Liz Mills, the first woman to coach a men’s national basketball team, keeps breaking down gender boundaries in the sport.
Coaches frequently on the court and start focusing on the game as soon as they enter. Male coaches, for instance, examine matchups, lineups, and methods. For Mills, though, she must consider each and every detail, even her wardrobe.
“When I went to Mozambique, they said: ‘You can’t wear the boots. You’ve got to take them off because you look too feminine,'” Mills recounted.
She said she entered the court despite the encounter and shrugged off the committee’s requirements.
“I’m very proud to be a woman. But don’t you forget about it, but I’m here to coach. And that’s what I want people to talk about: the coaching.”
A journey for Mills
A fan of the Women’s National Basketball League, Mills grew up watching it in Australia. Mills, though, became motivated by the coaches on the sidelines as opposed to many others who drew inspiration from players.
“I always say that seeing coaches like Carrie Graf and Jan Sterling, these were head coaches of women’s teams in the 90s and early 2000s. So,I think that put the idea in my head that I’m not going to be a great player, but I could be a great coach. I saw these strong, successful, intelligent women winning the league. If they can do it, I can do it,” she said.
She could never have imagined achieving the milestone she has now. Mills had ambitions of entering the world of women’s basketball. However, she is currently a pioneer in men’s basketball, so it appears fate has bigger plans for her. Mills is the first woman to lead a men’s national team. She adds that although men predominate the scene, sport is gender-neutral.
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Fate favored Mills
She began instructing both boys and girls in basketball in Australia. But a colleague persuaded her to see a men’s basketball team when she traveled to assist in Zambia. Passionate about the game, Mills attempted to speak with the team’s manager in an endeavor that would shortly further her coaching career.
“I go up to one of the players and ask, ‘Do you have a club president or anything here?’ And he introduced me to the club president. He worked for the World Bank, Maziko Phiri, and was very open-minded, so we had a chat, and he said, ‘OK, you can have an hour of practice,'” she recalled.
Mills eventually took charge as the head coach of Heroes Play United. She oversaw a number of groups for over ten years, including clubs in Rwanda and Zambia. Following her acquisition of a coaching position with the Kenyan men’s national team, her career began transitioning onto a larger platform.
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A successful run with Kenya
Throughout the qualifying games for AfroBasket 2021, Mills assisted the Kenyan National Team. Tylor Ongwae, the squad’s forward, scored a buzzer-beater during a tight game against Angola to help the team advance in the competition. Sadly, they were defeated by South Sudan in the round of 16. Nevertheless, despite the defeat, Mill’s leadership inspired the Kenyan squad to a triumph they had been striving for throughout its whole history.
Following Kenya, Mills considered North African teams before settling on a position with the AS Sale. She makes history by being the first woman to oversee a team in the Basketball Africa League (BAL).
Photo Credit: Pape Emir/Basketball Africa League
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