Life as a youth sports coach is hectic, rewarding

Berran honored by NBA for her service

Carrie Berran

One day last week Carrie Berran was walking the red carpet at a nationally televised awards show, mingling with some of the best athletes ever to play basketball. A few days later she had a much lower-profile role as a parent chaperone for her daughter’s volleyball team, which was playing in a tournament in Minneapolis.

In Berran’s life as a mother and youth sports coach, there’s a lot more of the latter than the former. But she said she wouldn’t have it any other way. The Eagan resident won the inaugural NBA Jr. Coach of the Year Award, which she received at the NBA Awards Show June 26 in New York City.

The recent basketball president of Eagan Athletic Association and a seventh-grade girls traveling team coach, Berran was cited for her positive impact on young athletes. The NBA saw to it that it would be an unforgettable experience.

“They had the show at Basketball City in New York,” Berran said. “Shaq was there, and Charles Barkley, David Robinson, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and others. Everybody was so nice, asking to take pictures with everybody. Drake did such a good job as the host.

“Then we’re on the runway, and there are three different groups of photographers. They’re all saying, ‘Hey, Carrie, look here.’ I kind of had to keep pinching myself. I mean, I’m a mom and a basketball coach.”

Each NBA team nominated a youth coach from its market for the award. Berran said she knows the family of a player she coached who put her on the Minnesota Timberwolves’ radar and is grateful for the support. She was the only woman among the eight finalists for the national award. The winner was selected by a panel of judges that included former NBA player Dell Curry and former WNBA player Jennifer Azzi. Fan voting by social media also was part of the process.

The EAA will receive funding, equipment and apparel from the NBA. EAA has not held a board meeting since Berran received the award, and she said the association has just started talking about how the gifts would be used. She also will receive training from the Positive Coaching Alliance – a group she supports, having already gone to four PCA seminars.

Berran’s coaching career started in the 1990s while she was a student at Centennial High School. She then played Division I basketball at LaSalle University. Berran and her husband have four children ranging in age from 7 to 15. And she works as a human resources professional.

“With our kids, we’ve made a point of trying to expose them to multiple sports,” Berran said. “You have to be really good at scheduling to make sure all the kids get where they’re supposed to be. Family, neighbors – we get help from everybody. It takes a village, definitely.”

She said she’s concerned about athletes concentrating on one sport too early. “I’m not a big proponent of specialization for young kids,” she said. “If you play multiple sports for as long as you can, I think you’re less likely to have burnout. On my daughter’s seventh-grade team last season, we had only one girl who played basketball exclusively. The other eight played at least one other sport.”

Berran just completed her term as EAA basketball president. She will be on the board as a past president and expects to return to the sideline as a traveling team coach next season. She said she is intrigued by the possibility of coaching a high school team someday.

“I’ve really enjoyed coaching middle school-age kids, so coaching a high school team is definitely something I’d look at,” she said.

Her coaching style is big on positive reinforcement. She recalled a traveling team game last season where her daughter’s team needed a last-second three-pointer to force overtime, the Eagan team got the ball to an open player, who missed the shot, but the team got the rebound and passed to another player, who made the shot. The team eventually won in overtime. Berran said she made certain to tell the player who missed the first shot that she had done exactly what she was supposed to do in that situation; the shot just didn’t fall.

One thing Berran still would like to accomplish is getting more women involved in coaching. That’s difficult, with many mothers also holding full-time jobs. But Berran is proof that it can be done.

She said she tries to plant the coaching seed early with the children who play on her teams.

“In my huddles, the players are allowed to talk,” she said. “I want them to tell us what they’re seeing on the court. And I like telling them, ‘You know, that’s a really good observation. You would make a good coach someday.’ ”