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Former Minnesota Golden Gophers Star Micaëlla Riché Shares Action Plan To Combat Racism

Micaëlla Riché | Basketball Operations Manager | Lay-Up Youth Basketball

These kids are the young George Floyd’s, the Breonna Taylor’s, and the Ahmaud Arbery’s. This has been a concrete action step that makes a change in our community RIGHT NOW, during these difficult times.

Micaëlla Riché

Basketball Operations Manager

Lay-Up Youth Basketball

× The interview with Micaëlla Riché was conducted via a typed conversation. Editing changes were made to make it easier to read while maintaining the voice of the interview.

Tell us about your role as the Basketball Operations Manager of the Lay-Up Youth Basketball.

My role is to manage everything involved in our summer and school year basketball programs. This includes tasks such as:

  1. Redesigning our on-court curriculum based on best-practices research.When deciding what drills and activities we’re doing, we place a large focus on making sure they’re developmentally appropriate based on skill level, and cognitive, physical, social, and emotional development. I also need to identity where and how are we promoting holistic development, with a focus on life skills and learnings that translate to life off the court. It’s really important that we make sure we’re providing opportunity for unstructured play or youth leadership and decision-making throughout our program too. This leads me to ensuring our programs are well-structured and our sessions well-run. When it comes to our people, we need take sure standards are set and that our coaches and players exceed these expectations. The same can be said of our equipment, inventory tracking, our drill bank, off-court partner database, the organization of our alumni program, exploration into league play, and a few other initiatives.
  2. Recruiting and hiring new coaches.My two main focuses right now are increasing diversity representation in our coaching staff; particularly women, and creating a more thorough interview process.
  3. Developing our coach training program.This part of my role is about identifying skills and knowledge gaps in our current coaches, and finding professional development resources such as workshops and certifications that would help shrink the gap. We also have to consider when onboarding what we need to provide for their professional development at the 1 month, 3 month, 6 month, 12-month marks. And lastly, this facet of my role includes developing our youth employment program.

Lay-Up is currently in the process of revamping our entire organization.

We just finished hiring a full time team, we are rebranding everything including our logo, website, and gear, we are developing big time partnerships and some great initiatives, and we are completely redesigning our on- and off-court curriculum.

As an organization our goal is to offer on-court development at the same level as a paid program, and to have all of our off-court programming be within the culture of basketball – fashion, music, technology, arts, etc!

I started this role in February, and since COVID happened in March, our team has been hard at work to develop a full virtual summer curriculum!

We have developed two 4-week sessions (July 6-31, August 3-28), that will accommodate 150 participants in each.

Just like school they have 5 days of programming: 2 days live skill sessions on Zoom, 1 day off-court activity on Zoom, and 2 days of challenges via Google Classroom to do at home on their own. Our programs has a 1:4-5 coach to participant ratio. The small groups emphasize intentional interaction. Each participant receives a branded Lay-Up gym bag with equipment for on and off-court activities such as yoga mats, journals, a basketball, jump ropes, and other great equipment!

Because of COVID-19, we haven’t had a lot of “typical” days since I started this role, but overall it includes a lot of basketball and youth development research, a lot of meetings and conversations with programming partners and my coaches, and a lot of creativity in how to best serve our youth in these changing times.

After 10 years of working in basketball as a player, coach, scout, and now in basketball operations, what is your favorite role that you’ve held in the basketball industry so far, and why?

That is such a hard question!

I love playing, and of course I miss it, but basketball has always been a vehicle for me – a way to tap into opportunity and resources to grow as a person and build my life. So I still play for fun, but playing NCAA/professionally was not my favourite role.

Coaching was extremely rewarding, and much more focused – I had one team of players, one group of coaches, and everything was focused on how to win games and improve as a unit. Since it was in a Power 5 conference, there were a lot of perks, but it was also very demanding. It necessitated constant availability and investment.

As a scout, it was really overwhelming trying to juggle so many different players and parents, coaches, programs etc. I enjoyed it because I was in a gym EVERY day, and the impact on young women’s lives was what motivated me the most. Showing girls that they can take this as far as they want, and planting that seed and that dream at a young age is so important. It has been proven to cause lower drop out rates from sport between grades 6-9, increased confidence, increase mental and physical health, and there are so many more lifelong and life changing benefits when girls are active!

In my current role, I am using what I’ve learned from every step in my journey, and I’m learning and teaching basketball from a whole new angle – as a vehicle to navigate and maximize on life! Every other job I’ve had, ball was life. In this one, ball is a tool for life, and that is something I’m so passionate about. I’m also extremely thankful for the opportunity to impact the youth in the community and provide resources and opportunity for a better life to the ones who “need it most”.

My favourite role that I’ve had in the basketball industry is my current one working with Lay-Up. Not only do I have an amazing team who I learn from every day, but I’ve been able to use my learnings and experience from my higher level/elite basketball coaching, and combine it with best practices for youth development, trauma informed coaching, and using the game as a transformative tool to change lives in the community.

Lay- Up recently announced that theScore has joined your organization as a programming partner. Tell us a little bit about how theScore and your other programming partners enrich your non-profit!

theScore will be working with us in a few different capacities, but most immediately they will be helping us with our coach training for this summer, and they will provide an off-court activity for our players. Our programming partners enrich our organization in many ways! Many contribute through engaging in relevant off-court activities, some through coach training support, some are investing in our girls only programming, others provide resources, knowledge, and professional development opportunities.

On our Instagram highlight, you can also see we had a shoe design contest with Mack House Inc. We used their coloring pages, and our winners got free Air Force 1’s and a home shoe design kit from Mack House!

Since 2013, Lay-Up has been running free leadership basketball programs in Toronto’s priority communities, giving equal opportunity to youth to develop as not just athletes but as people. How rewarding is it to know that you are and have been helping provide life-changing programs to Toronto’s youth?

This job has changed my life, especially in this time.

Our team created a full virtual summer curriculum for our youth to be able to do in their home. These kids are the young George Floyd’s, the Breonna Taylor’s, and the Ahmaud Arbery’s. This has been a concrete action step that makes a change in our community RIGHT NOW, during these difficult times. I’m proud to say that our registration filled up in about a week – 150 participants!

Not only are we providing the activities and curriculum free of charge, but there will be ZERO systemic barriers keeping kids from participating – we are providing laptops for those who did not have access to technology, the gym bag will fully equip every kid to participate and be engaged in all of programming, we are hiring minority coaches and working with black-owned businesses etc.

Beyond this summer and these immediate steps, Lay-Up is ensuring that every area of our organization and programming reflects that we stand against anti-Black racism and stand for anti-racism. See below for our statement:

Black Lives Matter.

On and off the court that is our commitment. We see and feel the pain. We see and feel the injustice here and abroad. There is a call to action and a call for change and we stand against anti-Black racism and stand for anti-racism.

Our work now is ensuring that every area of our organization and our programming reflects these values and is consistent in these actions.

To everyone in the Lay-Up community, we know that the game of basketball is a safe space and a sanctuary. We believe that the power of sport can be transformative, and our goal is that Lay-Up can be a part of the transformation we need through the game that brings us together.

As part of your role as operations manager, you have the responsibility of creating the drills and curriculum for the coaches to teach the athletes. Do you find it difficult to design lesson plans that have a good balance of skills development as well as personal development for the youth or do you find the balance comes somewhat naturally from the inherent lessons learned from basketball itself?

Personal development is built into basketball development – learning to be punctual, being attentive to detail, working as a team and to collaborate, communicate, and to learn to lead as well as follow are all REQUIRED in order to be a great basketball player.

The challenge in my role is training our coaches to recognize opportunity for these teachings live during the drills, and to communicate these life skills in an age and developmentally appropriate way for participants. They have to be able to do this while also having a trauma informed approach. I’m in a new management role, so I’m using my previous team captain and leadership experience, while continuing learning how to best support, challenge, and promote growth in the people I’m working with.

Stacey Leawood Stacey's Final Thoughts

Micaëlla Riché is new to management but a veteran in leadership. Micaëlla Riché alongside Lay Up Basketball are taking action to create a priceless impact in the community and in the lives of our youth. I have the upmost respect for her mission to use basketball as a vehicle to transform the lives of her athletes and her employees as well. Basketball has always been a universal language and therapy for athletes, fans, and staff all over the world and I’m so happy that she is able to provide that for my community. I hope her initiative encourages you to make a positive impact in your community too! After all, “Intelligence plus character, that is the goal of true education.” – Martin Luther King Jr.

Connect With Micaëlla Riché