"This has to be the most epic, incredible women's Final Four in the history of ever"- Asst Coach Anderson's weekend at WBCA

Coach Anderson and her new best friend at the Final
Coach Anderson and her new best friend at the Final

First Year Women's Basketball Assistant Coach Sarah Anderson attended the Women's Basketball Coaches Association convention held last week in conjunction with the Final Four. She wrote about her experience there in Columbus.

My Final Four Experience

 
Thursday, March 29th/Friday, March 30th
Thursday started bright and early for me. It was a day of travel that started with an amazing 4:30am wake up call. BUT! All worth it because my trip was finally here :) 
 
Friday started off with none other than a workout. Anyone who knows me is very aware of my need to sweat. Maybe it's the lingering college athlete in me? I was able to find an Orange Theory fitness studio just a few miles from the hotel. I woke up early to catch a class before starting my day at the convention. 
 
My hotel is in an awesome location. Two blocks from the arena and connected to the convention center by a sky walk. The convention was huge with tons of different venues. Todd warned me ahead of time to try and avoid the booths and events only looking to sell you their products. I accidentally wound up at one to start off my day. After realizing where I was, I quickly made my escape and proceeded to find a map and look far more closely at the list of events for the day.
 
I grabbed a coffee (of course) and made my way to the main venue with the on-court events. By this time it was just about 11:00am. The on-court events were awesome. They had volunteers decked out in WBCA gear to demonstrate the presentations. Each segment was 30 minutes long. The first I walked in on was a game-like shooting drills. I jotted down a couple, but ultimately I was not a huge fan of this presentation.
 
Following this was a "BLOBS and SLOBS". I really enjoyed this presentation. The presenter was Denise Dillon from Drexel. Her systems were simple and efficient. Same set up with every play, simple counters based on how the defense sets up and how they defend screens. I took lots of notes at this one as I think we could definitely improve on our scoring efficiency and execution in these two categories.
 
There was a slight break and then an awesome presentation by the University of Oregon Head Coach, Kelly Graves of their half-court offensive schemes. He's a pretty amazing guy and sitting in the front row for his presentation was powerful. The stadium filled for his presentation. People were quiet, intently observing, and scribbling down as many notes as possible... I was one of them and also took some video of the overview at the end. His philosophy is to trust his team. He gives them the basics, teaches them the reads and techniques, gives them counters, and then lets them play, He said that he rarely stops practice during a drill as you can never do that in a game. He seemed like a total stand-up, good-hearted man. Not to mention he brought with him All-American 1st team Sabrina Ionescu. In person, she surprised the heck out of me. She is so young! While we all know this, it's eye opening to see what she is like face-to-face as she carries herself with such grace and maturity on the basketball court.
 
Following the presentation, I went to my hotel room for a few minutes to regroup and then took the short walk to Nationwide Arena. I was able to connect with the G.A. at Whitworth University and a few people she knew, so we grabbed dinner and then headed to the games!
The. Games.... WOW! There are no words for the electric atmosphere of the crowd and the excitement of BOTH of those basketball games. Many have been saying that this has been the best women's Final Four in history. I would have to agree. It is also the first time in history that both games went into overtime. If you didn't watch the games, watch the highlights. All I can say is, I was there!!! Absolutely incredible.
 
Saturday, March 31st
Today, I ate my words. No workout :( The events were more important! The first event I went to was titled "Focus: Inclusion". It was based upon the idea that every single person has their own story, upbringing, and views. We, as educators, have the responsibility to take all of these individuals, value them, and create a unit. The presentation was by Derek Greenfield. Derek made it an interactive presentation in which we did some pretty silly games as well as interacted with lots of different people.
 
There was a little break in the action before I went back to the on-court presentations. A couple more drill sessions were going when I first got there. 
 
I stumbled upon my favorite presentation of the convention. Like Kelly, it was a pretty packed house with all attention on Robyn Fralick, head coach at DII's Ashland University. Robyn led her team to a national championship this season. A couple of years ago, she implemented a pressure defense system. Everything she said, her poise, explanation, execution, reasoning, etc was powerful! She was inspiring. I took down as many notes as I possibly could and I am extremely excited to take it back to Todd and the rest of the Slugs.
 
One of the other events that I attended this afternoon was titled "The power of touch: Art of the High Five". You can ask any one of our players at UCSC what I was always saying to them after every drill, every huddle, every success... TOUCHES! I have always believed in the power of touch without having a reason, just based on my own experiences as a player and coach. The power of touch was presented by the assistant coach at Dayton, Ryan Gensler. He talked about the biological, emotional, and physical effects of touches and went into his own personal study and experience. He went on to relate everything back to culture, which is an issue that we have been addressing a lot at Santa Cruz. I loved his presentation. Absolutely loved it. I took his handouts and got a bunch of links that I am eager to show the team and our incoming freshman. It is going to be a huge point of emphasis in our up-coming season.
 
Sunday, April 1st
Happy Easter! I got back at it and kicked off my day with a workout. The events were limited today. There was a silly little easter egg hunt in the morning and then the main event was the amazing lunch including all participants of the convention and then the final focus group, "Focus: Forward". The event was to recognize a variety of coaches across all divisions and included a very intriguing panel. The panel was run by WBCA president Jennifer Rizzoti and featured Mark Emmert, NCAA president; Dan Gavitt, NCAA senior vice president of basketball; and Lynn Holzman, NCAA vice president of women's basketball. All three were very well spoken and it was interesting to hear their views on different issues. They spoke about a variety of issues including having Di, DII, and DIII Final Fours at the same venue on the same weekend, combining the men's and women's Final Fours to having them at the same venue on the same weekend, Supreme Court cases regarding gambling that will affect the venue sites, and keeping the concern with women's basketball parallel to that of men's. It was very eye-opening and Lynn Holzman was nothing short of inspiring. 
 
The game... the game.., THE GAME! This has to be the most epic, incredible women's Final Four in the history of ever. ND won on a buzzer beater, fade away 3. The same girl (Arike Ogunbowale) who hit the buzzer beater to beat UConn in the semi-finals. The game was unreal and I could not have asked for a better weekend of basketball. All I can say is, if you didn't watch them, you should take the time to do so. It will not disappoint. 
 
Monday, April 2nd
Another travel day heading back to the West Coast. I cannot thank UC Santa Cruz enough for sponsoring this amazing trip. The relationships, events, learning outcomes, atmosphere, and games were like nothing else I have experienced. I feel unbelievably lucky to have had the opportunity to journey out to Columbus for one heck of a Final Four Convention.