Continuing our attempt to highlight OUR coaches in Louisiana we caught up Coach Thomatis from Mt. Carmel. Coach Thomatis is a great role model for OUR girls as she played and coached division I college basketball before coming back to New Orleans and winning a state championship in her first year at Mt. Carmel. Many know the challenges of coaching in high school but Coach Thomatis takes that a step further as she's recognized as one of the best coaches in both high school and AAU basketball.
Your team had another successful season 20+ wins and finished state runner up. Building off that great season your brining back your entire roster as you had no seniors can you talk about the momentum your team has going into the 2020-21 season?
This team has had a very familiar core over the years. They have grown through failures and successes along the way and as they matured to upperclassmen, they have been really stubborn about how they want things done. They don’t want to cut corners, they value a healthy culture, and most importantly they genuinely enjoy each other. So, as you mentioned, we are excited about and confident to enter the 20-21 season with a momentum that seems to be on our side. We just pray that with these trying times and the interruption of our typical year (little to no summer ball) we can pick up soon where we left off in March; maybe just a little more rested.
Not many high school coaches wear both hats coaching high school and AAU can you talk about some benefits and challenges of doing both at such a high level?
The obvious challenge is the time commitment. The turnaround is quick between high school ball and AAU and it just doesn’t allow much personal time. But I tell you what, there is no doubt in my mind that it’s worth it. I wholeheartedly believe that our winters reap the benefits of our summers. Allowing our girls to play together year-round at a high level has been key to our growth from season to season.
Your team has been recognized as one of the top teams in Division I. What do you feel are the reasons for your team's success?
The girls’ commitment to our goals and each other has been integral, it makes them so coachable. I honestly believe this 19-20 team has been the most coachable team of my career. The leadership and buy in with this group is incredible from the top to the bottom, players to coaches. We also have a ton of support from the Mount Carmel administration and community. The girls’ hard work and commitment is appreciated and valued by so many around us and it’s showcased daily.
What led you to choose teaching and coaching as your profession? Who are some mentors that have help you become the coach you are today?
As a young adult coming out of a somewhat successful playing career in college, I thought I was done with basketball. I started a journey towards building a family and becoming a college professor. But you know the saying…man plans and God laughs. Around April or May of 2005 (just before Katrina), I got a call to come back to Louisiana as a teacher and assistant coach at my alma mater, Ursuline. Even with the chaotic season, It took little time for me to realize that basketball is a large part of my identity, a part of my DNA. I haven’t looked back since.
The beauty of this career is that every coach impacts lives in some way. I have been fortunate to be touched by so many and have learned something from each person I’ve shared a sideline with as both player and coach. But my 2 most influential mentors have been my high school volleyball coach, Marta Bott, and my AAU coach, Alan Frey. Not only was Coach Bott impactful to the teenaged me exploring a sport I had never played, she made that fateful call in 2005 that brought me back home to Ursuline. That call, along with her selfless guidance in the years to follow, opened a world of opportunity for my career. Coach Frey coached me for 7 summers on the court and then put me on his sideline for 3. A lot of my career opportunities, philosophies and drills come from my time with him. I am proud to be from his coaching tree and blessed to call him friend.
Do you have any advice to a younger coach in terms of what makes a good coach?
Always be willing to evolve and stay flexible (within reason). Lean on your philosophies and core values unwaveringly, but remember that the game and generations of players to come are always evolving. Become familiar with what works for your kids and go from there, taking some of your old and creating something new that fits your program’s culture or your head coach’s needs. I wholeheartedly believe in core values. The game is bigger than a round ball and a modern peach basket; character matters and whatever core values you believe will benefit your players inside the lines, will do the same outside the lines. And lastly, I heard a very successful (now SEC head) coach at a WBCA roundtable say something that has stuck with me as a women’s basketball coach…boys feel better when they play better, but girls play better when they feel better. It is a must to mature relationships with your girls and for them to trust you and your intentions.
I ask this question to all the coaches I interview. What do you feel are some ways that Louisiana can improve the girls basketball moving forward? What do you feel really works and made you glad to be a coach in Louisiana?
Having a platform like LGR, is a great start for our girls! Exposure is a must for a small state like Louisiana.
I am so grateful for the history of Louisiana basketball that allows me to stay connected to so many from my past while cultivating new relationships with the future. Hopefully as we move forward, current players, who will eventually become future coaches, feel the same sense of pride to stay connected to this incredible community.
What would you like to see implemented to assist young girls develop prior to high school? What are things middle school kids need to know or should be working on to prepare for the high school level?
Outside of sharpening BASIC fundamental skills, I wish kids would watch more basketball. You can never be too young to study the game and sharpen your basketball IQ. Before the quarantine, technology had probably been more of a distraction. Hopefully over the past few months, players have learned to take advantage of the many resources at their fingertips. Also, play more pick-up! I grew up playing neighborhood boys at the park or even in the driveway (I tell my kids all the time…THE DRIVEWAY COUNTS). It just seems to help with instinct and learning how to get it done. 1 on 1, 2 on 2, 3 on 3 – you can’t hide and it forces your hand to FIO (figure it out).
What are things that can take us (Louisiana girls basketball) to another level?
A national platform that spotlights our girls is huge, so again, thanks to LGR for seeing a need and filling a void. Other than that, I just think the more growth that is done cohesively as a basketball community rather than solely by individual program or trainer or coach, the higher the trajectory for our girls. Healthy working relationships are vital; we are all working towards the same goals.
What is something you hope your kids carry on with them throughout their lives after leaving your program?
I cast a wide net in lessons I try to teach my players. My prayer is that something from my program sticks with them as they transition into adulthood as strong, independent women.
Anything else you would like to add.
Thanks for the opportunity to share and for always working to unite the Louisiana girls’ basketball community.