Dedication, poise and charisma are all qualities that good leaders in the Navy embody. Ensign Kenneth Bradley, the head coach for USS Nimitz’ (CVN 68) sponsored basketball team, shows the same qualities with the team as he does with Sailors he leads on the ship.
Bradley has an extensive resume of basketball experience. In college he played basketball for Illinois State, and since enlisting has played with All-Navy Basketball, overseas in Italy, and in intramural leagues. He also has coaching experience from being an assistant coach at high schools in San Diego and Naples, Italy.
“Getting a group of people to be on the same page and accomplish the same task; those things are similar with leading Sailors and coaching my team,” said Bradley. “This is my first year taking a program and coaching it myself. Now that I’m doing this, it feels like my calling. It’s something that I love to do.”
As a head coach, Bradley asks questions like “What do I want my basketball team to look like and what kind of attitude do I want them to have?”
Bradley teaches his players to not put themselves ahead of the team. Many Sailors understand the term ‘Ship, Shipmate, Self’, and in this case the team represents the ship.
“If I ask who is the best player on the team, the team says ‘team,’” Bradley said. “There is no best player; the team is the best player.”
Bradley has nicknamed the team ‘New Jack Nimitz’ because he wants to model the way the players work together after the unity that the characters shared in the movie New Jack City.
“I try to establish a brotherhood,” said Bradley. “When you watch them play, you get a sense of that.”
Ship’s Serviceman Seaman Iria Swanson, of Nimitz’ supply department, is one of the basketball team captains, who looks to Bradley as a mentor.
“Ensign Bradley has a great basketball mind,” said Swanson. “On top of that, he’s an awesome person. When you combine the two, you come up with an incredible coach.”
This year the team has a combined record of 32-6 in two different leagues. The team will
be starting in the Bremerton Recreation League in late September. ‘We’ve been extremely successful,” said Swanson. “We’ve already won numerous trophies. We’ve never done worse than second place in any tournament. I attribute that directly to Ensign Bradley because of the leadership, the time, the training and the effort that he’s given us.”
Aside from being the basketball coach, Bradley is also the Admin Department Primary Assistant for Nimitz, and enjoys the Sailors who work under him.
“I believe in a working environment where you can come to work and enjoy being around the people who you work with,” said Bradley. “Within our workspaces, communication and conflict management is big. Conflict is always going to be there whether it’s basketball or whether it’s in the work place. You have the weight of the whole department on you, people looking to you for leadership.”
Just like in basketball, Bradley said if he sees that his Sailors could be doing something better, he’ll call a time out, sit down with them and correct them right on the spot to help them do better.
“I have a high standard for my Sailors, and I have a high standard for my players,” said Bradley. “It goes hand in hand. I stay on them about their personal qualification standards, and about their conduct onboard the ship and as people. The things I don’t tolerate with my Sailors are the things I don’t tolerate with my players.”
In addition to having high standards, Bradley has a clear idea of what characteristics he wants his team and his crew to emulate.
“The biggest thing as far as leadership is concerned is that if you don’t have a vision for a culture, in your workspace or if you’re leading your team, then it’s hard for you to project that to whoever is under your leadership,” said Bradley.
Whether it’s pushing himself, his Sailors or his team, Bradley has proven that he has the motivation, determination and experience to win in basketball, and as a leader.
Story and photos by MCSA Weston Mohr