2018 was a transition year for the Powerade Frankston Blues, but difficult nonetheless.
In the final season of the now defunct SEABL, the Blues won only two games and finished dead last.
Sure, late arrivals and injuries derailed any chance the team had of success, but underlying the team’s on-court challenges was a distinct lack of talent and depth. It was always going to be a challenge. While there is no doubting that the Blues program still needed a huge amount of work if it was to turn around its fortunes in 2019, with the addition of Steph Reid and import Shereesha Richards, the foundations had been laid by outgoing head coach Simon Mitchell.
Enter Jess May.
May’s influence on the Blues on and off court success in 2019 has been nothing short of exceptional. The first year senior head coach had her work cut out for her, but she has left no stone unturned in her quest to not only lift the program, but to demand excellence from it. With a full roster now at her disposal, the Blues have won two straight and have already registered 4 wins for the season – a marked improvement on 2018. With 7 rounds and 9 games remaining, the Blues have every opportunity to make a run at what many would consider an unlikely playoff berth.
While the Frankston faithful see May as their head coach, she is much more than that. By day, May is a grade 3 primary school teacher working in Doncaster East, and she regards that job as one of her biggest challenges.
“The start to this year was a real juggle,” explained May. “Coming off the Under 18 nationals in April – there was a lot of preparation involved. The girls [Vic Metro] were training each Saturday and then playing a practice game on the Sunday. While it was a great experience and we came away with the gold medal, it did mean that for the NBL1 team, I had to defer to my assistant coaches when I was unavailable.”
May has been involved with the Victorian state Under 18 team for the past two years, and it has reaped benefits not just through earning gold medal success, but also in developing her coaching skills and greater network of connections.
“Being involved with the state team the past two years has been an amazing experience, added May. “I’ve learned a lot and built some good relationships, some great connections.
“Reece [Potter] has been a wonderful mentor for me. He has coached at SEABL level before, and the biggest influence on me and my coaching has been with scouting and how to prepare a team from scratch. Needless to say that has proven to be extremely helpful this season.
“NBL1 is at a completely different level. You need to not only prepare your team, but scout other sides and prepare for them. Reece is so good at that and it is an area I have definitely improved on.
May explained that while she is balancing full time work, NBL1 coaching commitments and her involvement in the State Development Program (SDP), she would like to continue to be involved with the Under 18 Victorian Metro side moving forward.
“I do want to keep going, keep doing it,” added May. “It has been a terrific experience, and I’d like to keep helping the talent coming through, but also building further connections with the girls.”
One of the connections May refers to is Erin Riley, a player for whom she formed a strong bond with during her time at state and throughout the 2017/18 VJBL season with Bulleen. With May needing to add talent and depth to her roster, it was a no-brainer for both parties when the Bulleen Boomers junior signed with the team to make the transition to senior basketball.
“She literally plays like a veteran,” enthused May. “Her body is strong enough to make an immediate impact and she has done just that. We have a young playing group and she fits in well.”
May’s growing involvement with Frankston extends beyond the senior program too, taking on the role of Under 16-21 girls Coordinator.
“The Under 16-21 Coordinator role oversees the girls all the way from Under 16 through to Under 21,” May explained. “I am only just starting to get my head around it all. There are so many players to become familiar with.”
During the week, May arrives at school to prepare for her grade 3 students early, at 7:30am. But on Tuesdays, before the morning bell rings, she heads to the State Basketball Centre for the SDP and in the evening she heads to Frankston. When training is completed, and the video review sessions are over, it is back in the car for the drive home to Knox where she currently lives. A quick bite to eat and it is back to basketball. Watching video, analysing the opposition and preparing for the next game. On the weekend, it is basketball, basketball, and more basketball. That’s the life May has chosen, and she would not change a thing.
If Frankston is to continue its on court resurgence, it is dedicated coaching professionals like May who will be at the forefront of that success.