“I hate winter,” says Will Green. “But I’ve never been more excited for winter than I am right now.”
Green will be spending this long, upcoming winter as a first-year varsity coach for the Madison La Follette girls’ basketball team and he couldn’t be happier about getting to share the experience and wisdom of his life passion – basketball.
“Basketball completely changed my life. Basketball helped me when I had low self-esteem and low self-confidence. Once I got good at that game, I exuded confidence because I had mastered a skill,” Green says. “I was good at it. I got positive feedback from it and it really fueled me.
Growing up on the mean streets of Gary, Indiana, known as the “murder capital of the United States,” Green saw plenty of his friends getting in trouble. He had the potential to head down that path, too, until he discovered basketball.
“Man, I’ve always had a basketball in my hand since 2nd grade,” Green tells Madison365. “But I also had the best mentor and coach, Coach Carl Traicoff, who passed away in October of last year, and just meant the world to me. He was a special spirit for the sport and just for human development and making low-income kids believe they could do more than what we ever imagine that we could. And he did that through the game of basketball.
“Coach always stressed to us that if you were a [grade] F and [grade] D person in the classroom, you’d be an F and D person on the basketball court,” Green adds. “They just went hand in hand. He kept us in tune with human behavior. He made sure that we were good people first and basketball would come. I really appreciate that now.”
Green says he wants to teach his Lancer girls the same things his coach once taught him — perseverance, dedication, teamwork and mental toughness — all things that helped him become a stand-out basketball player in Gary, Indiana.
“Coach Traicoff had me fundamentally sound by the time I was in elementary school. That’s how detailed he was with fundamentals and skills for basketball,” Green remembers. “That’s how I intend to be, too. That’s what I will bring to La Follette.”
And that’s what La Follette desperately needs. To put it nicely, the Lancer girls have been struggling lately. They were looking up at most of the Big 8 last season finishing 2-16 in the conference and 4-23 overall.
Green knows that the La Follette girls have struggled and that their conference is very tough. “The Big 8 [Conference] has been pretty strong. The Verona girls won the state championship last year and Middleton is not too far behind,” Green says. “Those will be tough match-ups for us. We have our work cut out for us.”
Green will have a lot of young players on his team including a couple of freshmen that started on last year’s team. “We’re looking at some youth on our team. The good thing about this is when I took this job I knew these girls already and I knew they had been playing for a little bit together so I’m looking for some continuity right now,” he says. “I think the biggest thing right now is to get the girls into my system because they are going to have to believe in our system to get the results we want. They are going to have to want to work hard if we want to compete in the Big 8.
“Even though we are young, I have high hopes for these girls,” Green adds. “I really feel like a lot of people will be surprised at what these girls do this year.”
Off the court, Green is the founder and executive director of Mentoring Positives, a referral-based mentoring program that works with youth in the Worthington Park/Darbo area both individually and in groups, tailoring services to each kid’s needs.
“I think what I bring to the table is that building relationships piece. I’ve been doing this community work for a long time and I’ve been a mentor for a long time,” Green says. “It’s a little weird to be called ‘coach,’ but I like it a lot. It has a nice ring to it. That’s what I’ve been doing for a long time – coaching. And there’s no better arena to be doing it than in basketball.”
Officially, it all starts with basketball tryouts on Nov. 7 and the season begins soon after. “We have a game that second week. We are right at it,” Green smiles. “It may take a little time to incorporate my system. I’m telling the girls to not look at what we do in November/December; look at our progress come mid-February. That’s when we’ll really be locked into what we’re going to be about.”
Green also want to foster that Madison La Follette Lancer pride early on in the season and, well, early on in life.
“I want to create a feeder program where young kids can really lock in and say, ‘I want to be a La Follette Lancer.’ That will be my biggest challenge and my biggest chore is to get a bunch of young girls involved in Lancer basketball and working with [La Follette boys’ basketball coach] Curtrel [Robinson] to get youth involved and to have some Lancer pride,” Green says. “We will put the true meaning in Lancer pride, for sure.
“This is not going to be a sprint; it’s going to be a marathon. I’m looking forward to having the opportunity to coach there for a long time,” Green adds. “I have a daughter that will be feeding into that school in a couple years and, of course, I have a 22-month-old at some point feeding into there, too.”
Turning around a program that has been struggling will take perseverance, dedication, teamwork and mental toughness. Green says that he’s ready to put the work in.
“I took on a big responsibility with these girls. We are in the Big 8. This is a tough job. I have these girls’ futures in my hands,” Green says. “Some of these girls are looking to go off to college. They’re looking to make life decisions after high school. I feel as a coach I can help them make good decisions.
“It’s my intent to put a lot of energy into building up that girls’ program at La Follette. I want the girls to have a good experience and I want them to know that the culture has changed at La Follette,” he adds. “I want them to expect to be making it down to Green Bay [for the state championships]. I want them to expect to be playing deep into March. I hope they will be ready because we are going to work hard.”