Hi everybody, I’m Lina Brazaityte, former basketball player, now I’m working with girls and women in Lithuanian Basketball Federation.

How has your experience & background in basketball prepared you to work on women basketball & initiatives with girls?

The experience, the play experience helped me a lot. Because it helped me to understand what a player can feel in certain circumstances, situation and what is the reaction to the coaches. I have this experience to look at the situation from both sides – the coaches eyes and the player’s eyes. So I think it helps a lot in my job.

Could you tell a difference between girls’ and boys’ reaction towards what the coaches are instructing?

It is different. The girls are taking criticism every time more personally. The first reaction is “oh, the coach is attacking me”. The boy will say “the coach is attacking the player, not me”.  So with the girls, you have to take the time to explain that “I’m not attacking you personally, I’m attacking your mistake as a player”. 

Could you give numbers about women’s basketball? What are the numbers of boys vs. girls playing in Lithuania? 

Actually, the numbers are not nice, if we have nearly 400 teams in basketball school league in general, girls are only 70 teams.15% of girls teams. 

Basketball is a sports number 1 in Lithuania. However, from the statistics, it is currently mainly dominated by Boys/Men. Could you speak about programmes that Lithuanian Basketball Federation is conducting to integrate & attract more girls to the basketball court?

The male dominant sport became not so long time ago, because it’s very curious the fact that women were the first who started playing basketball in Lithuania, 2 years before the men, so the very beginning it was more women’s sport than men’s sport. Actually, we, the Basketball Federation of Lithuania, we are doing several projects that are unique – I mean they don’t have equivalents in men’s basketball. We created actually like a championship for the little category under 10. We have projects for under 12 girls, under 14 the same way. The main objective is to show to the girls that they can achieve doing this sport, this activity, they can achieve more than probably parents or teachers or all society expects and tells them.

What feedback do you get from girls on these initiatives?

Actually, I started to work in federation 4 years ago and I was thinking like only by the reputation, that the girls, they don’t want anything, they are not interested in basketball, they don’t care about competition. Okay, let’s try. The very first camp I did in summer, I saw so many girls with hunger, the hunger of competition of challenges, of knowledge. Exactly, the same way as the boys. SO this is really the opinion of the society, completely wrong and it’s not true, they need challenges, they need competition, they need to express themselves, exactly the same ways as boys.

What feedback do you get from parents?

I would like to say it’s 100% positive, but it will never be this way. It is not possible, you cannot be good to everybody. But the positive change, there is, I can observe it in a women’s basketball community. It became stronger, it became more positive, it became more open. And people, they trust now in our steps, in federation projects, and they support more their daughters, and they support more in this basketball way, competition way. And of course, there are different opinions and I really like when it is constructive. When the critique is constructive I take a lesson, I listen, I take a lesson. When it is not constructive – forget it.

Could you share some tips with other sports instructors on how to include girls in sports? What do the coaches have to pay the most attention to?

Actually, don’t try it.. the main mistake coaches are making is trying to treat girls differently. You are girl, I have to take care of you, I have to speak low, I have to be always nice, never criticize – it is wrong. Just be yourself, treat her like anybody else, and challenge her, push her, the girls they need that. And the rules, the strict rules, kids they like that, it’s kinda a game for them. With the rules, it’s easy to express yourself. And the main thing, don’t pretend to be someone else than you are, with the kids, it never works. 

What measures do you take when you see that someone is excluded from the group?

I had this kind of experience in my coaching career. First of all, I am trying to understand why what is the reason. This girl, excluded girl, is she mean like maybe she treats bad others, maybe she comes from a very complicated situation, familiar situation, maybe she is aggressive. So first of all, I want to talk with her. I want to know her and then just to help her to deal. Exclusion is nothing catastrophic, probably it’s not your problem. It can be a problem for the group. But when we are excluded, every time we think “I am bad. I am nothing. It’s my fault” – no, why? Maybe its the fault of the group? Maybe you are doing everything, right? So first of all, I am trying to understand the reasons, support the girl and then I talk to the group. It’s not the team way, it’s maybe gangway. You want to be a gang, let’s go, but not on the basketball court. On the basketball court, you are team, you are teammates. This is more than just friends.

What are the biggest lessons that you learnt by working with girls?

The main lesson is you are learning every time. You can never say – I know, I know something. Every time you deal with a girl in person, you have to learn with her. Because the approach is very individual. It’s teamwork, it’s okay, its a team, its 12, 16, 20 girls, but every time you deal with a person, so you have 20 persons. And every time you have to learn how to talk with that person. To find the way, how to talk, how to open that girl, how to make her trust you. So the main thing is just to be yourself and show an example. You can’t demand anything if you are not doing the same. So if I demand to be punctual, to have discipline, I have to be the same. If I demand to be proud, to trust yourself, I have to be the same. So be open, if you want people open to you.

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