March 30, 2013 11:29:33 PM
STARKVILLE -- Together Everyone Achieves More.
Glenn Schmidt has used countless phrases, sayings, and motivational tactics in 30-plus years of coaching basketball. But none of the words Schmidt has used sums up the 2012-13 Starkville Academy girls basketball team better than the acronym T.E.A.M. It may be cliché, but the Lady Volunteers epitomized team play in every facet of the game. On some night, Starkville Academy dazzled with its unselfishness. On others, like in the Mississippi Association of Independent Schools overall state title game against Presbyterian Christian, the Starkville Academy players flexed their defensive muscle and displayed an uncanny knack for helping their teammates en route to a performance that helped them cap a second undefeated run to three consecutive championships.
On the sidelines, Schmidt rarely raised her voice. She didn't yell at officials and she remained positive even in the most challenging of circumstances. And when her players left her "speechless" after completing the third of three titles earlier this month, Schmidt still had plenty to say about a team that was one of the state's best this season.
"I had a ball," said Schmidt, The Dispatch's All-Area Girls Basketball Coach of the Year. "I really believed in them. There were a couple of times when we would get behind or go to trap, which was a deviation of what we did, and I did it because I felt like they would do a better job in that at that moment. I really didn't feel pressure until it was all over and I just realized what we did. I didn't want them to feel pressure. I never worried about losing. It never ever crossed my mind, and it doesn't. When the game starts, it is what can we do next and what can we do now."
"A goal is a dream with a deadline."
-- a saying on a framed poster of a basketball goal that is on the wall in coach Glenn Schmidt's office
Schmidt could have been a lawyer. That was her plan early on in high school until her junior year when she started thinking about coaching. At the time, there weren't many female coaches leading teams in any sports, but Schmidt had a passion for basketball that made it easy for her to opt not to go into law. Learning the game from coaches like Jerry Henderson and Ed Nixon made it easier for Schmidt to go with her heart at Mississippi College in Clinton, where she played basketball, volleyball, and softball.
"I guess I was called to coach," Schmidt said. "All I thought about was playing college basketball and being around high school coaches and college coach all the time, the opportunity it presented became overwhelming, so I felt I couldn't do anything else but that. ... I think I knew all along that is what I would do. It is what I wanted to do."
The move seemed like a natural one for Schmidt because she said coaches were the "heroes" of children and teenagers when she was in school. She said parents would threaten to take their kids to "see the coach" if they didn't act right. These days, Schmidt doesn't berate players or harp on mistakes made during games. Instead, she uses her practices as the laboratory to help her players develop their skills. If she is "intense" in that setting, it is only because she wants to do everything she can to help kids improve every facet of their game. Schmidt, 58, joked that her age and her philosophy enable her to call herself "old school" in how she operates.
"When something is over with, I look back at what we did and ask, 'What can we do different and how is it going to affect us?' " Schmidt said. "If I have a strength it is teaching the game. I love practice. To me, my lifetime dream when I quit coaching is to be able to be a seventh-grade coach and to teach practice every day. I love the teaching of the skill and trying to find out the weakness of a player and find out how to make it better. Nowadays that isn't cool. What kids want to do is what they do well, what they get praise for. To take an offensive-minded player like Anna Lea Little, who walked into the gym the spring of her ninth-grade year, and tell her, 'Hey, you're going to have to play defense', that is a challenge for me."
"Do all the good you can, in all the ways you can, to all the people you can, as long as ever you can."
-- a saying by John Wesley (1703-1799) that is on the door to coach Glenn Schmidt's office
Tiffany Huddleston was in middle school when she first played for Schmidt. The senior guard, who will go on to play soccer at Mississippi State University in the fall, used to be one of the program's primary scoring options when she was younger. As players matured and transferred into the program, Huddleston, who took a year off from basketball before returning to the sport as a junior, moved into a complementary role and blossomed. The freedom Schmidt gave her enabled her to use her instincts on defense and her quickness on offense to create shots for herself or her teammates.
"She reminds me a lot of Pat Summitt," Huddleston said of Schmidt, who was a member of the United States' 1974 World University Games team with Summitt, the longtime women's basketball coach at the University of Tennessee. "She reminds me of her because she is very well known, she is very well respected, she has been around the game for 30-something years."
Huddleston smiles when she talks about her memories of Schmidt getting mad. She also smiles when she recalls the team being tested about a Bible verse Schmidt had written down in the team locker room and asked the players to take to heart. She said a player would have to run into the locker room to look up what Schmidt wrote. All of the lessons helped prepare the team for the ups and downs of a long season, even one that they pulled off without a loss.
"It was a neat thing to walk in and to have (that saying) in the back of your mind for a week of practices and games," Huddleston said.
"Opportunity. You always will miss 100 percent of the shots you don't take."
-- a saying on a framed poster of a basketball goal with three windows on the walls of the gym that is on the wall in coach Glenn Schmidt's office
Maggie Proffitt admitted she had heard stories Schmidt was "crazy" and "yelled a lot."
As a transfer from Columbus High School, Proffitt had enough to worry about when it came to fitting in with a group of new teammates. She didn't need the drama that accompanied having a coach who was on you all of the time.
But Proffitt quickly discovered Schmidt wasn't like advertised. Thanks to the time in the summer she spent working with Schmidt and the Lady Volunteers, Proffitt built a comfort level in her new home weeks before the start off the regular season and discovered a perfect fit in Schmidt's system.. None of the stressors Proffitt had been told about never materialized in the Lady Volunteers' 43-0 run.
"I love playing for her because I love the discipline aspect of it," Proffitt said. "I guess she is a players' coach, but in a way she wasn't. There weren't any favorites, and we knew we could come to her if we needed anything. I think I leaned a lot and improved my fundamentals. I just enjoyed it."
Proffitt paced the team in scoring with 17.5 points per game. The transfer from Columbus High fit in so well with her new teammates because all of them bought into the team concept and the unselfishness Schmidt stressed. "Once we started playing, not only did we trust in ourselves, but we trusted her, and I think she trusted us, too," Proffitt said. "She would just tell us to keep playing our shots when shots weren't falling and that they would go in, or to get the ball to the post. I don't think we ever worried about it, and I don't think she did, either."
"If you fail to plan, you can plan to fail."
-- written on the dry-erase board in the Starkville Academy girls basketball team's locker room area
Molding a group of five talented starters into one team could have been difficult. But Schmidt avoided that potential dilemma by promoting a simple concept: take the best shot. It didn't matter who took the shot, make the extra pass to a teammate who has a better look that you. Sometimes that teammate would make a cut down the lane out of half-court motion offense. The next time down the court, the Lady Volunteers might have to go inside-out or outside in to find a weakness in the defense. The leading scorers changed on a nightly basis, as Proffitt, Little, and Carroll provided perimeter scoring threats and Richardson anchored the paint with a variety of twists and turns and fakes. Huddleston did her part to orchestrate the machinations with deft ballhandling and an unselfishness that was ideal at point guard.
To Schmidt's credit, though, all five starters shared a point guard's mentality because all of them were willing to make the extra pass because they trusted each other.
"My job was to get them to take what the defense gave us," Schmidt said. "I didn't have to work hard at it because they wanted to win so badly that it all came so easily to them. Nobody came into my office and said, 'So and so is shooting too much.' "
It's also to Schmidt's credit that she credited her players for their hard work and commitment through every step of the journey this season. In winning her third state championship (two at Starkville Academy, one at Starkville High), Schmidt also showed her coaching acumen and her ability to do something that is special: Her players played hard, they listened, and they stayed together.
Maybe the secret for Schmidt's success comes from the fact she said she was raised a "happy child." She said was taught a simple lesson growing up: If you're not happy doing what you're doing, go find something else to do. It didn't take her long to discover basketball was a special part of her life that made her feel like nothing else.
Maybe the secret for Schmidt's success is filed away in her paperwork along with a plan for a practice back in 1988 when she was at Starkville High. If that message is tucked away with all of Schmidt's drills and training schedules, it just goes to show some lessons never get old, especially when they're taught by a steady hand in a positive manner.
"I don't think I am intimidating," Schmidt said. "People think I am. I am loud. I won't let you go until you get it. If you're not going to do it or you're not going at it right, I am on you. It is done with affection.
"I believe the less I coach during a game the better it is going to be. I believe that with all of my heart. I coach hard in practice and the players coach themselves in practice, so when the game comes the player doesn't have to think as much and reacts so she doesn't have to think about what she is going to do. ... I don't want to take away from the players' innate basketball ability and their basketball sense."
Adam Minichino is the Sports Editor for The Commercial Dispatch.