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Atlanta Hawks Basketball Academy hosts free clinic for local youth coaches at State Farm Arena

Atlanta Dream head coach Nicki Collen speaking at this year's Atlanta Hawks Coaches Clinic. Photo courtesy of Kyle Hess

“The biggest thing I can share is that [basketball] is all about helping others,” Lloyd Pierce said during his speech at Tuesday’s Atlanta Hawks Coaches Clinic.

Pierce simply, yet so elegantly summed up what the event at State Farm Arena meant. Sandwiched between a pair of home games, the coach spoke for nearly an hour. 

“The way you really grow in any profession is by helping other people and trying to make other people better,” Paul Biancardi, ESPN’s National Recruiting Director for Boys High School Basketball said. “That makes you better at the same time and I think that was his message.”

The event, hosted by the Atlanta Hawks Basketball Academy, was free of charge for local youth coaches. 356 attended. 

“Training our youth coaches [is very important],” Hawks Vice President of Basketball Development Jon Babul said. “That’s the health of our game and that’s where we want to invest as an organization.” 

Following Pierce’s discussion, which included a lengthy question and answer segment, those in attendance learned some fundamental drills.

Hawks assistant coaches Matt Hill and Nate Babcock kicked off the transition into proper player development. The two showcased offensive drills, highlighting key plays, such as the dribble handoff. 

Don Showalter of USA Basketball, and Nicki Collen, the head coach of the Atlanta Dream, followed. Showalter focused on the basics, including teamwork.

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“The best teams you play against are the best passing teams,” Showalter said during his segment.

Collen, who won the WNBA’s Coach of the Year award in 2018, shared numerous drills geared towards man-to-man defensive schemes.   

For the Indiana-native, Tuesday’s event meant so much more than just instruction. The decline in girls playing basketball motivates her to share her voice and perspectives.

“We’ve seen an incredibly steep decline in the number of girls playing basketball at a young age,” she said. “So, any way that I can connect to the community and get coaches to care about our youth and get them playing basketball … it’s this grassroots approach.”   

To wrap things off, Biancardi discussed the art of communication. He stressed the importance of proper instruction to the new generation of players on the floor.

“Practice shouting the praise and whispering the criticism,” he said during his talk. 

For the former Horizon League Coach of the Year, the relationships coaches build with their players off the court is vital.

“The more things you do [together] off the court, the better your relationship will be on the court,” he said, challenging the coaches to be a major part of their players’ lives.