Ralpheal Graves

Ralpheal Graves is the head basketball coach at Sacred Heart of Jesus Catholic School. He is also involved with the Anniston Basketball Club, east Alabama’s premier player development program. The club holds seasonal camps and clinics for players and coaches. Coach Graves’ Champion Coaching Clinic will be held on Oct. 13.

What is your professional background?

My first job after college was the job I already had with the Anniston Parks and Recreation Department. I have been working with them since I was 16 years old. It was my first job.  

What was that first job?

My first job was a summer job at Carver Community Center — where I practically grew up — as a custodian. From there, I became a groundskeeper at Woodland Park and Cane Creek Golf Course, then a rec aide and day camp counselor. I was a rec aide at the Aquatic Center during college, and now I am the assistant athletic director.

How was the Carver Community Center important to you growing up?

I would go there every day and play. I worked my first job there. I won a state championship as a player while working at Carver. I left when I went to college, but I came back while I was an assistant coach at Anniston High School.

What is your coaching background?

I first started coaching as a PARD 12-under basketball coach when I was still in college. The next year I became an assistant coach at Anniston High School, where I stayed for three years. In those three years, we won the state championship and made a Final Four appearance. I went to Jacksonville for a year. Then I became the head coach at Sacred Heart. The past five years, we have won four consecutive state championships and been in five consecutive Final Fours.

What do you credit your team’s success to?

First and foremost, God. A lot of things had to fall into place. The administrators at Sacred Heart. We have some really good kids. Our coaching staff. If you have those things, you will more than likely be successful.

What is your background as a player?

I have played basketball my entire life. I played at Anniston High School on the first state basketball championship team in 2002. I was the sixth man off the bench. I did not get to play in college, but I was still always around the game. Coach Schuessler Ware, my coach at Anniston, reached out to me to help him coach, and the rest is history.

How was your involvement in sports important as a child?

Some of the biggest lessons I learned were how to work with others, how to sacrifice for the greater good and that you have to bring your portion every day and hold your teammates accountable for bringing their own portions. I learned how to set goals and accomplish goals.

What is your secret to being a successful coach?

A lot of things have to happen for you to be a successful coach. You have to be a student of the game. You need to continue to grow and evolve. Go to different areas to learn from other people in other places.

What advice would you give to coaches?

Be flexible — with your system, and do not put your players in a box. Let them come out of the box and experience some things. I am not telling coaches to break, but bend a little bit. A lot of times, folks think that if you let the players make decisions it makes you less of a coach, but you need to let them make some decisions and give them an opportunity to fail.

What advice would you give to parents of athletes?

It seems like every kid is trying to play for a scholarship to go to college. Push your child, but be understanding. Let them initiate how great they want to be rather than you initiate it for them.

What advice would you give to players?

Do not be afraid. If you are going to fail or do well, let it be something really big. Challenge your coaches just as much as they challenge you. Sometimes my players challenge and question me; if I am as good a coach as I say I am, I should have the answers.

Faith Dorn is a freelance writer in Anniston. Contact her at faith.h.dorn@gmail.com.