Cape Town, South Africa (AP) – Liz Mills’ decision to look more professional when training basketball games by wearing high-heeled leather shoes instead of sneakers was considered a provocation.
To make sense of it, you must understand its surroundings.
Mills coaches men’s basketball. He has been in Africa for a decade, both at club and national level. The Australian is now the head coach of Kenya, the only woman in the world who currently leads the men’s national team.
He decided years ago that he could face that problem. If you want a woman in the room. And so are the shoes.
“I think it was a way to look more professional, but she was a way of reminding everyone that I’m a woman, ‘I’m not afraid of that, I want you to know that,'” Mills told the Associated Press. “I wanted to come in and be like, this is me, this is me.”
Some male officials tried to prevent him from wearing his shoes, claiming that he had caused damage to the court. Mills knew it was a lie.
“They were offended by my presence,” he said.
In a sense, the shoes were eventually designed. Mills has not had any problems recently. In fact, there was a commotion when Mills did not play a single game for them. They are now accepted, even hugged. Maybe so is Mills.
Last month, Mills led Kenya to a place in the African Championship for the first time since 1993. He did so by controlling the anxiety of selecting Angola, a record 11-time African champions, և Kenya has never beaten a team. She will go down in history as the first female head coach of the August tournament.
“Justification,” he said.
Mills arrived at the moment of progress. In December, San Antonio Spurs assistant coach Becky Hamon became the first woman to lead the current NBA team. Brigitte Affidehome Tonon broke the ban in Africa for some time as the head coach of the Benin Men’s team for a while.
Still, women who train men are rare.
For more than 10 years, Mills has seen it all, heard it all. Opposite players who asked their players why their “water girl” was calling a timeout. The other coaches whispered to each other as he surrounded them.
“There was always a speech. Who is the random chicken? ” Mills said.
In last month’s African Cup of Nations qualifier, she was fired by a female official just before the game.
“No, this is for the head coach,” Mills recalled. “I am the head coach,” Mills replied. A battle for the seat began.
However, despite all this push, Mills’s comprehensive history actually transcends gender. It is about facing challenges that any person, male or female, will find intimidating.
Mills started training in Sydney at the age of 16. He first created an opportunity for himself in Africa when he visited a visiting chair in 2011. Mills was inspired by the Men’s League game, approached the president of one of the clubs and asked if he could coach his team. He was 24 years old, he had never trained men.
“He said, ‘I will give you an hour.’ “I felt like this guy was crazy about doing this,” Mills said.
Turned month turned into the whole session և they asked Mills to stay. The team won the national championship that season.
One of his worst disappointments was the absence of the 2017 African Cup of Nations as an assistant coach for the national team. Shortly afterwards, he flew to Tunisia with his twin sister, Vicky, where major African teams played tournaments. He was looking for a new challenge with one of them.
Following the statistics he was collecting, he approached hotel pools, press conferences, team leaders, and wherever he found them. He returned to work as an assistant coach in Cameroon.
Kenya called late last year to ask Mills to head coach for the final African Championship qualifier. Mills flew from Australia to Kenya, where he spent two weeks training in early February while still returning to work in absentia.
His schedule included coaching during the day and then working overnight in Sydney. He slept about four hours a day.
Mills never got a contract with the coach, he almost emptied his own bank account to do so. He does not seem to mind.
What prevents people from succeeding if they do nothing? He will not forget that the Australian Basketball Federation did not stop helping him with a coaching certificate. Now they want to congratulate him.
“I’m really nervous about federations,” Mills said. “I think it is absolutely their fault that we do not see more female coaches. They do not encourage. “
One thing that has rarely happened in a fight is to beat your own players, although sometimes there have been awkward moments.
The players on one team were “really upset” when they heard Mills swearing for the first time. He swears “like a truck,” he admits. The players were confused about what to call him.
“Is it a lady?” He is a coach. “It’s Liz. They’re very nervous about it,” he said. “It’s easy, it’s coach or coach Liz. If someone calls me a lady, I’m like a 10’s to you. Never again. “
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