It is a valuable lesson that I learned from coaching Temeka Johnson, now with the Phoenix Mercury. Make no mistake, Meek was a great leader for us during practice and games and an extension of the coaching staff — but it was the leadership she gave us the other 21 hours during the day — or during the off-season when we couldn’t be around.
Her senior year, she took the team’s four freshman out to dinner the night before our first official practice and told them what to expect from practice. She told them about each coach, her teammates, the structure of our practices and what they needed to do to succeed. She made sure that maximum effort was given in the weight room and during pick up games in the summer. She constantly spoke to the younger players of “the Lady Tiger Way,” of handling everything from basketball, to academics, to conducting themselves in the proper way.
She was a guiding force for all of our players during her career — on and off the court and what she did in terms of leading our team when the coaches weren’t around was a major ignition in a run that lead to five consecutive Final Fours.
Today, Temeka continues to “lead” by having her own foundation, the HOPE Foundation in which she gives back to the community. You can learn more at: http://www.meekshope.org/. You can also follow Meek via Twitter at: http://twitter.com/Quickdeuce.
“We had a good spring, but I don’t think the true team chemistry really surfaces until the summertime. The coaches are always with the guys in spring practice. In the summer, the coaches aren’t there as much. That’s when the true leadership starts to emerge. You start to see the core buy-in that everybody has in terms of how they go about what they do. They have to work with the strength and conditioning coaches. For the first time, the responsibility becomes theirs instead of somebody making them do it. That’s where the true chemistry (develops); you see what the team might be.”