Introducing the WBBL’s newest Head Coach, Lauren…
By Jamie Thomas
We’ve grown quite accustomed in recent years to young female
players taking their chances to shine in the WBBL and put themselves, their
teams and their communities on the map, and each time a player can rise to that
level, it is very special to watch.
To see a young female step into the role of WBBL Head Coach,
though, rightly gets people even more hyped up, which explains the explosion of
excitement that was heading towards Hertfordshire recently, as 26-year-old
Lauren Milligan was confirmed as Player-Head Coach for the Oaklands Wolves for
the 2021/22 season. We caught up with Lauren recently to find out more.
“I wasn’t quite ready to hang up the boots just yet, so it
is really a transition period for the programme. Our team is going to look a
lot different this year with a new direction and no clear idea of how it is all
going to turn out yet, but it is a process we’ve got to go through and I’m very
“When the news was put out there, I was so surprised by the
support. I must have had over 50 messages on Instagram, Twitter blew up and I
received a lot of other messages from coaches I’ve been on courses with saying
they’re so happy for me, so it is really nice to know that when it gets
challenging – because it definitely will – I have people in my corner who are
“It isn’t the norm to look at professional leagues and see
female Head Coaches, unfortunately, so that was in the back of my mind when I
was offered the opportunity, but I won’t back down from that challenge – I want
to rise to it, and for all the girls I coach to see it can be done.”
“I’d have been stupid to turn down such a brilliant opportunity.”
A very highly-regarded young coach, and part of Basketball
England’s Leadership and Performance Programme alongside a number of other WBBL
stars, Milligan has already proven her mettle as a play-caller in the Oaklands
Coaching in the WBBL will naturally be a significant step up
in terms of the challenges faced, especially with the Wolves star continuing to
play alongside her coaching duties, but she is very measured in her assessment
of the challenges that lay ahead and details why this was too good an
opportunity to turn down.
“Coaching-wise, obviously, it is my first year coaching at
this level, so I’m going to learn something new every day, but we’ve got a lot
of young players on our roster and we really want to help build them up and
give them an experience of what they need to do to get to their best level.
“A challenge with some of the young players will definitely
be adjusting to this level, because some of them have come from environments
where they haven’t been involved in a performance programme, if you like, and
might not have even seen the WBBL level at all, but we want to build an
environment for those young players to come and enjoy and have those growing
“It will be a challenge for me, because obviously I’m still
a player and I want to win, as does everybody else, so it is making sure that I
focus on the goal, keep everybody together, not have days or weeks where I’m
not feeling it, making sure I do everything right and practice what I preach,
but I’d have been stupid to turn down such a brilliant opportunity for me.”
“They’re going to be great leaders for a very young roster.”
Returning alongside Milligan to the playing roster will be
senior players Lizzy Harrison, Beth Sarson, Greeta Uprus and Merissa Quick,
providing a solid foundation of expertise at WBBL level for the club’s Academy
players to build and learn from.
Having been involved with the programme collectively for
some time, the new Head Coach feels she and her experienced teammates can help
instil the values that they’ve enjoyed so much themselves from their time with
the Wolves in the younger players they’ll be competing alongside this term.
“Oaklands for me has always been a place where the
environment is amazing. I’ve been on teams where I’ve made friends for life,
and those are positives and experiences I want to carry into coaching, where
the girls have fun playing, that’s the type of coach I want to be.
“We’ve got five senior players returning from last season
who have all been around the programme and know what we’re trying to build
here. They’re going to be great leaders for a very young roster and I do
believe that we can be competitive. When you’re young you’ve got nothing to
lose, you can play hard every night and have endless energy, and our seniors
add a nice blend.
“One of the things that teams do fail without having is that
family aspect and sense of doing it for each other, but we definitely have that
here and it is something we really want to build into everything we do and we
hope it can be a fun year for everyone.”
“Our only focus is on us, what we’re doing here, and our goals.”
As a rookie Head Coach, Milligan is right to say that nobody
is realistically expecting her team to win a title in her debut season on the
touchline, but what are the expectations for the club in that case, then? The
26-year-old offers a very mature and open response.
“Success can be defined in so many ways, of course, but for
us we just want to stay positive. It is a year where we’re all going through
different things, we don’t know how the league position is going to shape up,
but our only focus is on us, what we’re doing here, and on our goals.
“To look back at the end of the season and to have seen the
growth of the young players is what will define success for me, not so much how
many wins and losses are on a sheet of paper. That will change throughout my
career, but for me success will be seeing the girls enjoying playing hard
against some of the best talent in Britain.
“Everybody wants to win, I think we can be competitive, and
we will aim to beat anybody we come up against, no matter who they are. You
could come up against a team having a really bad day when we’re having the best
day of our lives, but we’re not naïve, we know we have a lot to do to get to
where we want to be, but when we get there it is going to look good.”