“The main reason I do it is the players,” says long-time basketball player and coach, Pete Herak. “I have made and continue to make many friendships through coaching and I genuinely care about my players and what is happening off the court as much as on the court.”
In eight years at the helm of Tuggeranong Vikings’ Premier League teams, Herak has led the club’s Premier 1 and Premier 2 teams to championships.
Commencing his own playing career as a nine-year-old at Marist, Herak took on an assistant role at just 12 coaching a family friend. From there he never looked back, coaching full-time by the end of the season. He continues to play for Vikings’ Premier 2 squad, player-coaching the team, while feeding juniors from Vikings second Premier 2 team into the top division.
Coaching Under 12’s through to U19’s, Herak has taught everything from division four up to premier divisions – often taking on two to three teams in a season. He’s coached, boys, girls, men and women at a club level, while assisting ACT rep sides in U14 boys and ACT U18 women’s, as well as assisting with the Canberra Nationals senior program.
Known as a ‘players coach’, Herak relies on building strong relationships with his athletes to draw out their best performance.
“The reason I keep coming back to men’s at this point in time [as opposed to juniors] is that when you coach men’s you can really build a club culture over a number of years. There isn’t a turnover in players, so you can slowly implement a system and playing style over a number of years.”
“I would also say it can become addictive,” he continues. “Watching players grow on and off the court, teaching them how to play and how to win, picking them up when they lose and just interacting with them on a daily and weekly basis.”
In 2017, Herak added a new squad to his already busy schedule, taking over as Head Coach of Queanbeyan Yowies’ NSW State League side.
Strengthening Vikings’ men’s program resulted in 2011 and 2013 Premier 2 titles, then back-to-back Premier 1 titles in 2015-16 as many of his key contributors began making Canberra Gunners teams.
Despite the sparkling hardware, Herak says he believes the greatest achievements aren’t necessarily what everyone may notice.
“Whilst those are probably the achievements most people will look at sometimes the biggest achievements are the players themselves coming through the program and going on to play college/SEABL and being a part of the process in trying to help them get there,” he says.
He finishes with a reminder to always have fun with the game.
“They won’t remember the hard sessions pushing them to their limits, what they do remember is the time they beat you for a Mars Bars playing elimination,” he says with a laugh.
“Finally they remember the ‘off the court’ more than anything else, because whilst basketball is a great teacher, and you can learn so many life lessons, if you don’t switch off and enjoy the time off the court then they won’t come back and play hard for you on the court.”
Written by Jack Braddock / Photos supplied by Pete Herak