CATCHING UP WITH OLYMPIC COACH ALLISON McNEILL

Canada Basketball was able to talk with Allison McNeill. After 14 years of coaching experience with Canada Basketball, Allison McNeill will finally get the chance to coach on the world's greatest stage, the Olympics. We asked Allison questions regarding the London Olympics, the SWNT, coaching advice and much more. 

Canada Basketball - What are your initial thoughts on the group Canada was placed in for the London Olympics? (Group B with Australia, Brazil, France, Great Britain and Russia). 

Allison McNeill - Tough Pool!  But this is the Olympics and it is the BEST of the BEST - it is supposed to be hard... if it wasn't hard then anyone could do it!  We will be ready to compete!

CB - What are the common characteristics of a world class athlete in women's basketball?

AM - There are so many... but a few that come to mind are:

·         Relentless
   Mentally tough
   Physically tough
   Competitive
   Experienced
   Fit
   Strong
   Talented

CB - What does it mean to a coach to represent Canada on the world's greatest stage?

AM - Like athletes, coaches are driven to coach the best players at the highest level... so needless to say our coaching staff is honoured to have the opportunity to coach the best women's basketball players in our country at the biggest sporting event in the World! We never take for granted the opportunity to represent CANADA!

CB - How hard is it to balance the player's mindset of taking in the experience at the London Games and to stay focus at the task at hand, especially with the basketball event being one of the longest events?

AM - Except for Teresa Gabriele this will be the first Olympics for everyone on our team.  But we have been to two World Championships, Pan Am Games and other big tournaments and we have some experience.  As a coach I want our athletes to perform their best and still enjoy being part of the games. 

We have always tried to balance out having an "experience" and being focused on our task at hand.  We have a very mature team and they will do a good job of balancing the "experience" with the job of playing our best basketball.

CB - When you look back to when you first became coach of the SWNT, what are the biggest differences you've seen since you started?

AM - I think the biggest thing is our approach to everything we are doing - it is much more high performance and professional. The athletes are staying with the team longer, we have a more experienced team, more of them are playing overseas and they train like world class athletes.

The success we have had at the Junior and Development level is also a big change in our program and we are starting to see those athletes come into the senior program. 

At the Senior level we have now qualified for back-to-back World Championships (2006, 2010) and now an Olympic Games (2012) We are consistently playing in the big events which we were not doing for many years.

CB - How do you describe the style of play the SWNT plays offensively and defensively?

We are a half-court execution team on offense.  We share the ball and we get the best shot for the team.  We control the tempo at the offensive end and we make teams have to guard us through the shot clock.  We use player movement and ball movement to get a good shot.  Our offense gives players a great deal of freedom to "read" their defender and the floor. 

Defensively we are an aggressive player to player team.  We put good pressure on the ball, we don't give up anything easy in transition and we are relentless.  Our team is very intelligent and can take a scouting report and make it work!

CB - How do you feel about the team heading into the London Olympics? What are the team's goals when you head to London?

AM - We all feel great!  The World Olympic Qualifying Tournament was great prep for us.  We got better in every game and played our best game under the most pressure to grab the last spot in the Olympics. 

Our goal is to play our best basketball - to WIN THE DAY!  This is exactly the challenge that our team wants and has trained for - we can't wait to play!

CB - What has been the best coaching advice you've received during your coaching tenure?

  • You can't please everyone so don't try to!  
  • Do what is right, not what is popular.
  • Tell players what they need to hear... not what they want to hear.  
  • People don't care how much you know until they know how much you care

CB - Who do you look up to for inspiration as a coach?

My biggest inspirations have always been my parents - they were two of the hardest working people I have ever known.  They also encouraged me to pursue my dreams... and always said that if I worked hard anything was possible. 

My high school coach - Joe Kupkee was a huge influence on me as a player and as a coach

Lisa Thomaidis, one of my assistant coaches, is another great source of support and is a big reason why this team is going to the Olympics.  She is a fabulous coach! 

My husband, Mike McNeill another assistant coach with the National Team, is a huge source of support and inspiration for me.  He too is an amazing coach and is another big reason this team is going to the Olympics!