WHEN people mention or talk about the best female basketballers of this or any generation, the name Niamh Dwyer must be very high on the top of any list.
As a player she is one of the greatest basketball players of this era. She has done it all both on and off the court.
As a player her CV is incredible, from playing Division 1 college basketball in America to playing as a professional in three different countries.
However, she is now making a name for herself as a coach, and she is heading in the right direction to being just as successful.
Niamh played all her underage basketball at Thurles, before heading Stateside to play in the NAIA with McKendree College in Lebanon, Illinois, for a year, and then play she played four years in the NCAA at Monmouth College New Jersey.
She went on to play professionally at Teo Vilinus Lithuania, SK Cesis Latvia before coming back to Ireland to play with Glanmire BC. After a very successful stint at Glanmire Niamh got the bug to play professionally again, and signed for London side Barking Abbey for a season.
On her return, she lined out with Glanmire again before she transferred to Fr Mathew’s four years ago to finish out her playing career last season.
Dwyer started coaching ten years ago when she was playing with Glanmire, and it started new chapter of her career.
“When I returned from playing in Europe I joined Glanmire and I was asked to help out with coaching the under 18 team at time,” Niamh said.
“I also began studying in UCC at that time and I did some coaching in schools and a bit of refereeing.
“I went back to college in UCC to get my Postgraduate Degree in Education to become a qualified teacher, so I guess coaching and teaching naturally overlap and I enjoy them both.
“Up to now over my 10 years of coaching I have been mostly involved with underage, until I came to Fr Mathew’s and started engaging at senior level.
"I suppose I always tend to look back to my own underage coaches for guidance and think how they coached, in particular Martin Hehir, my coach for three years in Pres Thurles, and Ger Tarrent, the U18 and U20 international coach.
“The two of them have different approaches but what I took for both of them was their knowledge, drive and passion for the sport and for the teams they were coaching.
“They really installed a belief in players and had the basketball know how to help those squads to be successful.
“Later on I had Sasa Punoevac as my coach on the Ireland senior women’s team and he brought a different dimension to coaching.
“Sasas’ attention to the little details and how he broke down every movement in the sport was fascinating to me and brought my knowledge of basketball up a level again.”
Niamh has some core beliefs and a strong philosophy of the she wants all her team to play, and she uses all her playing experience to try implement these values.
“My core beliefs if I were to really think about it are that good teams and good players build their basketball foundation on hard work.
“I like my teams playing good, physical, positional, committed defence and spacing and ball movement on offence is very important to me and how I teach the game.
“I think the game in Ireland has evolved and I think I have too. When playing in the States we had a lot of set plays, but again we had the training time to implement and do them.
“When I came back originally I would believe in that structure but now I’m moving more toward principles on offence more so than sets.”
Niamh had a glorious International playing career, playing with various Irish programs from Under 16 right up to senior level.
Last season she got the opportunity to cut her teeth into international stage.
“Last summer I was coach to the U18 3x3 Girls National team.
“I really enjoyed the experience and learned a lot from it. I would like to go back to coaching at international level again but I have a lot experience to gain before then but it is something I would be open too.”
Dwyer decided to take a review of her coaching while she is in lockdown with Covid-19.
“Ya, this lockdown is crazy but I have had to time to check out some of the webinars fusion basketball, Paul Kelleher, had arranged with various coaches and players in BI.
“I missed out on a lot of them but I have the link to catch up. The webinars I did manage to catch I picked up one or two things I feel I can use going forward.
“I also have been researching some courses I had signed up for but they have to be rescheduled now because of Covid-19. I think one of my strengths as a coach would be is that as a player I have been so lucky to have so many different coaches at various levels.
“I have taken something from every one of them to increase my knowledge of the game that will help in my coaching career. I think they are many areas I can work on but at the moment I am interested in the Strength and Conditioning side of sport.
“I think that’s an area that can help improve practice sessions and performance levels for the players I’m coaching.”
She is very motivated and passionate which shows when she is coaching. However, her greatest skill as a coach is her player-management. She coaches all her players, not the stars, to express themselves.
“Goals moving forward I hope to build on what I have helped implement at Fr Mathew’s there has been so much work completed in the last few years on and off the court by so many people it’s been I really good to be a part of that process.
“I hope to continue to improve as a coach expanding and implementing new ideas and knowledge.
“This year was strange for me not playing and just coaching; before I always viewed myself as a player that coached.
“I think the transition was eased for me because I felt I was ready to retire from playing and due to the fact I was so heavily involved in the coaching process at National League level in Fr Mathew’s over the previous three years it made it an easier transition for me to become a coach only."