Doner steps in as new girls’ basketball head coach

By Jason Yoffe
Published: December 2008

Sam Doner, the new girls’ basketball coach, joined South’s athletic department this year. Doner has an inspiring past as well as a unique coaching style. “Doner has been very successful in guiding, building and leading teams, South athletic director Scott Perrin said.

Coach Doner uses a philosophy called “playing free, in which each individual plays based on their own abilities and strengths. He encourages his players to react, instead of worrying about making mistakes. “Playing free will help you in more things in life than sports, Perrin said in refernce to this unique philosophy. Doner likes to tell his team, “If you think, you stink.

He also believes that if every player feels natural and worry-free on the court, they will be able to perform to their best abilities. Doner wants his team to run plays on offense, but gives his players the freedom to disregard them if there is someone else with an open shot.

Doner, born in Israel, grew up in Newton and attended Newton North High School. As a junior, Doner was diagnosed with Hodgkins disease. Due to his illness, he was unable to play basketball at North, but the 5-foot 8-inch point guard played for a year at Mount Ida College before transferring to Westfield State, due to his remission from cancer. “I beat it, but it took a while, Doner said. “It was an opportunity to see life differently. The coach uses his experience to motivate each player to work towards graduating with a basketball scholarship.

The Lions’ new coach spent three years as an assistant at Mount Ida College. He then worked at Medway High School, where he coached the girls’ basketball team for three seasons. Coach Doner frequently holds basketball clinics, including “To the Hoop, a co-ed clinic for players aged ten to 17.

Most of Doner’s coaching efforts have been directed towards Amateur Athletic Union (AAU), specifically the Massachusetts Wildcats and Bay State Jaguars. “He’s an amazing coach and trains a lot of kids in Newton, senior captain Sarah Bikofsky said. “He’s been able to make basketball a bigger sport.

For the first time in Jaguar history, Coach Doner took his team to the US Junior National Championships, where they finished in third place.

This season at South, Coach Doner does not plan to implement his own system, but prefers to coach based on what his players find comfortable. He wants his team to be able to make adjustments on both sides of the ball at any time during a game. “Just about every coach out there says ‘Ëœit’s my way or the highway’, Doner said of his unorthodox coaching style. “That’s not what the game is about. It should be about the kids having fun and enjoying themselves. This new basketball coach focuses on developing a solid defense, which is a vital aspect of any successful basketball team. Doner encourages his team to communicate with each other on a daily basis, on and off the court, in order to make his players feel comfortable talking about their in-game problems and frustrations.

He feels that it is important to have fun, despite the game’s outcome. To promote his ideas, he plays music during practices to keep the team relaxed but motivated. “He’s really into making practice fun, captain Samantha Tye said.

Coach Doner’s methods, combined with this year’s raw talent, will make the team a more competitive opponent in the DCL (Dual Conference League). “He has a lot of coaching experience, and we have our whole team returning [none of the seniors that graduated this spring were on the team]. It will be a really good combination, Tye stated about her team and new coach.

Doner though, insists that the team’s future success will be solely based on his players’ performance. “I am not the one on the court playing in the game, he said. “It’s up to the kids. If they believe in themselves and work hard, then they will develop into great players.

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