Inside IBC: Hayley Rigby

Hayley Rigby is in her second season as a National League head coach (Image: Pavel Kricka)

Over the course of the 2016/17 season, we’ll be bringing you a series of interviews with volunteers from around the club, shining a light on the various roles required to keep Ipswich Basketball running smoothly. This time, it’s the turn of Hayley Rigby, a longtime Ipswich Basketball player who has transitioned successfully to the sideline… How did you first get involved with Ipswich Basketball Club?

Hayley Rigby: I started playing basketball at my middle school even though I hated sport, they needed one extra player and I haven’t looked back since. At the time Ipswich was the nearest club for me and my middle school teacher sent me to the trials and I was successful – which was always a shock!!

In regards to coaching, I went to the academy and unfortunately ruptured my ACL around Christmas in my first year which meant it was unlikely I would play again whilst doing my A-levels. It’s safe to say I was the most miserable person around and Nick Drane wanted to keep me involved, so he introduced me to coaching and now that’s my priority.

IB: Tell us about your playing career, at Ipswich and beyond…

HR: I first joined the club for under-13s. After this I worked my way through the age groups and got to compete in the women’s leagues. The set-up wasn’t quite the same as it is now and trials for regionals were on an individual basis. I never made it past the club/Suffolk stage until I was in my first year of under-17s where I finally got picked for the East Region squad.

Just to be selected for the squad made me genuinely happy; however, when we went to the tournament, I had a really good shooting weekend – this didn’t happen often but nevertheless it got me selected for the first Under-17s England New Horizons camp. Although this was just a development age group, the experience I had was great, tiring but great, and it encouraged me to work harder and this was the main reason why I chose to go to the academy.

I got selected for the second year but the camp was just two weeks after I picked up my injury which meant I was unable to attend.

IB: What were the biggest lessons you learned as a player that you carry into your coaching?

HR: As a player we had to do a LOT of running and, even though I hated it, when we were being successful because of our fitness levels we understood why we ran and how it helped us be so much better than other teams. We also learnt that there were consequences to certain things and we did improve massively.

Another lesson was that although I like to think that I’m always right, the players are the most important part in their development and I don’t want to hinder that and it’s also a good way of getting to know the players.

IB: You’ve coached under-14s for a couple of seasons now. What do you enjoy most about working with younger players?

HR: The main reason why I like coaching the younger age group is because it is their first experience of national league and although we have always had an age group before under-14s it has only been a regional league where they’re lucky to have more than three games in a season. You also get to see their development over the course of the season and see them transition from training to games.

Last season I took a team who were all the right age group apart from three and they were a lot more advanced with regards to team play whereas this year the squad is nearly all a year young, so the experience levels are completely different which makes it even more exciting to see the development from this season to next.

IB: How does it feel to coach your own team in those first few games, go through the first pre-season together, and so on?

HR: The feelings have varied between the teams, last season I knew the girls as I had assisted the team beforehand and so I was confident with knowing exactly what skills needed to be improved and also knew the players’ strengths. However, this season I did not know the girls at all and getting to know what skills they needed to develop was one thing but getting to know them individually was a different challenge – especially as the squad size is around 24 and that’s a lot of players to get to know at one time.

Coaching in the first games of both seasons was quite scary, I was so nervous not knowing what to expect from the girls or the opposition or even the uncertainty of how the players will respond throughout the game. The uncertainty was similar this season as the majority of them are a year young and did not have much experience with regards to team play. For me, I just started questioning if I had covered certain skills in enough detail to help get them through the game or even develop their skills further.

Another factor throughout the first few games is knowing when to call timeouts and who/when to sub. There’s a lot more to think about when coaching in games than I first realised. Throughout the season, it all becomes a lot easier, you learn from previous games and adapt to these changes accordingly. I hate losing but unfortunately I do not think that will get easier. I’m so miserable after a loss but I’m learning to move onto the next game and training sessions and although this is a skill that needs a LOT of work, it’s slowly getting better.

IB: As one of the youngest coaches at the club, and having moved straight from playing into coaching, what advice would you give to players at Academy age now who are thinking about coaching in the future?

HR: Try to get involved as much as they can. Initially the idea of coaching for me was awful, I never thought I would enjoy it or even stick at it, but (although it’s going to sound cliché) seeing the players improve and their confidence increase is really rewarding. To understand that point of view though, you just have to give coaching a go. The younger players look up to the older players so any advice the players are given they just naturally take it on board, so even just sitting on the sideline, telling a player something and see them try to execute it is amazing and I think this helps sparks an interest in coaching.

Last bit of advice: take all your experiences as a player into coaching, especially as you learn generally what are ‘boring’ drills or where people would try and cheat drills or the running (my pet hate). Previous experience is a great foundation and you know a lot more than you probably realise.