Put Me in Coach!

12.29.12 Torrey Farrnington 2

Torrey Farrington was a standout shooting guard for The Hampton University Pirates Basketball Team from 1995 until 1999. A big time player with a big time 3-point shot, Torrey is now taking big shots from a different part of the court. Rapidly developing as a rising star on the sideline as a coach, he is beginning to garner the same attention in a suit as he did in years past in a uniform.

Torrey was gracious enough to give us some insight on his coaching career.

Having coached for several seasons with DC Assault and schools like St. Stephen’s/St Agnes and Takoma Academy, what was the moment that revealed to you that coaching was where you were meant to be?

I would probably have to say that moment came while coaching AAU. My first year as an assistant at St Stephen’s St Agnes was a great year for learning. Not so much the game itself but I learned so many things on preparing a team for success both on and off the court. In my second year coaching AAU for DC Assault, we qualified for the Super Showcase in Orlando Florida, which is played at the Wide World of Sports. For many, this is considered the “big dance” for AAU. The boys had a great summer, but now would be truly tested versus America’s best. What I did not know was that it wouldn’t be the kids who would be truly tested…it would be me, LOL. I found myself having that same feeling that I had as a player. Now, I wanted to go toe to toe with coaches on a mental level. We finished in the top 8. I still feel like we could have won the tourney, but it was a great learning experience and a confidence booster. I saw so many kids improve in so many different ways. Just seeing kids improve and be appreciated on a national level ignited a fire in me. And now I want to push and teach as many kids as possible to be the best that they can be. My goal is to help these kids obtain college scholarships and to have the skills to be a productive student-athlete once they arrive on campus.

At Hampton University you were a shooting guard sensation. Explain the transition that took place in your life when that moment arrived where you would no longer play the game in an organized or competitve form.

In college you’re playing at the highest level possible without being a professional. You’re living a dream that many of us have had for approximately 15-18 years. You never stop to count the days. It’s a constant trip that you don’t want to end. However, that’s not the case. Its ends for all of at some point. My last game was against Morgan State in the conference tournament. When that buzzer sounded, I didn’t know what life had in store for me. There was now a chapter of my life that was now closed….SCARY!! After that I put the ball down for years…6 to be exact. I was like a woman scorned. Basketball had betrayed me. Where did it go? Many people think it’s the limelight that we miss. They’re wrong! It’s the competition, the challenge, better known as that “bump”! That’s what I personally missed most. I was lucky that our area, the “DMV” (DC, Maryland and Virginia), has a strong basketball tradition here. Basketball is like a drug, its my vice. I would see guys I’ve played with in the past. Some are coaching or still playing, while others just enjoy the young, local talent from the stands. All these faces and run ins began to make me ask myself, “ Is there life after basketball for me”? The answer was NO! I was drawn back as a competitor, but the only way was back in the gym helping the youngsters. From Day 1, the love affair with hoops was reignited. I went from playing, to not playing after college, to hiding from the game, to running back to it. Luckily, the game of basketball was sitting there waiting with open arms for one of its prodigal sons to return. I knew I belonged back on that floor. I’ve smiled every day since!

Today’s HS coach is not like the old out of shape gym teachers with the station wagon and key chain whistles that we grew up around. What is the major difference in the dynamics of coaching at the youth level in today’s society? 

I know that we laugh about those old guys sometimes, but I think in today’s times, that is what the game is missing.  That is the guy who opened the gym for “open runs”.  Those are hard to find nowadays.  You can find a million kids who , “have a trainer, workout or drill”, but no one is just playing games.  It was that old guy who gave you a venue to hone those skills that you worked on when no one was looking.  Many of today’s coaches are sitting back waiting for that finished product.  That “eye” for potential talent is missing. And in some cases many just don’t have the appetite for the work.  On the other hand, you have some strong coaches and programs in the area.  Just looking at the college basketball landscape, the DMV is doing a pretty good job.  There have always been some great basketball minds  here.  We have got to get more guys with that passion to be in the gym and to see kids change their lives back in the mix a little more.  This area is so drenched with talent, but we need more capable coaches.  I can’t lie, I like what I see today. People are out here competing. The coaches, players and parents all are pushing.  In a competitive community like ours, I see it as totally healthy.

In light of the unfortunate cases of child abuse, sexual abuse and other breaches of trust between coaches, players and their parents, how do you build relationships with the families that you work with? 

Man! It’s sad to hear of all these cases of misconduct of youth coaches.  As a coach I have to be honest.  I know that sometimes I can be a little too candid with families. But at the end of the day, I want them to know that I care about the kid and they can rely on me being honest at all times.  Every family is different. So, I just try to be consistent and allow them to make there own judgments based on their expectations.  As far as the kids or players go, I applaud them through the good plays and good times, but I jump on them just the same through bad times and poor play.   Accountability is underrated in the game.

John Wooden, Vince Lombardi, Joe Torre and other professional coaches are revered for not only coaching but leadership. What is your definition of leadership? What’s your preferred style of leadership? And who serves as the ideal example of a leader to you?  

Leadership is the ability to guide, direct or influence people.  You have all types of leaders in this field.  As far as coaches are concerned, there are many styles.  I prefer a loose environment, yet consistent with a focus on creating great habits.  The mood of the mission changes with the team’s focus and work ethic.  I can be a no nonsense kinda coach, but I think most kids who have played for me over the years will tell you that they had a ball.  There are times when emotions and tensions are running high, but for the most part the kids know that I want to see them reach their maximum potential and understand that we are all in this together.  I am a big Lombardi fan. He was a great teacher , leader and motivator.  His goal was to make better men as well as better players.  I think that is the true job of any coach, no matter the sport.  I just feel fortunate that Curtis Malone, CEO of DC Assault and Damon Handon who acts as General Manager, had the confidence to allow me to coach one of their 17 & Under teams.  So, I thank them both a great deal for affording me the opportunity to help change lives.

You have a passion for developing your players into great men and honorable citizens in their communities. How do you communicate the importance of being well-rounded to the players? 

I try to get them to understand life beyond basketball.  So when they reach that point in their life, some sooner than others, they are prepared and armed with a strong education and sound principles as they approach their new adult life.  I ask my kids all the time, “Without that Ball in your hand, who are you?”

I once heard Coach Calipari from the University of Kentucky state that he treats his players and their decisions on education vs. NBA possibilities like he would approach those scenarios with a child of his own. Being a father, do you share in his perspective? 

In that regard, I must agree with Coach Calipari.  I try to get the family involved to make a great collective decision.  At that point, I am here only to advise.  Hopefully, if the kid is playing for me, he already sees my strong attitudes toward degree completion.  You just have to be as honest as possible and give the advice you feel is best for the kid.

In the coaching arena, what is the “Torrey Farrington” brand? How do you look to mark your legacy as a coach? 

I would like to be considered a winner, a player’s coach, yet a disciplinarian. You have to teach, not just basketball, but life skills as well.  I want my players to be able to navigate adult life with confidence.  I love when they call me and tell me “Coach, life’s good”!!!.  There is no better feeling!

What’s the best coaching advice that you’ve ever been told? 

The best coaching advice that I have ever received was from my dad. He would tell me  “You have to work to be as good as you choose to be”. That involves dealing with the person that you are as well as the way that you prepare.  It is a full time job if you want to be successful.

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