Tara VanDerveer talks team building at Rotary event


Stanford women's head basketball coach Tara VanDerveer shared tips on building a winning team at a Rotary Club of Menlo Park networking event at the Galata Bistro restaurant on Santa Cruz Avenue in downtown Menlo Park on Sept. 16.

A Menlo Park resident, Ms. VanDerveer knows something about winning. She coached the Stanford women's basketball team to two national championships and coached the 1996 Olympic women's basketball team to a gold medal in Atlanta.

Her first coaching experience taught her about the challenges of dealing with the parents of players. In this case it was her own mother. Ms. VanDerveer coached her younger sister's high school basketball team, and her mother would cajole her to give her sister more playing time. "But Mom, Marie can't shoot," VanDerveer remembers saying. "But she's so nice," her mother replied.

In her talk at the Rotary Club event, Ms. VanDerveer offered five tips for building a winning team.

Start with yourself, she said. "Be somebody you're excited about."

Next, surround yourself with positive, upbeat, fun people.

Third, be sure you know your stuff. Don't be afraid to watch and emulate your competitors' successes. Figure out how to maximize your team's strengths and minimize their weaknesses.

Fourth, embrace a positive culture on your team. "Be the kind of coach you'd want to play for. Or be the kind of boss you'd want to work for," she said.

Finally, she encouraged the guests, many of whom are involved in local businesses, to be good mentors.

Ms. VanDerveer, who has lived in Menlo Park since 1985, said she loves living there, citing its proximity to Stanford, its bike paths, and its farmers' market. "I love the people I meet," she said.

She first lived in the Willows and now resides in Sharon Heights.

She enjoys, too, she said, the impact that the Stanford's women's basketball team has had in the community. When she is around town, girls sometimes approach her to tell her they went to the Stanford basketball camp. Others congratulate her on recent wins or tell her what she should have done differently.

Mostly, she said, she appreciates that the athletes she coaches are good role models for the children in the community who come to watch the games.

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