By Robin Pingeton
As head coach of the Missouri women’s basketball team, my job is to put my players in the best position to succeed. That means I’m always preparing for the next game day.
Preparation starts with my staff. All of my assistants play a role in scouting and breaking down the strengths and weaknesses of our opponents. Before tipoff, we know the other team’s personnel just about as well as we know our own. Based on tendencies, for example, we can generally predict if a player is going to go to her right or to her left. We know where she’s most comfortable shooting the 3. And we understand what defensive sets confuse her.
How do we gain so much knowledge? It’s a lot of late nights. It’s a lot of film-watching. It’s a lot of numbers-crunching.
Basketball’s a numbers game. There’s a lot of math involved. We look at shooting percentages from spots all over the court. We look at turnover numbers. We count passes. We look at free-throw percentages. If a certain opponent is apt to throw up a brick, we’re going to try to put her on the line come crunch time.
Meanwhile, we spend even more time fine-tuning the fundamentals of our own team. You can never have enough practice shooting, dribbling, passing, rebounding, guarding and being in tip-top condition. This is a demanding sport and we work hard to be both physically and mentally tough. This team is made up of gritty, powerful, intense and strong young women. They give maximum effort every minute they’re on the court and I think our fans appreciate it.
I’m an old-school coach. I spend a lot of time taking notes. I take notes about all that film we watch. I take notes about what I see in person. I take notes about all those numbers we crunch. I take notes with motivational thoughts. I write it all down on paper. And I rewrite it.
About an hour before each game, I go to the locker room and write the refined version of all those notes on the board to cover with the team. It’s filled with keys to both our offensive and defensive game plans and things that we must be mindful of.
I avoid watching the team’s pre-game warmup. I joke that I don’t want to see anything that might frustrate me, so I usually hang back in the locker room and take a deep breath. Then, right before the game, the team will come back in and watch a highlight video set to some good music to get them pumped up. After that, the staff and I will go over things one last time and say something motivational.
When we go through that tunnel at Mizzou Arena, it’s a special feeling to hear the roar of thousands of fans who really serve as our sixth woman. When I came here 8 years ago, we were lucky to have only a few hundred fans in the crowd. This community has really embraced what we’re doing and they’re a big reason for our success.
Together – the coaches, the players, the students, the fans – we’re one big family. And we’re all committed to seeing our players not only succeed on the court, but in life. With all of its highs, lows, hard knocks and graceful moments, basketball is great for preparing these young women for the next phases of their lives.
We’ve got something special here at Missouri, and we’re looking forward to making some magical moments this March.
Let’s go, Tigers!
Robin Pingeton is head coach of the Missouri women’s basketball team. In 2017, she was named the SEC Coach of the Year.
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