Mike Helfer’s success as Valdosta State’s head coach is predicated on more than just talented athletes and what plays he draws up on a white board.
Coach Helfer has lead the Blazers to back-to-back NCAA tournament appearances and has turned Valdosta into a basketball powerhouse in the Gulf South Conference
Helfer’s style of play is fast and to constantly apply pressure on opposing teams, especially on the offensive end. His play style has been prevalent through the years as the Blazers have averaged at least 90 points per game in numerous seasons.
However, being able to run and gun and fit in Helfer’s system isn’t his only valued aspect, or even his most valued aspect.
“When I first got started in coaching I was just trying to find the great players,” coach Helfer said. “Now as I’ve gotten a little bit older, and I think the game is changing, we really put a premium on having kids with high character, and if you don’t have high character we won’t recruit you.”
Character is one of the very first traits Helfer looks for during his recruitment. Helfer’s reasoning behind his strategy is that a player’s character leads into cohesiveness on the basketball court, a key ingredient for coach Helfer’s success.
Coach Helfer’s approach with his players is also crucial to him running a successful program and building a strong bond with his team.
“My style with the players is to just develop a personal relationship that goes kind of beyond the court,” mentioned coach Helfer. “And then that will allow me to coach them on the court in an aggressive manner, and they don’t see it as me attacking them, but me making them better.”
Player talent is obviously a winning ingredient wherever you go, but making that talent gel into a consistently successful team takes a system. Helfer’s system has made Valdosta State a household name for being traditionally good year after year.
“You’ve got to have a system and then your players have to fit your system,” said coach Helfer. “A lot of times those things don’t match up and that’s when teams really get in trouble.”
Despite all the success he has compiled over his 12 seasons as Valdosta State’s head coach. Helfer still recognizes that there is still work to be done here by simply saying, “we haven’t won a national championship yet.”
Written by Josh Miller, Staff Writer. Photo courtesy of Juston Lewis.
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