BYU women’s basketball assistant coaches endure busy summer

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Ari Davis
The BYU women’s basketball team and coaching staff hold the West Coast Conference Championship trophy. The Cougars won the WCC last season. (Ari Davis)

The 2015-16 BYU women’s basketball season ended this March with a loss to Missouri in the first round of NCAA tournament. Some may think that once the season ends, it’s vacation time for the coaches until October.

It isn’t. Far from it, actually.

“We get April and a little bit of May off, but other than that our summers are pretty busy,” said Dan Nielson, one of the assistant coaches. “Summertime is a little less busy than during the season, but we still are pretty occupied.”

Though they do have to work over the summer, the coaches are appreciative of how flexible the schedule is.

“As a working mother, it’s great to be able to work this job over the summer but also make my family the first priority,” assistant coach Melinda Bendall said.

Kylea Knecht
Ray Stewart has been an assistant since 2011. (BYU Photo)

The assistant coaches may get a little more time off in the summer, but when May comes around, they get back to work.

“We run summer camps for kids of all ages whether they are pre-teens or high-school age kids during the first few weeks of May and June, then we get to recruiting in July,” said Ray Stewart, another one of the assistants.

Recruiting is also a focal point during the offseason.

“Recruiting is one of my favorite parts of my job. I love recruiting because I get to see what kids have changed the most. We scout these kids and we tell them what flaws they have to work on,” Stewart said. “When we go to visit them again, we get to see which ones have improved their games. The ones that have clearly shown the most improvement in their game are the ones who we know are keepers.”

But recruiting isn’t the only the aspect of the job the assistants like during summer.

“Something that I really enjoy is the time we spend with these girls one-on-one,” Bendall said. “Not just working on their basketball games, but also developing good relationships with them.”

As convenient as summer may be for the assistants, Nielson likes the busy work schedule they have during the season.

“There are times where I miss preparing for the games. It’s very time-consuming, but I’ve grown to love it,” he said.

Elisa Tittle
Melinda Bendall has been an assistant coach since 2011. (BYU Photo)

All in all, the assistants love their jobs as coaches, but it’s far more than coaching the players that makes them love their work.

“As coaches, it is our job to not only coach these athletes to be better at the sport, but also at life,” Stewart said. “Here at BYU, it’s not a basketball experience. It’s a life experience. We value what will happen to these girls after they are done here. It’s most important to us that these players become great people when all is said and done.”

After the summer ends, the assistants will start making preparations for the upcoming season this November.

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