Black comes from an impressive place to speak as well given she not only played 95 games in the SBL at Perry Lakes and Cockburn while winning an MVP award in 2008 on top of playing for the Australian Opals and more than 250 WNBL games.
She was a dual WNBL championship winner and named to the All-Star Five team three times before retiring at the end of 2016 following her last season in the SBL at Perry Lakes.
She immediately took over as coach and led the Lady Hawks to the 2017 championship before despite a 1-9 start in 2018, got them back to the playoffs and now 2019 has started encouragingly currently sitting 6-5 in fifth position.
Black is proud to be one of the three female coaches currently in the SBL.
While she would like to see a greater representation of females in coaching roles, she is proud to be leading the way and helping to set the tone for others to want to follow in her path, even if she does feel there is still work to be done in terms of equality in the way female and male coaches are looked upon in the WA basketball community.
“It would be a fantastic thing to see more female coaches and I would love to see a push through Basketball WA to have a focus on putting together a program and establish a pathway to encourage and develop young females in leadership roles.” Black said.
“I know in Victoria there is a lot of emphasis on getting female coaches into state programs and mentoring them through the process. I would definitely like to see more female coaches at this level.
“I think there’s always room for growth and that’s not just within basketball, it’s in every part of society. I think that if I can inspire just one or two people, then that means everything to me.
“I’m very grateful to have my teaching role where I get to mentor young students and as part of that I am able to support the girls to be proud to ‘go play like a girl’ and help them to understand what that actually means; being skilled, tough, aggressive and dominating and that they can do it, as opposed to many traditional negative stereotypes.”
The SBL recently celebrated Women’s Round and while Black appreciates the thought behind it, she does think there is room to go still for equality between the women’s and men’s competition which she would like to start seeing happen.
“For me I think the important thing isn’t recognising females in one round but using the round to raise awareness that there are some inequalities in our competition and coming up with strategies in order to reduce them,” she said.
“A good example would be in the refereeing allocations. Rather than just call it Ladies Round, why don’t we put the male referee roster on female games? If we can achieve that in one round, then we can work towards it being the case in two rounds in the near future and so on.
“A strategic plan towards change. It’s currently seen as a progression for referees in the men’s competition after developing with the women. I would definitely love to see women’s round not only be advocacy for women in sport, but also enacting positive change.”
But those are all big picture type things. Where Black’s focus is now on her Perry Lakes Hawks team in the Women’s SBL, having just welcomed back Nat Burton to the group and hoping to produce more consistent results.
Since winning the championship back in 2017, the Lady Hawks have lost the likes of Toni Farnworth, Lauren Jeffers, Janique Kautsky, Emily Burton and Kate Anthony so it has been a significant turnover in players Black has already had to deal with in her two and-a-half seasons at the helm.
That’s why she was so keen to add the experience of Rebecca Benson and Nikita Martin this season while also adding depth to the backcourt with the addition of Morgan Ballantyne.
Then bringing in an import point guard like Jamie Cherry gave them a new-look and now with momentum building and their full squad only now together with half the season to go, Black can’t fault with the way things are tracking in 2019.
“We have lost 10 players in two years, mainly through college or retirement, so it has been an interesting process for us since winning the championship. We definitely knew we needed some experience and that’s where Bec and Nikita are fantastic for our group,” Black said.
“We are so young but with that they bring such an amazing maturity to our group with the way that they lead and play. That’s added a great deal of value to what we already had and then there’s Jamie.
“She is coming out of the North Carolina Tar Heels which is such a highly-respected college in the States and the style of basketball is completely different to what we play here.
“It has been a really challenging few months for her because I’ve really been on her case about the expectations and how you have to play both ends with the intensity needing to be there.
“She has really stepped up to that challenge and I think she’ll only continue to get better and better with more exposure to this competition. It’s her first international experience as well and I’ve been really impressed with her coachability and the way that she’s starting to apply that to her game.
“I look forward to her continuing to build this season and then with Bec and Nikita firing giving that experience with Nat back now, we’re in a pretty good spot.”
Black’s coaching career, at least in a non-playing sense, couldn’t have started better back in 2017 with Perry Lakes losing just one game on the way to winning the championship.
That was never going to last and losing nine of the first 10 games in 2018 certainly brought her back to earth. While she didn’t want to have to go through that, she can see the benefits of it now both for her growth as a coach and the development of her team.
“I thought there was a lot of learning from our group last year with us starting 1-9 and especially for me as a coach,” Black said.
“I thought there were some things that I probably didn’t handle as well as I would have liked, and it made me reflect on the type of coach I want to be regardless of whether you are winning or losing.
“We came off a 21-1 season and winning the Grand Final to a 1-9 start the next year, and as a pretty new coach still there was a lot of learning for me especially with how to keep a group together within that.
“Then with what I’ve learned from that as well as the girls going through that, we’ve been able to refocus and redevelop a brand for the team that we have now.
“Whilst you never want to go through an experience like that, it was also an important process for a lot of us and now we aren’t in a position desperate for Nat to get back so we can get some wins.
“That’s also good for Nat because the pressure isn’t as mounted on her so she can come back to relax and enjoy playing, and slotting into a group that is starting to gel now rather than relying on her to solve everything. It’s going to help us grow in a lot of ways.”
On top of the way Cherry is settling into the SBL and now with Burton back alongside experienced pair Benson and Martin, Gabby O’Sullivan is now finding form again for Perry Lakes after her AFLW season at Fremantle and Sarah Donovan is settling back in nicely after taking 2018 off.
“Then you also have Gabby finding her feet more and her energy and enthusiasm is fantastic around the group. Sticks has also had a year off where she went to the country and you wouldn’t believe that she hasn’t played basketball for a year,” Black said.
“She didn’t play at all last year because she went to Kalgoorlie on her third year medicine prac, she’s a doctor. So she is coming from working at Fiona Stanley and other top WA hospitals being a fourth year doctor to come to training and games to do what she’s doing for us on the basketball court.
“I think the second half of the season is going to be really exciting for us but I’m also really proud of what we’ve done in the first half to put ourselves in a much stronger position than we were in last year.”
You might have noticed that Deanna Smith is now Deanna Black as well following her marriage to Willetton Tigers head coach Stephen Black over Easter this year.
While a honeymoon during SBL season might have been difficult and finding too much time together is a challenge for two teaches and head coaches, Black couldn’t be happier with the way the wedding went and how married life is going so far.
“It was a really special time for us and I am grateful to have been able to share it with our family and close friends,” Black said.
“For us, married life isn’t too different to what it was before. We high-five each other on Tuesday and Thursdays and then get around each other on game day when we can.
“We try to make some time away from basketball to enjoy each other’s company but it was a whirlwind of a time around the wedding with family and friends coming from interstate. But over that Easter, it was important to get some time to enjoy us.
“The biggest difference now is being called Black opposed to Smith and the kids at school calling me Mrs. I used to align Mrs with being an old person which apparently I am now and I do still find that funny so it will take some time to get used to being called Mrs. Black.
“But I just feel really lucky to find someone like Stephen who has that similar passion and commitment not just to basketball, but so many other areas of life that to share the same values and dreams with. I’m really looking forward to what the future holds for us.”