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Coaches Corner: Karen Burton

For the latest WEABL Coaches Corner, we sit down with Barking Abbey Head Coach Karen Burton.

How did you first get into coaching? Did you used to play, if so for who/at what level?
I got thrown into coaching when our Division 1 team ended up with no coach so I took on the role as player coach for two years until I got injured and then just coached the team.

I played for Nottingham Wildcats in Division 1 women’s from the age of 17 until I stopped playing, I played 15 years and was at the same club for 30 years until I moved to Barking abbey where I am now in my fifth year.

Ironically, I made the England U15 and U17 squads and got deselected by Mark (Clark) for the U19s as it was at the time, and now I am his assistant coach for the women’s programme.

How was your transition into coaching? What were the biggest difficulties at first?
Tough! Everything I knew was from a player’s perspective so I got very involved in the games, I was one of those who couldn’t sit still and played every play from the side line. One of the difficulties was having to learn from scratch in terms of planning and so forth.

What is your biggest career coaching achievement to date?
Has to be being the first to achieve promotion with the England U16 girls. I had said three years before it would take me a couple of years with that talented age group to do it, but no matter what happens after I always have that. I have to remind people occasionally! Also being the longest serving junior National team coach, with 7 years.

What is the best/worst part of your job?
Working with the people I work with, being supported and given the confidence in my ability to move forward, being able to bounce ideas around and learn from Mark, Lloyd (Gardner) and James (Vear).

Seeing kids underachieve and a few of them not realising the opportunity they have at Barking until it’s too late.

Who have been the biggest influences on your coaching career and why/what did they teach you?
When I was at Nottingham Wildcats, Chris and Pauline Prior guided me when I first started coaching. They helped me with the transition from player, to player coach, to coach, and without them leading me down that path I wouldn’t be where I am now.

For the last 5 years I have been guided by Mark Clark, working as his assistant to the WBBL team, and taking over the WEABL team. His knowledge of the game is unlimited so everyday is a learning experience.

Lloyd Gardner challenged me not only with my coaching but with my personality. I take a lot of things personally and that has an affect on my coaching, however, since being at Barking you are challenged as a coach – and that’s how it should be – on the development of players, on the performances of teams, not wins and losses. It’s great to bounce ideas off James as well.

What is your coaching philosophy?
That’s a tough question, I am still relatively new in terms of coaching even though it seems I have been around forever. I believe my teams have a defensive emphasis. I try to stay away from set offences and prefer to teach players options instead of rules. I don’t have a lot of time for players who believe they are God’s gift and know everything. I am 46 and i am still learning every day and the day I don’t is the day I stop coaching.

And finally, what advice would you have for young aspiring players?
That basketball and education go hand in hand, you have to take care of both, be as dedicated as you are on the court in the classroom and don’t try to keep others down so you can step up.