Olympian's message to young athletes: Find your niche
By Greg Bach
As a young player Tammy Sutton-Brown learned a valuable secret for staying on the floor, where at the advanced levels of play performance dictates minutes.
And it came from a legend.
“I played for a great Hall of Fame coach in Vivian Stringer at Rutgers University and I remember she would always preach during games to do what you’re good at and that practices are for working on your weaknesses,” Sutton-Brown said. “Rebounding and blocking shots were the things I was great at. I could score, but those other things were the dirty work type stuff that no one likes to do but it kept me on the court.”
Did it ever.
“Scoring is the stat that everybody looks at but at the end of the day we know that that’s not the only thing that’s going to get the job done,” said Sutton-Brown, who played for Team Canada in the 2000 Summer Olympics. “So, you have people who have found their niche and have realized that ‘wait a second, you know what? If I’m a good rebounder I can probably make a team and stay on the court.’”
That’s exactly what she did throughout her career. She led Rutgers to its first Final Four appearance and later flourished in the WNBA, becoming just the fifth player in league history to score more than 3,000 points, grab more than 2,000 rebounds and block more than 400 shots.
THE POWER OF PRACTICE
Born and raised in Ontario, Canada, Sutton-Brown participated in a lot of practices throughout her athletic journey, and the ones that stand out years later are those that featured competitive elements.
“I think the one thing that a lot of athletes have in common is that we are very competitive,” she says. “Just thinking back to some of my practices, whether it was in the WNBA, overseas or in college, those practices where you are competing three on three or four on four, those are the fun practices.”
It’s a terrific reminder that every time coaches get together with their young players it’s an opportunity to challenge them and help them elevate their level of play.
But it requires planning and utilizing the right types of drills that keep kids engaged and active throughout the session.
“So if coaches can implement different competitions throughout practice those are the fun practices,” she says. “Anything where you have a winner and a loser, those are the fun ones.”
Sutton-Brown is a big proponent of health, fitness and helping young athletes understand that the foods they choose to consume impact their ability to perform.
“What it all comes down to is the better shape you are in the better you will perform,” she says. “And for kids incorporating that healthy lifestyle will help them not only as an athlete but in the real world as well. So it’s important to target and let them know that the better shape they’re in the better they’ll play, the better they’ll be able to defend and the more energy they’ll have.”
And the more minutes they’ll be able to stay on the floor and compete at a high level.
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Add these tips to your coaching toolkit to help young athletes broaden their outlooks, enhance their emotional health, and compete with honor