We talked to Mike Pravisani. He coaches the Black Star Women Team. During his career as a player Mike was with the Ettelbruck and Larochette clubs. As a coach, he started in Kehlen and is now Black Star’s women coach for the second season.

Mike, you are the coach of the Black Star Mersch women team. You have had a very convincing start to the season, 9 wins out of 11 games. What is your analysis? Is this in line with the expectations you had at the beginning of the season?

Mike Pravisani

I knew from the beginning that this team has a huge potential, that’s why I set myself ambitious goals. It’s a great snapshot when you look at our current 3rd place in the league. We have managed to put ourselves in a position where we have the possibility to qualify for the play-offs.

It’s also a difficult season considering covid-19, there are unforeseen circumstances, you have to deal with it. But I am satisfied when I see the evolution of the young players.

What’s next for the season? What is the goal? How much more improvement is needed to get there?

My primary goal was to turn this group of good individual players into a group that works as a team, both on and off the field. I’m glad it worked quickly (because the players have the right mentality). You can see it on the pitch, where the players value each other, where there is a collegial atmosphere, where everyone gives it all for the team.

Black Star Women’s Team 2021-2022

In addition, we played the cup quarter finals against Basket Esch. This gave us the desire to measure ourselves against teams that have several professional players in their ranks. Our goal is to finish 1st or 2nd in our group and qualify for the play-offs.

To achieve this goal, it is essential that all the players are present at training. This will allow us to keep the intensity of our gameplay and our current level. Because the real important games are coming up now. We all have a fighting mentality at the moment, which will bring us closer to our goal.

How do you react when you see that during a match, things are not going well at all, that your players are not in good spirits? How do you work on the motivation of your team?

It depends. There are situations where the girls give everything on the court, but the easiest shots don’t land in the basket, they don’t do it on purpose of course. In these cases, criticism is not very useful. Instead, you have to boost their mentality, make sure that the players believe in themselves and that the ball will eventually go in. But there are other situations, where two or three players on the pitch give 100% while others are at 75% or less. In these cases, we have to be harder, wake up the players, motivate them, make them understand that it’s impossible to win like this.

In Action

If I see that for one player or another, things are not going well, I try to clarify in individual talks. I try to make them feel better, to believe in it. Sometimes, in terms of motivation, I send them individual messages before the games, with instructions for the match. That works.

As for the rest, I don’t want to tell too much, you don’t want to give away all your secrets. 🙂

The Black Star has a lot of female players in the very young categories, but there are none in the Scolaires and Cadet categories. What should a club like Black Star do to have girls’ teams in all age categories?

This phenomenon has been going on for years, not only in basketball, but also in other sports like volleyball and handball. When I talk to colleagues in these sports, I see that they have the same problems. And this is not only the case in Mersch, but it is true for all teams, even the big teams.

More Action on the court

As unfortunate as it is, basketball is not as popular as it was a few years ago. One of the reasons is that on TV you hardly ever see Basketball anymore. It’s all about football. This is also the reason why so many young people join football. Football clubs have no problem recruiting new players.

I don’t have a magic recipe against losing young players over time. The exchange between parents and players is important. This would help to keep a number of young players. I would also like to see that all players up to a certain age are obliged to play the same number of minutes during a game. Because you can’t tell at the age of 12 whether a player will be a very good player one day. A 12-year-old has years ahead of him and there are enough examples of great players who were not among the best when they were younger. And then, within a year or two, they have made huge progress and grown up to be stars.

Then another thing I don’t like is, how some coaches or even parents shout and yell at the players during games. Sometimes it feels like a golden calf and it’s not very productive. Many young players lose the joy of playing. And once the joy is gone, there is no way back and the youngster ends up quitting basketball.

Mike, tell us about yourself at the end. How did you get into basketball, what is your career in this sport, your greatest achievement? How did you become a coach and what are your future goals?

Mike on the court

I started playing basketball at the age of 4, at the Babybasket in Ettelbruck. I played for 26 years, at the age of 30 I had to stop because my Achilles tendon could not take it anymore. I played for the senior team of Ettelbruck at that time. It wasn’t always easy because I didn’t always get a lot of playing time. But I was happy to play against the best players in the country and I learned a lot during that time.

My best season by far was the last one, which I played in Larochette. We started the season as clear underdogs and ended up qualifying for the play-offs. It was a feat nobody expected.

After I was forced to stop playing due to injury, I didn’t set foot in a basketball hall for two or three years. It was too hard to watch others continue to play. Three or four years ago, just before the start of the season, I got a call from a player from Kehlen, who asked me if I could picture myself as a coach. I did a trial training session and the club ended up hiring me as a coach. That’s how the adventure of coaching a women’s team started for me. And from that team, there are still 3 or 4 girls who play in the Black Star team today.

Thank you for this interview and the opportunity to get to know you better !