Since his success with Zambia, Mills has coached senior men’s club teams, men’s university national teams and senior men’s national teams across the African continent. She also became an international basketball consultant and promoted basketball analysis in African competition which helped improve strategy and overall performance.
Admitting that African basketball is not the huge slot machine that operates in the United States, Mills has maintained a parallel career in Australian business, returning to Africa when basketball competitions demand it and COVID allows it. Sometimes this has seen her complete two tasks in two time zones and operate four hours of sleep per night.
In addition, she is always working to improve herself, which led her to do a Master of Education (Sports Coaching) at the University of Sydney in 2013. Usually a two-year course, Mills had to return to Africa for 2014, so has piled its course in just one year.
“It was an intense but very rewarding program, and great for networking,” she says. “And it wasn’t all basketball coaches, which really opened my mind. I could see ways to use what I was learning in my non-coaching job.
Break the glass ceiling
Reading previous articles describing Mills, it’s easy to see how candid she talks about sport and Australian sports federations. This confidence in speaking the truth to power comes from an obvious reality.
“I got to where I am,” she says. “No one helped me do what I did, so what can I do? “
One topic she regularly visits both as a victim and as a harbinger of change is that women in Australia are systematically excluded from the male-dominated world of sports training; coaching being a career which, at first glance, could be seen as gender neutral.
“There isn’t a lot of physical activity required of a trainer,” she notes. “You might get a rebound ball and have to pass it, but not much else. All a trainer really needs is a working brain.
Still, female coaches are relatively few, Mills noting that the Australian swim team for Tokyo is made up of around half of women but has no female coaches. Mills sees a boys’ club at work.
“These are guys who help each other move up the ranks,” she said in a neutral tone. “And there’s this idea that women can only coach juniors or other women. I have great respect for the junior coaches, but when I came back to Australia, after coaching men’s teams, I went back to my club and they offered me a boys under 14 team.
There are signs that things could change with the establishment by Basketball Australia of the Elite Female Coaching Advancement program. Mills was invited to participate.