“The culture and leadership is important, but the key to our success is skill and player development. We’re good because of the way we play.”
Head Girls Basketball Coach
Pinewood High School
California Division V
State Champions 1999, 2005, 2006, 2010
State Runner Up 2009
WillofaChampion: What is your purpose, mission, or vision for your student-athletes?
Coach Scheppler: That our team stand for what is right; that we’re a model for the best of what we want to stand for. Last year we had a T-shirt with an acronym for Panthers. Panthers are our mascot and we want to define and represent what that means. So we made the acronym: PANTHERS: Passion, Acknowledgement of each other, No fear of making a mistake, Trusting each other, Honest with one another, Ethic for working hard, Relentlessness as a competitor, Selflessness in that we play for each other. I want the girls to truly feel that when they’re practicing or playing in a game; that they embody those traits. Not only within our routine of basketball but also in how they are after basketball is over.
Last year we had Mapquest maps of Arco Arena that specified what roads to turn onto and the direction, but on the map all roads led to Arco arena which was the site of the State Championship game. One of the girls had a shirt with that mission, “This is where we want to go.” That year we made that goal, we didn’t win the state championship, but we made it there.
Another thing we’ve done is something I learned from Coach K (Duke Universities Head Boys Basketball Coach Mike Kryzewski). A saying that states, “Working hard is fun because getting better is fun.” Having some time to spend with him at the Michael Jordon fantasy camp in 2000, he shared the story of Jason Williams who was in a motorcycle accident and was working-out in spring training. He loved working hard because he loved getting better. That became our theme one year. We love working hard because we love getting better.
During games when we break our huddle we say, “COMPETE” which stands for: Commit Our Maximum Personal Effort for Team Excellence.
In any situation, any year, a coach should have a focus for the team.
WillofaChampion: How did you create and/or maintain a culture of winning?
Coach Scheppler: The success that we’ve had has been carried down through our players. Our players set the tone for what it means to play here. They teach the younger players, “This is what we do.” Most kids coming in from eighth grade don’t really know what it means to work hard. So our older girls show and lead them.
We had a girl from another school tell her dad about the great feeling she had being around our team and experiencing its culture. The feeling of acceptance, love, and the attitude that “we’re just playing here, there is no attitude. We just play.” We want to embrace that attitude of working hard is fun. I want to embrace the attitude that if it isn’t fun, it isn’t worth doing.
I really try to impress on younger coaches that you have to create an environment where kids want to be there. A happy sweaty kid after an hour of practice is your goal as a coach. That is my goal after two hours. I want them looking forward to practice. I want them thinking that practice was great and I can’t wait until I come tomorrow. Now granted, there are the dog days of practice that no one enjoys, but we’re after an attitude of fun and accomplishment.
My philosophy in practice is I will not make the girls run extra unless they aren’t running hard in the drill. Our girls are very well conditioned because they perform every drill at full speed. They know if I yell for them to run the line, they need to get it together.
WillofaChampion: Do you do anything special to welcome or initiate young student-athletes (freshmen) into your program?
Coach Scheppler: I want those older girls to remember how they were treated. The freshmen don’t carry the equipment because they’re freshmen. Everyone is equal and needs to be embraced. They all work with each other, older girls with younger girls, to show the younger girls the way to approach things. That is part of our success as well.
One year we had a really good junior playing one-on-one against a freshman. The first day this junior played against a high quality freshman and kicked her butt. The score was like 30–6 in the time they played. The next time they competed the older girl took it easy. I pulled her aside and told her, “That is not how we do things here.” She (freshman) is going to measure herself against you. It is a kind thing, but it isn’t the loving thing. She needs to know that you’re better than she is and she is going to measure herself against you. Also, how will you get better if you don’t go all out all the time?” The result was the freshman got exponentially better and the junior got better as well. So they both raised the bar of being a proficient athlete.
We’ve been accused in the past of pouring it on other teams. I want the kids to play every play and play every game to get better. People got offended. We’re not an “in-your-face” type of team, the press and score, press and score, type. But we play hard the whole game. One year we won a game 90–12. This rational guy came and told me that our girls were great. They didn’t play like it was 90-12. At times in my career we’ve been on the other-side of those battles, and you find positive things to build on. Whether you win a possession, you don’t let them score, or we score.
17 years ago I coached boys. Our second game we were down 42-2 at the half. That team went 3-19. But they are my favorite team of all-time because they gave their heart, everything they had, every possession. They had a great attitude, and the next year they went 20-5. What did they learn? That first season they were losing because they weren’t as good as the other team. That is okay, but it isn’t okay to accept, if you have pride in what you do. Having pride is tied into my philosophy after 34 years of coaching. You have to get better every-day, every-minute.
WillofaChampion: What other things do you do to develop basketball skills in your players?
Coach Scheppler: Skill development is huge in our program. The ability to play the game, to break it down into ball skills, foot skills, sight skills, putting players in small situations of play where they learn to make good decisions. We develop a practice so girls get about 50 shots, 50 decisions, making sure they are allotted situations to develop as a player. Every girl gets to develop as a basketball player, not a role player. Defining roles on our team means a situation where you’re doing the right thing at the right time, and then you’re playing the role.
When you think of a complete basketball player, that is what we want, to equip girls with the ability to play a complete game. It is important to be fun to play with. I told a boy once that he wasn’t fun to play with because he made all the decisions about who shoots, who passes, etc. We want to play with others who make good decisions and do the right thing at the right time. So we work hard to develop our players ability regardless of whether they are tall or not. Every player needs to do all the aspects of the game: shoot, drive, pass, handle the ball, and make decisions with the ball. That has tied in with our success. Teams have a hard time matching up with us because all of our girls can shoot well. Everyone on our team can bring the ball up the court. Now some do it better than others, and you have to decide when to use those roles.
My high school coach was a great preparation type coach. But he told one of our players that he didn’t want him to shoot; that we have other players on our team that are better shooters. I thought I will never do that as a coach. I will never constrict someone’s ability to play the game. I won’t ever tell someone not to shoot the ball. I will tell them who the best shooters are based on our drills and how many three-pointers someone makes. I will do things like offer kids suckers for making 10 three-pointers in one-minute. So if one of our girls is going to the dentist a lot she must be shooting well. Everyone on our team knows who the best shooters are based on what we do.
Skill development is really important. Every-day we work on skills for 45 minutes. Then we try them in two on two, three on three, so they are learning to play. If we play some team with better athletes, then we make adjustments to help us win. That ties into why we are successful. The culture and leadership is important, but the key to our success is skill and player development. We’re good because of the way we play. Part of it is the culture, but it is the way we play. In the state championship game the other team was: 6’3, 6’1, 5’11, 5’9, and 5’7. Our team was 5’1, 5’4, 5’6, 5’8, and 5’10. We beat them by 20 points. Why did we beat them with all their athletic attributes? It is the way we play. They had to take away all our outside 3’s. So we got to the rim and made lay-ups. When they helped on drives, we got our 3’s. If we shoot decently, which we did in the state championship game, we’re going to be successful. It helps us combat other teams that may be more athletic. We can beat teams with division 1 quality athletes because of how we play. We’ve faced teams that will have parents tell us they wish their daughter played for Pinewood. One in particular was a coach of another team and he is a great coach. But he wanted his daughter on our team, because he wanted her around our culture of love, respect, and acceptance.
WillofaChampion: How do you instill physical and mental discipline in your athletes?
Coach Scheppler: Good question. It seems that our sports society is going in a direction where girls aren’t afforded the responsibility of self direction. Some of these girls haven’t learned the joy of working hard when no one is watching them. One goal I have for some of the girls is for them to embrace and love being self-directed; for me to not have to say to them to get on the court and start practice.
The themes we come up with each year help us achieve the physical and mental discipline by challenging the girls to live up to those expectations. Sometimes we try visuals such as comparing sponges and rocks. A sponge takes everything; a rock gives it back to you. Another theme is a question, “Are you going to be a slug or an ant. An ant is a worker, a slug just sits there.” I use the saying, “We move along as quickly as we can like the Flintstones bus.” How does the Flintstones bus move around Bedrock? All people on the bus are moving it forward with their feet. When you have dead weight, it isn’t moving the bus forward, it is holding people back. So what do you do with that dead weight? You throw it off.
WillofaChampion: What do you expect or require from the captains or leaders of your team?
Coach Scheppler: That is another quality we really need in today’s society; especially for young people to be able to organize themselves to play a game. As a PE teacher (Physical Education) I have to organize everything for students. Too many kids have let their parents do so much of the organizing that they don’t know how to do it. The art and joy of playing a pick-up game just isn’t there. When kids pick teams they stack one team. Our captains have done a nice job because they know we expect them to lead well. They get the team ready for practice and games. We even have them organize “Put-ups”. After a practice each girl is responsible for giving someone a compliment on how they practiced that day. The captains play a great role. In my 15 years we’ve had great captains that have done a great job leading our program.
Leadership style is determined by things like personality. But other aspects, like getting a player to be vocal, is more the development aspect and is very important.
My philosophy of developing a ball player is foot skills, ball skills, and combined skills. You develop their ability to be successful. I want practice to focus on letting them play so they can experiment with their skills and develop them for the team rather than trying to force them to fit a certain mold or type of player.
WillofaChampion: How do you “invest” in the adolescents and children that may join your program?
Coach Scheppler: I do two camps in the first part of summer. But everyone has a camp now. The greatest advertisement for our team is our girls. Parents see our girls and really believe their daughter would be fortunate to be with us.
When I was a boy transitioning from a two hand shooter to a more correct style, I had a personal coach that worked with me and taught me how to shoot. I worked for hours in my back-yard on shooting. Today, I work individually with kids all over the area that want one-on-one instruction to help them get better. Kids enjoy learning and working with me and I’ve developed a good reputation that way.
What I want is for my team to be an attraction to those that want to play basketball. To be an attraction by the way I treat the girls and how they respect me, and the how they respect one another and play together.
Interview: August, 2010