Building Relationships is Key for Binetti and Women's Basketball
If there’s one hallmark of a Dawn Staley-led program, it’s that relationships are at the center of it. That core principle has to resonate with every person associated with the program, so when Staley set out to hire a new sports performance coach this summer, that ability to connect with student-athletes is where she started. Where she finished was with hiring Molly Binetti, who shares that core value and brought her extensive technical knowledge and movement-based approach to training.
“Showing up every day with a consistent energy level, showing that you care about them first as people is important,” Binetti said. “It’s not just talking to them about lifting weights. It’s asking about their families, what they’ve done in the past, and finding out what they think they need to improve upon. It’s not a cookie-cutter approach where everyone does the same things. You build their trust, and you get their buy-in.”
The 29-year-old Binetti spent the previous four years working with several teams at Louisville. She earned a degree in exercise physiology from Marquette in 2012, completed her master’s in kinesiology and exercise science at Minnesota in 2013, and went on to work with several athletics teams at Purdue the following year, where she also participated in research identifying characteristics and skills that separate elite level basketball players.
“There are a lot of lifelines to our program. Molly is one of them,” said head coach Dawn Staley. “We need edges when we’re playing at this level and trying to win national championships. We try to create that with the conditioning part of our program, and sometimes the conditioning part is mental. You come in after a road game at three o’clock in the morning, and maybe you don’t want to get up and lift later in that day, but for recovery purposes, if you don’t have a sports performance coach who understands when to push and when to pull back, your program can set itself up to fail. She brings all of that. She is top of the line when it comes to performance.”
“I want this to feel as a safe place where they enjoy coming and know what to expect.”
– Molly Binetti
In a college athletics landscape that includes sports performance coaches for nearly every women’s basketball team, Binetti sets herself apart by taking a wholistic approach to training, setting a plan in conjunction with each student-athlete to continue to grow over the breadth of her career.
“I want to know what their goals are, and what they want to accomplish while they’re here,” Binetti said. “It’s a developmental process over the three or four years that a student-athlete is here. It’s all about what is necessary for that student-athlete. It’s all an individual approach. It’s a movement-first approach, which is a little bit different than some strength and conditioning programs. We want them to lift weights and be able to jump high, but first I have to make sure they are healthy and can stay on the court to help us win. The best teams have their best players healthy and available.”
With that mindset, Binetti has evolved the traditional role of sports performance coaches – the ones who give out tough workouts or who spend the entire time in the weight room motivating student-athletes. She has wasted little time showing Gamecock student-athletes that she is there to provide for their well-being in the weight room and beyond, working with them on nutrition and injury prevention and recovery as well. All the while, Binetti serves as an extension of the coaching staff.
“Coach Staley talks a lot about the look, sound and feel of our program,” Binetti said. “It’s my job to uphold those standards and that culture. I see [our student-athletes] more than most people on our staff, so I have a pretty good pulse on a lot of things. I want us to be in the right place physically, culturally and mentally.”
“Molly had the tough task on following up on what [former sports performance coach] Katie [Fowler] gave to us,” Staley said. “I wanted someone who was similar in knowledge and has the ability to really reach the players. It takes some time to build that because as an athlete, you’re habitual. Molly came in and hit the ground running. She got them going really quickly.”
Binetti got the Gamecocks going quickly thanks to her core principle of making the weight room feel like a place every young person craves – home. And, her perspective on training student-athletes is not unlike that of a parent – equal measure challenging and supportive.
“I want this to feel as a safe place where they enjoy coming and know what to expect,” Binetti said. “They know I want them to do difficult things, but I want them to know that this is a place where I’m someone they can rely on. We have a pretty unique relationship. You see the good, the bad, and the ugly. You see them at their best, and you see them through their worst times. Through those experiences, you become family.
“I want them to think of this as a place where they know they are going to be tested, but they know where the intent is coming from and that I’m someone who truly cares about them and their development.”