Fact: There are too many turnovers in Women’s Basketball

There are too many turnovers in women’s basketball, and it kills our credibility.

I loved sitting in on the marketing symposium at this year’s WBCA convention.  “It’s Our Game!” was all about creative ways to promote women’s basketball.  Giving away free bacon, coaches dribbling through city streets, and hosting Halloween carnivals (think players in the dunk tank) were some of the ideas shared.  But as I listened, I just kept thinking our game would have more appeal if women would quit turning the ball over so much.

There are some great things that distinguish women’s college basketball from the men’s game–purity of play, fundamentals, family atmostphere, 4-year players, etc.  Unfortunately, turnovers are another strong distinction.


Turnover Trends in NCAA Women’s Basketball

2005-2006 Statistics are earliest available online record for DI-DIII.  2013-2014 Statistics are from the most recent season.  Note: Reclassifying teams were not included in analysis.

2005-2006 Statistics are earliest available online record for DI-DIII. 2013-2014 Statistics are from the most recent season. Note: Reclassifying teams were not included in analysis.


To be clear, I’m not trying to make this all about girls vs. boys.  But the men’s statistics are the best available standard of comparison.  As you can see in the stats above, both women and men have decreased turnovers in the last nine seasons.  However, the women’s national averages are still not stellar at 15.9 (DI), 16.8 (DII), and a whopping 18.0 (DIII) TOs per game.  In my humble coaching opinion, this is a glaring statistic that everyone working to grow the women’s game should give more attention to.  It’s only one column on a box score but TOs impact our overall credibility.  In everyday life, we use the expression, “dropped the ball,” to describe someone who made a careless error.  And if that happens too often, it’s hard to take that person seriously.  For women’s basketball, the parallel is literal.  We need to hang on to the ball in order to improve both the fan and participant experience.  It’s no fun to watch or play sloppy games.  How exciting is a game that almost guarantees over 30 turnovers per contest?

The obvious question here is, “Why do women turn the ball over more?”  If someone asks why women don’t play above the rim as much as men do, the answer is simple: we’re not as tall.  But when you ask why women turn the ball over more than men, the answer is…  I’m not sure.  We could attribute it to the idea that young girls don’t grow up developing basic passing and catching skills.  For instance, when a group of girls gets together to play, they generally don’t go out and throw a football as often as boys do.   Along the same lines, young female basketball players don’t opt to play as much competitive 1-on-1, thus they don’t develop a consistent comfort level with possession of the ball.  Do women’s turnovers have anything to do with style of play?  Up-tempo, running teams can be successful while getting away with more TOs, but I don’t believe this factors into the men vs. women debate.  Can women’s TOs be blamed on great defense?  Honest, hard-working, fundamental defense is a strength of the women’s game, after all.  Officiating is certainly a factor.  If defenders are allowed to clobber the ball handler, it’s no wonder why they come up with a steal.  Doug Bruno’s call for “ONE CHANGE” addresses this issue, and NCAA officiating rules have been adapted to protect the ball handler, shooter and offensive post player.  This led to a general increase in foul calls last season, and only time will tell if it decreases our game’s turnover totals.

Unfortunately, I can’t offer you a magic formula to clean up your team’s TOs.  There are any number of ways you can emphasize regard for the basketball and the value of a possession.  But the most important thing is simply that you do emphasize it.  Find a way to fight the unforced error epidemic in our game.  Andy Landers says players will do what you tolerate.  So when your team hits the floor for practice, outlaw turnovers with no defense.  Even though it requires more effort, work turnovers into your charting records in practice, all the time.  Passing drills are good, but they don’t always create the pressure of a game situation.  Analyze the errors that occur within your competitive drills.  Take the time, especially early in the year, to listen to your players and make sure everyone understands why TOs happen, which TOs are acceptable and which are not.  While you want your kids to treat the basketball like it’s precious, you don’t want them to be so afraid to turn it over that they hold back.  Add game-like defenders in every drill you can.  How beneficial is dummy defense, really?  Make your girls play 1-on-1 regularly (especially high school and youth coaches), because otherwise they probably won’t.  When it comes to postgame review, don’t assume that your players are paying attention to turnovers on the stat sheet, or that they understand how that stat fits into the big picture.  Make time to discuss it.  Analyze team TOs in your film sessions.  And lastly, let each individual player know your turnover expectations according to their position and playing time.  Your point guards probably understand this already and your experienced players may pay attention to it, but you might be surprised how many players are clueless in this area.  Let’s say your freshman forward is the second one off the bench and she feels pretty good about the 9 points and 7 rebounds she gave you one night.  But she may not understand how much impact her 3 turnovers had (or the fact that she is not “allowed” to commit 3 TOs in a game).

Val Ackerman’s White Paper (2013) united the Women’s Basketball community’s discussion of how to improve our game.  Debbie Antonelli’s 100-shots-a-day challenge reinforces the Paper’s emphasis on the need for more scoring and higher shooting percentages.  I agree with Ackerman and Antonelli that putting more points on the board will lead to a better overall product on the floor.  But players can’t put the ball in the basket if they throw it away first.  Clean up the turnovers!

Listen, I’d be the first in line for free bacon, but I just think the beauty of women’s basketball is in the game itself, not the gimmicks.

Erika Lambert


Former Michigan State DOBO Julie Dombroski takes a spin on coaching carousel, gets off at stop of her choice: Oakland University

Julie Dombroski’s coaching career path has not taken the traditional route.  Dombroski (formerly Pagel) played at Michigan State (’00-’04) and was hired in the Division I ranks right out of college.  After working at University of Detroit Mercy for three seasons and garnering the coveted “Recruiting Coordinator” title, you might expect her resume to reflect an aggressive climb to the top of the coaching world.  Instead, Dombroski has been very selective about where she works.  And her career choices have always been motivated by her #1 priority: family.

Prior to beginning her job as an assistant coach at Oakland University this summer, Dombroski spent seven seasons as Michigan State’s Director of Basketball Operations and Technology.  Why so long in a non-coaching role?  It wasn’t for lack of coaching opportunities or qualifications.  Her position at MSU was simply the best thing for her family at the time.  “[They’re] everything to me.  I call them ‘my Village.’”  And her village is anchored by a supportive partner.  Dombroski and husband, Jason, met through mutual friends in college.  “It was love at first sight and we got married four years later.  When we talked about where my career would take us, we didn’t want to put our lives on hold because of it.  Every day, you hear about these relationships that don’t work out.  But when it’s all said and done, this (coaching) career does not define our relationships.  My family will trump every job offer.”  When those job offers come, Dombroski says, “You can’t just assume your spouse is on board.  You have to have the discussion.  It’s a process.”

Left: Julie and Jason Dombroski wed in 2007.  Right: Julie calls her family her "Village."  She grew up in a family of 7.

Left: Julie and Jason Dombroski wed in 2007. Right: Julie calls her family her “Village.” She grew up in a family of 7.

When Dombroski was pregnant for her son Gibson, now 5, the first coaching offer came.  It was a great opportunity from a head coach Dombroski really respected.  On the outside, it looked like a no-brainer to take the job.  But on the inside, she knew something just didn’t feel right about it.  She would have had to move and start the new job three weeks after giving birth.  And she knew it was not the right time to move away from her Village.  Julie and Jason both grew up in Michigan and their families still live there.  So, she turned down the offer and decided to stay put.  When similar job opportunities presented themselves in the years that followed, Dombroski’s decision remained the same.  “It wasn’t the best career move,” she admits.  But remaining in her non-coaching role gave her the best of both worlds.  “If you can’t do both [career and family], then what’s the point?”

“I was able to have a family life at Michigan State.  I was thankful to work at a place that kept making it hard for me to leave.  I got to be on staff at my alma mater, the salary and benefits were good, the Spartan family is close… I wanted to be the best DOBO [head coach] Suzy Merchant needed me to be.”  Even though Dombroski wasn’t permitted to coach on the floor, she embraced the ‘bloom where you’re planted’ or ‘grass is greener where you water’ mentality.  She made the DOBO position at MSU her own.  While completing all the standard, behind the scenes tasks expected of her, Dombroski took community outreach and ran with it.  “I made my position community-based.  I would go to community events in the coaches’ place.  Some coaches try to keep their family life separate, but I enjoyed bringing my family with me to things.  I say work/life balance doesn’t exist because my work doesn’t feel like work.”

The Dombroski family in 2012

The Dombroski family in 2012

Oakland was always an attractive job to Dombroski because she’s from Utica, MI, just 15 minutes from the campus.  Her parents still live in her childhood home, where she grew up with four siblings.  The Dombroskis will live with Julie’s parents for the time being, while they rent out their former house in Lansing.  “My parents are very supportive… It’s really special that Gibson will be surrounded by his family.”  Even so, moving is difficult, especially for a five year old.  During Dombroski’s job transition this summer, Gibson was alternating one week with her in Utica and one week with Jason, who had not yet wrapped up his job in Lansing.  “It was like a divorced couple’s arrangement,” jokes Dombroski.  Fortunately, Jason was able to get a job transfer near Oakland.  The family was reunited and completed their move last weekend.  “Gibson is not exactly excited that he won’t live in his [same] house anymore.  We had to pack up his spaceship room… he wanted the glow-in-the-dark stars to stay on the walls for the next little boy who lives in his room.”  The changes in Gibson’s routine have not been easy, but he’s taken them in stride.  While he is going to miss the things he’s come to love about Lansing, he’s excited about Dombroski’s new basketball team, living closer to family, and starting kindergarten.

After seven seasons in an administrative position, “I feel like I got the basketball part of my life back,” Dombroski says.  “It’s all the same thing in college athletics.  Everyone is working to win a championship, but they are two different jobs.  As an operations person, I had a clear set of tasks to accomplish each month and I could cross them off my list.  As a coach, you have to do two things: make your kids better and recruit better kids.  There’s no real ‘end’ goal because the process never ends.”  So Dombroski is working to settle into that process at Oakland.  “I am going to be whatever [head coach] Jeff Tungate and whatever our players need me to be.”

When changing coaching jobs, there is no real transition time.  Dombroski went from running summer camp at Michigan State to beginning her job at Oakland in the same day.  And she admits it was tough to be on the road for July recruiting after a seven year hiatus.  “I flew back from Iowa and I had eight hours of free time, so I drove up to Lansing to see my family (1.5 hour drive).  I had to be at work at 8am the next morning for practice and flew out again for recruiting that night.  Sure I was tired, but everything I do has my family as my main focus.”

Dombroski was given a piece of coaching advice that has proven to be valuable.  “If you’re a parent, don’t work for someone who isn’t a parent or doesn’t want you to be a parent.  Be open and honest with your boss about what your life consists of.  I’m lucky to have worked for a Mom (Suzy Merchant, MSU) and now a Dad (Jeff Tungate, Oakland University).  They get it.  I met my boss’s son at the Final Four so that was a good sign during the job interview.”  Interestingly enough, every coach on the Oakland staff is a parent.  Dombroski fits right in.  “It doesn’t mean I can just blow off a recruiting trip because my kid is sick or take the day off because of a recital.  But I have the flexibility and freedom to talk about those conflicts with my staff.  It is always the head coach’s decision.  And I always want to be here when the program needs me.”

“This will be my 11th season in Division I women’s basketball.  I realize that prioritizing my family will hurt my career in the long run.  I have peers who are head coaches already.  But this is my path.  I can’t compare myself to other people.  I’m still a work in progress.  I want to be one of those coaches who’s in it for a long time, but it’s going to be on my terms.  The choices I make are in collaboration with my husband and my family.  As long as my Village is in the forefront then I’m good.  I hope to positively impact young people and win games in the process.  I’m gonna work hard and I’m gonna work late and there will be days I don’t see my son.  But there is no greater young person I will influence than the one in my own house.”

Julie's son celebrated his 5th birthday yesterday.  Happy Birthday, Gibson!

Julie’s son celebrated his 5th birthday yesterday. Happy Birthday, Gibson!


Erika Lambert


Snaptotes: Keep Your Kids Close On the Recruiting Trail

Just a quick post today because I came across something too sweet not to share…

Look at those cuties!!  1 1/2 year old twins Gabrielle and Cayden are the children of Assistant Coaches Kim and Cory McNeill, both on staff at the University of Virginia.  Bonus points to Cory for giving his Coach Mom wife a custom handbag that helps keep their babies close, even when they’re far away.

Husband and wife Assistant Coaches Kim & Cory McNeill are both recruiting for UVA this July.

Snaptotes takes your photo and turns it into any style handbag you can think of, at any price point ($35-$140).  In addition to the photo, there are further customization options available (i.e. upgrade to leather trim, select the inside lining color).

What a sweet way to “bring your kids” on the road with you!

Erika Lambert


Breastfeeding & July Recruiting

You break the ice with your brand new boss really well when you have to pump breast milk in your shared hotel room during the July recruiting period.  Nothing like making a good first impression.

(Yep, we’re talking about boobs today so if breastfeeding is gross to you, sit this one out and come on back later this week for a different topic!)

Fortunately, the new boss I mentioned was a Coach Mom.  She laughed off the awkward situation and made the astute observation that my breast pump sounded like a life support machine.  I can’t argue with that.  And she didn’t seem to mind that our mini-freezer was stocked with milk bags while all the pump’s freshly washed parts dried on the bathroom counter.  Thank goodness.

Breastfeeding is tricky for every mom, but especially for Coach Moms, specifically on recruiting trips.  Just so you know where I’m coming from, I am by no means a poster mom for the La Leche League, and both of my kids were supplemented with formula.  But during each pregnancy, I resolved to breastfeed for six months, and stubbornly did so despite the logistical challenges that came along with being a coach.  I was first made aware of the logistics of breastfeeding on the road thanks to Zenarae Antoine‘s Coach Mom workshop at the WBCA Convention.  I attended that session at the Final Four in San Antonio before I was a mother and at the time, the panel totally lost me when they started talking about breast milk and TSA regulations and dry ice, etc.  But it wasn’t too long before that foreign information applied to me.

My daughter Ava, now 3, was born in April.  I worked on a very accommodating staff and we had a limited recruiting budget, so my July travel was not as extensive as some recruiting Coach Moms’ can be.  But whatever your travel plans are (in July, October or whenever) if you plan to breastfeed on the road, be prepared and plan ahead. Here’s a quick rundown of things to think about:

You’re not alone.  Even though it feels that way.  While other coaches check their watches to keep track of when the next game starts, or when the hospitality room opens, you have to figure out if you have time for a pumping session in the parking lot.  It has nothing to do with evaluating players or talking shop on the sidelines.  And it seems so weird.  But I promise you’re not the only nursing Coach Mom on the recruiting trail.

What’s your goal?  If you want your baby to have breast milk exclusively (and you don’t have a massive supply in your home freezer), or if you cannot fathom the idea of pumping & dumping (liquid gold), you’ll want to utilize the FedEx or UPS shipping options for temperature-sensitive packages (keep reading).  And you’ll need a plan for keeping milk frozen during travel.  If your goal is simply to keep your supply up so you can nurse your baby normally when you get home, you need not worry so much about safe milk storage and transport.

Reserve a room with a freezer.  Whether you make your own hotel reservations, or another staff member makes them for you, call ahead and be sure your room has a mini-fridge with a freezer compartment.  If it doesn’t: get a different hotel.  Don’t be afraid to ask the hotel how old the mini-fridge is or how well it works.  Keep your breast milk frozen for the duration of your recruiting trip.  If the milk thaws, don’t try to refreeze it.  It’s no longer safe for your baby. (Read the CDC’s guidelines for storing breast milk here.)

Pumping ain’t pretty.  The breast pump I have used and highly recommend is the “Pump In Style” Advanced by Medela.  I have to laugh at the ironic name because there is absolutely no way to pump in style.  But this line of breast pumps seems to be very popular, and they do come cleverly disguised.  I have the “On-the-Go Tote” version ($270), but it also comes as a backpack or “The Metro Bag,” ($300) if you’re feeling fancy.  There’s a more expensive hands-free model ($380) but I can’t vouch for how well it actually frees you up to multitask.

As for my breastfeeding in July experience, I pumped in the parking lot more than I care to remember.  And I know many other Coach Moms who’ve had the displeasure.  Park in the most discreet space possible, in the shade.  Remember to bring a nursing cover, and use the battery pack or car adapter for your electric breast pump.  Be sure to wash your hands ahead of time and have a plan for cleaning and drying your pump parts afterward.  This part gets tricky… I found it essential to buy multiple sets of pump parts, use a fresh set each time I went to the car, and wash it all thoroughly at the end of the day.  By the time I finished pumping and safely storing the milk, I was usually rushing to get to a court, so washing the pump parts inside the fieldhouse wasn’t practical.

In an effort to avoid the parking lot pump, you could ask a tournament staff member for access to a classroom, staff locker room or other private space throughout the day. Because when you have a full day of games on your schedule, you won’t have time to go back to your hotel. No matter where you pump, keeping your milk frozen is a necessity.  And when you’re recruiting in July, that equates to you bringing your breast milk into the gym with you (how’s that for swag?)  Along with my coaching bag, I carried a small, insulated cooler with me on the sidelines.  It was odd, but it’s not like anybody knew what was inside.  During the midday break, I made a quick hotel run to get the breast milk into a real freezer.

It’s possible to ship breast milk in the mail.  But it can be a little complicated and a lot expensive. If it’s important to you that your baby be fed only breast milk while you’re away, the shipping hassle may be worth the trouble. Via UPS, you can send frozen milk in a styrofoam cooler kept cold by dry ice (use this website to find dry ice retailers).  The dry ice requires special handling and classifies the package as a “hazardous, dangerous good” which likely requires an extra fee.  It’s best to do some leg work ahead of time and call the UPS office you’ll be using, so you can iron out the details.  The cost will vary, based on the weight of the package and where it’s going.  FedEx does the same dry ice shipping, but it also offers a more convenient Cold Shipping Package.  An order for your controlled temperature packaging system must be placed online, ahead of time.  The box comes with a special cooling device that keeps its contents frozen for up to 96 hours. It eliminates the dry ice hassle and the special handling, but it’s very expensive.  The smallest box costs $45, before the actual shipping expense.

You can check or carry-on breast milk for air travel. It is not subject to the TSA’s 3.4 ounces of liquid rule.  If you’re carrying on a cooler of breast milk, let the TSA officer know before you go through the security screening.  And leave yourself extra time, because they’ll have to inspect your package carefully.

Keep plenty of gel packs and ice in your car, even if obtaining the ice is awkward.   If you’re traveling by car and want to keep baby’s food frozen, take extra precautions to keep your cooler as cold as possible.  Before starting the 6 hour drive home from a recruiting event, I asked a tournament athletic trainer for several bags of ice to take with me.  The kid looked to be fresh out of school, and he asked me what injury I needed the ice for.  I explained that there wasn’t an injury, but that I needed to keep my cooler cold on the road.  He insisted that I be more specific because he needed to keep his ice distribution business on record.  When I told him I needed to keep my breast milk frozen, he looked at me like he had just seen a ghost and practically threw the ice bags at me.  Thanks, buddy.

Wean when you want to.  It may seem nearly impossible to breastfeed during a busy recruiting season, and if that makes you want to stop, go ahead and get the weaning process going before you head out.  But if your desire is to breastfeed your baby through July recruiting or through basketball season or whenever your own terms are not defined by your job, I encourage you to do it.  Because even though it’s difficult, it’s possible.  When I nursed my first daughter, I knew I was done at the six month mark.  I started to feel like all the pumping time was wearing on me and I knew her teeth were coming in.  Then, one day, I stepped into a rebounding drill and got a hard arm bar to the chest on a player’s box out.  That pretty much sealed the deal!


You may be a Mom whose experience with all this was long ago.  You might be a new or expecting mother curious about how this works.  Or you could be someone who chooses to formula feed and wonders why women trouble themselves with this mess in the first place (Side note: Formula feeding is just fine.  Seriously.  Your kids will still turn out great.)  But somewhere in the gyms, I know there are nursing Coach Moms with itty bitty babies at home (or on the road with them!), and I want this post to be helpful and encouraging.

Happy July Recruiting!  I hope you’re watching some exciting games and fantastic future players.  Even if you have to step out to pump once in a while.

Erika Lambert





Other Mothers of College Sports, part 3: Academic Support Mom

This is the third of a three part series highlighting the “other mothers” working in college athletics.  Coach Moms are not the only women in the Athletic Department managing the challenges of work/family balance. 

Read Joan’s bio

Fast Facts: I have been in my current position at UMass since 2006.  I oversee the academic progress of UMass’ 500-plus student-athletes, as well as six full-time staff members.  Prior to UMass, I spent 20 years as the Coordinator of Student-Athlete Academic Success at Eastern Kentucky University.  But I actually got my start in college athletics as a student-athlete and a coach.  I swam at Penn State and then coached varsity swimming at Lehigh and Northern Michigan.  I have two daughters, Karen Hopkins and Kristin Rusboldt, a son-in-law, Sean Rusboldt, and a new granddaughter, Sloan Elizabeth Rusboldt.

The most challenging part about being an Academic Support Mom has been… balance.

I was a college swimming coach for nine years and my daughter (Kristin) was born in my last year of coaching.  She became the team mascot, because sometimes she would be with me on the pool deck in her car carrier (totally sleeping through all the noise) and then I would jump into the pool with her after practice and play.   She loved the water from an early age and became a college competitive swimmer like her mom.

I was very lucky to have worked at a university for 20 years where my children could attend a school that was right on campus.  When my girls were old enough, they could come to my office after school, but most of the time they were in after-school activities.  They really got to see what mom did for a living.  Of course, I was and am a big fan of all the sports teams. In academics, you know all of the student-athletes and I love watching them compete because I know them personally.  That has been so much fun over the years.  (And my Facebook is filled with former athletes from my coaching career and from my academic career!)  So if mom went to the athletic events, so did my kids!  We started out with Kristin in her huge snowsuit as a 1 year old at Northern Michigan University football games and she would again sleep right through the noise!   At EKU, our family events centered around football and basketball games, which my girls always attended with me as well.  An interesting story is that one of the graduate students who was with me for two years at EKU just recently hired my daughter in an Academic Advisor position at the College of Charleston.  She was 11 years old when he was working for me. I kid him constantly about it.  At that point, could he ever have imagined my 11 year old would be working for him?  :)

The best part about working in college athletics is… It is fun and it is never the same – This is my 38th year in college athletics and I still love it as much as I did the first year.  I love the student-athletes and the coaches and the athletic staff members and the golf outings!

My kids think my job is… My oldest, Kristin, has been always been more interested and excited about my job than my youngest, Karen.  Kristin became a swimmer and loved it, Karen did it because mom wanted her to.  She was good at it as well, but did not love it.  Karen became a dancer and excelled at that.  Kristin loved going to the college athletic events with me, Karen never did.  But I think they both are really proud of their mom and what she does for a living, so I am very happy about that.  Kristin decided she was going to get her Master’s Degree in history, but after doing so, she took a good long look at what she enjoyed and it was tutoring the student-athletes as an undergraduate and graduate student – and joined my profession a couple of years ago!  She was the head of the Student Development program at the University of Memphis and now is an Academic Counselor/Student Development Coordinator at the College of Charleston.  Just 4 months ago she and her husband had a beautiful baby girl!   We just got back from our national convention (N4A) and we were the only mother/daughter team in our business attending the conventions.   My other daughter, Karen is the Casting Producer/Development Assistant at a television production company in NYC – Departure Films.    I am very proud of both of my daughters!  They survived growing up with a set of divorced parents, who both worked full time and they became wonderful young women!

When my family and I have free time, we like to… Vacation together!  We are big Disney fans and NYC/Broadway fans.  It’s the best when I am near either of them geographically  for college tournaments!  I can see them and watch our teams compete – best of both worlds.

What advice would you give to Coach Moms, Academic Support Moms or other moms in college athletics? Take care of yourself first –physically and mentally.  Your kids need you and your job needs you and you must understand that you are best for all when you are your healthiest.  College athletics working hours can be crazy- we all know that.  But you are the main one who has control over your balance in that area.  Make time for family.  Find a mentor in your department.  Someone who you trust and admire and learn from them.  He/she will be your sounding board some days and your best friend on others.  I have been so lucky to have had three wonderful women mentors in my career!

Like mother, like daughter… Joan’s daughter Kristin (left) is following in her footsteps as an Academic Support Mom at The College of Charleston.


Other Mothers of College Sports, part 2: Athletic Trainer Mom






Other Mothers of College Sports, part 1: Sports Information Director Mom







Erika Lambert


Other Mothers of College Sports, part 2: Athletic Trainer Mom

 This is the second of a three part series highlighting the “other mothers” working in college athletics.  Coach Moms are not the only women in the Athletic Department managing the challenges of work/family balance. 

Read Donna’s bio

Fast Facts: I’ve been at Clemson University for 26 years. I came to Clemson in 1988 as a graduate assistant. I’ve been a full time assistant Athletic Trainer for 23 years. I have covered women’s basketball all 26 years. I am a single mom of 3 boys – twins Michael and Clay (18) and Dillon (14).  Both Michael and Clay will start their college careers in the fall –  Michael is going to Clemson and Clay is going to the University of Louisiana-Lafayette.  Dillon will be in 9th grade at Daniel High School.

The most challenging part about being an Athletic Trainer Mom is…  making all of my kids’ events – whether athletic or school related.

The best part about working in college athletics is… keeping young at heart.

My kids think my job is…  just a long, time consuming job with game time benefits: good parking (probably because I’m there so early), tickets, & free drinks during the game – for them and all their buddies.

When my family and I have free time, we like to… go to the beach, visit family, watch each other compete in sporting events, and just hang out together.

Many mothers in college sports feel they cannot remain in the profession once they start having kids and things get a lot busier at home.  What made you stay in the business all these years?  What advice would you give to Coach Moms, Athletic Trainer Moms or other moms in college athletics?  Any female in this profession can have a family. It takes a good support system.  The saying “It takes a village to raise a child” is very true in my case. I have been a single mom for 13 years so depending on babysitters and carpools was/is important. A person can’t be afraid or too proud to ask for a little help – you can return the favor in the down time ….whenever that is…. It takes a lot of juggling but aren’t we, as athletic trainers, used to that in our daily lives?  I’ve stayed in this business because it’s what I love to do. I tell young women all the time it’s a job that can be done when you decide to have children. Priorities may change and you may have to “let go” of some things.

Enjoy both your home and work life. A lot of moms in other professions have to travel  for their jobs, too. Enjoy the time away to “catch your breath” so you can spend quality time with your kids when you get home.

Donna Bullock & her three sons

Donna Bullock & her three sons



Other Mothers of College Sports, part 1: Sports Information Director Mom







Erika Lambert


Other Mothers of College Sports, part 1: Sports Information Director Mom

This is the first of a three part series highlighting the “other mothers” working in college athletics.  Coach Moms are not the only women in the Athletic Department managing the challenges of work/family balance. 
Fast Facts: Married mother of four grown daughters–Jennifer, Heather, Erin and Megan.  Husband, Bruce, is a retired Air Force Lt. Col.  The couple has 10 grandchildren and three great grandchildren.  Julie Bennett is in her 20th year with Baylor Athletic Media Relations and has worked in athletic communications for 29 years.  For the Bears, she is primarily responsible for covering Women’s Basketball and Acrobatics & Tumbling.  Julie is the 2014 Arch Ward award recipient, given by CoSIDA to a member who has made outstanding contributions to college athletic communications.


The most challenging part about being an SID Mom is… Finding a balance between home life and work life.       

The best part about working in college athletics is… Being around the student-athletes and seeing them grow both personally and athletically.       

My kids think my job is… The coolest job ever (even my grandkids think what their “Grammy” does is cool)    

When my family and I have free time, we like to… Attend sporting events.  My girls grew up keeping statistics and they are all still interested in athletics to this day.  They have passed that trait down to their children as well.       

What advice would you give to Coach Moms, SID Moms or other moms in college athletics?  My husband was career military and we moved around every three years or so.  Early in his career I adopted this saying and it can be applied to many areas of life.  “It doesn’t matter where you live, it’s what you make of where you live.”  Also, I made it a point to involve my children and my husband in my work.  They all grew up keeping statistics, etc.  In fact, my husband still keeps stats for Baylor athletics, football and men’s and women’s basketball.

The Bennett Family

The Bennett Family


Julie & Bruce Bennett

Julie & Bruce Bennett

Erika Lambert


Q&A with Abilene Christian coach Julie Goodenough and daughter, Bailey, Class of ’14

Longtime Division I basketball coach Julie Goodenough has grown accustomed to referring to high school students by class.  This year at Abilene Christian University, she coached her “13s,” signed her “14s,” and recruited the “15s” and “16s.”  Julie’s oldest daughter, Bailey, graduates from Wiley High School (Abilene, TX) today, making the 2014 class especially significant for the Goodenough family.  Along with her husband Rob and younger daughter Macy (16), Julie will attend Bailey’s commencement ceremony held on ACU’s campus this evening.  For the first time, she will sit in the same seat that her players’ parents have occupied before.

The road to Bailey’s graduation day has included several different stops which, interestingly enough, have come full circle.  Prior to her junior and senior years in Abilene, Bailey completed 5th-10th grades in South Carolina, where Julie was the head coach at Charleston Southern University.  Bailey spent 1st-4th grades in Stillwater, OK when Mom was the head coach at Oklahoma State.  And she attended kindergarten in none other than Abilene, TX, where Julie led the Cowgirls of DIII Hardin-Simmons University.

It is fitting, then, that Bailey would choose to pursue her college education in the town where she got both her start and her diploma.  She’ll be a freshman at Abilene Christian in the Fall.  Although she’ll be on her Coach Mom’s campus, the college transition is no less bittersweet.  The relationship between Bailey and her folks reminds me of Olympic swimmer Missy Franklin’s comment: “We’re making it cool to love your parents again.”  I had a chance to catch up with Julie and Bailey to chat about today’s big celebration, and what things will look like for them going forward.

What is one word you would use to describe your feelings about graduation day?
JG: Super-proud
BG: Anxious

Do you have any celebration plans?
JG: All of Bailey’s aunts, uncles and cousins along with grandparents will come to our house for a pre-graduation dinner/birthday celebration (she’s graduating on her 18th birthday!)

You help manage high school students’ transition to college life on a yearly basis.  What approach do you take with your freshman student-athletes and how will it be similar/different as a parent with your own daughter?
JG: My philosophy on why the freshman year is so difficult is because the [high school] senior year is so awesome! My daughter has had an unbelievable senior year (academically, athletically, and spiritually) and will have to transition to being the small fish once again. ​ The advice I give my players, and Bailey as well, is to control the controllables-work ethic and attitude. Giving your best effort will usually make the transition go smoother.

My recommendation for my players’ parents, that now I will need to preach to myself, is when their daughter calls home (or tweets or texts or skypes) and is upset or frustrated, please be a light of hope and encouragement. Students will succeed in college with their parents’ blessings and support.

What advice or encouragement have you heard your Mom give her players over the years that will resonate with you as a college freshman?
BG: I’ve heard my mom tell her players to always thank their parents. From watching every game they have ever played to just making breakfast while they are home for the weekend, she always encourages them to thank their parents. When senior night came for both volleyball and softball, I became very thankful for my parents. I looked around at my teammates and thought “I have the best parents ever”. I mean just how many parents would be daring enough to make the 4 hour trip to Monohans, TX, or even Crane, TX? In volleyball I did not get a lot of playing time (aka, I never saw the court), so the fact that my parents made the 4 hour trip to watch me sit and the All-State starter’s parents didn’t show up and even didn’t congratulate her on the win after the game, really made me realize just how thankful I am for my parents and the support system I have from them. So the advice that will resonate with me, is to always thank my parents for the things they do for me. And of course always “low hips high hands” and “go hard or go home” will always stay with me!

The Goodenough “nest” will go from 4 family members to 3 in the Fall.  But Bailey’s not going far.  Tell me about the college search and the ultimate decision to attend ACU.
JG: We lived in Charleston, South Carolina for 6 yrs where Bailey became a huge fan of both Clemson and Appalachian State. If we had stayed on the East Coast, her choice between the two would have been very difficult. However it seemed that just a few weeks after relocating to Abilene, Bailey knew ACU was the right fit for her. I offered to take her on other campus visits, but she really loves the campus, the school of education, and the intentional Christian atmosphere.

BG:  The beautiful campus appealed to me. I loved the green grass (which is not common in West Texas), the trees (also not common in West Texas…I guess I miss South Carolina a little bit) and the beautiful buildings and structures that are unique to ACU, for instance, Jacob’s Dream. The intentional Christian environment and all of the ministry opportunities are exciting. The people on campus are always so welcoming. Every campus tour I went on, the people involved were always so kind and thoughtful and made each tour very enjoyable, which made me realize that ACU is a pretty cool place with pretty cool people.

What are you most looking forward to about being a college student?  What are you nervous about?
​BG: I’m really looking forward to meeting new people and getting involved in activities that I have never done before, like intramurals for ​example.  I’m also nervous about meeting new people because I’m not exactly the type of person to approach a stranger to start conversation. Also, I’ll have to adjust to once again being a small fish with really big and experienced fish. And these big fish are going to be like 21! Yikes.

What is it that you want Bailey to take away from her college experience?
JG: To grow even more in her trust and faith in God’s plan for her life. To gain more of an understanding on what her strengths are and how she can use those to glorify God in her career and as a wife and mom.

How do you envision your relationship with Bailey as a college student on your campus?  
JG: We will have lunch together daily at the cafe! Just kidding!

Bailey’s ambition is to teach and coach so she is pursuing a work study job in the athletic department to more closely experience the coaching world. I will have the opportunity to bump into her at work but will make a diligent effort to stay out of her business as much as possible and allow her to figure things out on her own. I have a lot of respect for Bailey and would not want to embarrass her in any way. (And there is a great sense of peace knowing she will not be far away!)

Describe your daughter… (Mom brag moment!)
JG: ​​Like a typical coach’s kid, Bailey has attended 6 schools in 3 states, including 2 high schools. Starting over with each move has been difficult but she always finds a way to adapt, acclimate, and love life. She is very responsible and self sufficient, traits acquired because her mom has been away so much. I trust her word and believe she has a good moral compass. We have been blessed with amazing children​’s and youth ministers along our journey who have been instrumental in Bailey’s walk with Christ. She is not the most gifted athlete but has learned to be an incredible team player and the ultimate teammate​, always striving to find ways to help her team​s be successful. ​Her heart for others, work ethic, and knowledge of basketball, volleyball, and softball will aid her in being a wonderful high school coach in the future. ​

I will honestly miss her so much when she moves to college, but I know she will do great! I am concerned mostly about how her little sister, Macy, will manage without Bailey. Bailey is basically the reason Macy ever has an idea of what’s going on at school, when does student council meet, when deadlines are coming up, what day is picture day, and when the softball bus is leaving. I’m thankful Bailey has been such a great big sister!

Left: mother & daughter, Right: The Goodenough Family in front of the “Jacob’s Dream” sculpture on ACU’s campus

Where do you see yourself in 10 years?
BG: In 10 years I see myself as a high school history teacher and coaching the basketball team. I hope that I would be teaching somewhere in South Carolina, close to the beach, possibly somewhere in Charleston. But Texas is always a great alternative :)​


Congrats Bailey, Wiley High Class of 2014!  Congrats to Julie and Rob for raising your oldest into young adulthood!  And Macy, girl, don’t you be late for that softball bus…

Macy & Bailey Goodenough

Erika Lambert


How the Other Half Lives: My Year As a Stay-At-Home Mom

One year ago, I was on maternity leave for my second daughter.  My fifth year as a mid major Division I coach was ending and I knew I would not be returning to my post.  Our family was planning a move from Charleston, SC to Columbus, Ohio for my husband’s one year Fellowship in Pediatric Dentistry.  Amidst the craziness of packing up our house, helping with my staff’s transition, corralling an energetic toddler and mothering a precious but needy newborn, I was desperately searching for a coaching job.  Determined to keep our family together in one place, I pursued everything I could in Columbus, but soon found that my only options were not financially viable with two kids in daycare.

And just like that, I became the one thing I never imagined I’d be–a stay-at-home Mom (SAHM).

Out of sincere respect for the SAHMs I know, I have always said, “they’re doing the hardest job in the world.”  But I’m not sure I believed that 100%.  And why would I?  While experiencing the long hours, demanding culture and frequent travel of college coaching AND being the best Mom I could be, it made sense for me to look at SAHMs and think they had it easier.  But after a year in their shoes, here’s the verdict:

Being a stay-at-home-Mom is really, REALLY hard.

It has been for me, anyway.  I am not a natural homemaker.  When women proclaim that they were born to be wives and mommies, I just cannot relate.  I certainly agree that these are the most important of all the roles we play, but I’m just not in the running for Housewife of the Year.  Any mention of me cooking triggers sarcastic jabs from my family, because it’s that disastrous.  (I once made a frozen pizza with the cardboard layer still on and started a fire in the oven.  I also sauteed some summer squash and zucchini after breading it with powdered sugar which is not, in fact, the same thing as flour.  However, I was like 12 when these things occurred and it is high time my siblings cut me some slack…)

My year as a SAHM has come with many challenges beyond the culinary type.  But it has also been one of the most rewarding times of my life.  All the children’s books, dance parties, park visits, kiddie milestones, snuggly hugs and Dora episodes are so worth every minute.  In the true spirit of Mommy-mush brain, I cannot seem to order my observations about this year in a cohesive way, so I’ll just share with you the jumbled version.  Here are my thoughts on the differences, advantages and disadvantages of my experiences as a college basketball coach and a stay-at-home Mom.


STRUCTURE: Like many of you, I am a Type A personality.  I plan ahead, I schedule, I make lists and feel accomplished when I achieve daily goals.  All of this felt like it went out the window when we moved, and it was a bit pathetic how terrible I was at just being, and being happy doing it.  During my first few weeks as a SAHM, I dreaded my husband’s departure for work, leaving me with two little monsters (I mean that in the most endearing sense) for hours and hours.  Having a newborn baby and a just barely 2 year old while unpacking and settling into a new house and new state had something to do with it, for sure.  But without basketball to dictate my schedule, it took some time to develop structure into our days.  Eventually, we got into our groove and never looked back.  There’s a 3-4 hour window each morning when both my girls are awake and happy, and most days you can find us at the YMCA.  Mom works out and converses with other adults while kids have a fun time with their friends and teachers in the excellent childcare program (what a life saver!).  Our other excursions include but are not limited to the zoo, library, play fountains, Target, feeding the ducks or making the Playground Tour of Greater Columbus.

A DIFFERENT CROWD: The SAHM life can be pretty lonely, even with two little chatterboxes who want to play with you all day.  Phone conversations with friends and family are cherished, but rare because it’s tough to get everyone’s schedules to align for a quiet time to talk.  And besides, do my coaching friends or my not-yet-parents friends really want to be bored with the details of potty training and naptime struggles?  Probably not.  Fortunately for me, I was blessed with some awesome mom friends in Ohio who each happen to have 2 children the same age as mine and husbands training in the medical field.  Our play dates and crafting & dinner nights couldn’t be more different from my life spent with 18-22 year old student-athletes, but they’ve been oh so refreshing!  Motherhood is not for the faint at heart, and it is so essential to have friends right in the throes of it with you.  Bless you Cosette, Alyson & Becca, for listening to me ramble on about college basketball even though it is of no interest to you.  Love y’all and your kiddos!  And while I’m at it, I want to give a shout out to my friend Carin.  She IS the Homemaker of the Year and has been such an incredible example and support for me.

Lovely Mom friends with their babes (l to r): Cosette, Alyson, Becca

Lovely Mom friends with their babes (l to r): Cosette, Alyson, Becca

A funny attempt at a photo with all the play date kids.  My girls are on the left.

A funny attempt at a photo with all the play date kids. My girls are on the left.

FINANCIALS: For most families, dropping from two incomes to one could be a big change.  For us, we have always lived off one income because my husband was a dental student until a year ago.  Still, it feels weird for me not to be bringing home any bacon.

CALENDARS, SCHEDULING & SAYING “YES”: For Christmas this year, we spent two weeks at “home” in Charleston, SC.  Two weeks.  That is almost unheard of for normal people and especially for coaches.  When the holidays rolled around, it felt strange not to be playing in a tournament somewhere.  But do you know how it felt to hang out with my family on Dec. 26th instead of rushing back for practice?  Wonderful.  As a coach, my life was very scheduled and specific.  As a SAHM, the days all sort of run together and the weekends feel a lot like the weekdays (I think that’s just part of having young kids, too).  I rarely know what the date is, and it’s totally acceptable for my plans to change on a whim.  My husband and I have not done the weekly childcare juggling act this year, and we’ve gone from using four car seats down to two.

MISSING THE GAME: Basketball has been a part of my daily life for as long as I can remember.  So stepping away from that was very hard for me this year.  I missed having that second family, the grind and anticipation of preseason and the excitement you feel when you wake up on gameday mornings.  I missed the intricacies of BLOBS and SLOBS, and the beauty of a perfectly timed play.  And of course I missed the free shoes (I mean really…I haven’t purchased my own tennis shoes since high school. #Firstworldproblems).  Naturally, I couldn’t stay away from the game altogether.  So that’s one reason Coach Mom, Inc. was born and I have so enjoyed connecting with you all!  Also, I had a blast volunteer coaching at DIII Ohio Wesleyan University this season.  Thanks to online video editing, I was able to prepare every game’s scouting report from home and I attended practice and games whenever my husband’s work schedule allowed.  It made for some very late nights (er, mornings) but feeding my appetite for competition and building relationships with the players & staff at OWU made every film breakdown worth it.

MOM STUFF & LOGISTICS: Theoretically, SAHMs have more time than working moms for meal planning, grocery shopping and cooking dinner consistently.  You know, if you’re into that sort of thing… SAHMs dress like “normal people” and basketball shorts are not widely accepted attire…  My standards for cleaning have gone down.  Like, way down.  Even with all this free time (ha!), my house still looks like it’s meant to be some kind of obstacle course or carnival fun house.  Which caused me to wonder how I had time for any cleaning when I was previously so busy at work all day.  The thing is, now that the kids and I are home during the day, the house is so. much. messier.  Had I not volunteer coached or written this blog, I probably could have kept my house clean this year.  But that doesn’t sound like much fun, does it?

E for Effort, Ava.

E for Effort, Ava.

QUALITY v. QUANTITY: There will always be criticism toward mothers who choose to work outside the home.  Surely there is research out there to absolutely prove how eternally damaging it is for child development (does my sarcasm give away my bias?)  But this is what I’ve noticed–quality and quantity seem to balance each other out.  When coaching, I was so intentional about the time I spent with my family.  I knew it was limited and I didn’t waste it.  If we had just been gone on a 2-game road swing, my next few days at home were packed with Mama/daughter play time.  When I walked through the door after work, I didn’t once care to look at my phone until after Ava was in bed.  Bedtime felt like it came up too fast in the evenings and there weren’t enough hours in the day.  Now as a SAHM, my girls’ bedtime can’t come soon enough and this morning feels like it was three days ago!  I’m with Ava & Mya 24/7, and while it’s wonderful not to miss a moment of their little lives, I am admittedly not as purposeful with our time.  I waste too much of it scrolling on my phone and sometimes I knowingly ignore the umpteenth “Mama! Watch me!” request of the day.


With limited experience in each area, I am not an expert in either coaching or motherhood.  What’s been true for me may not be the case for you, either as a coach or as a mom.  The most important thing I’ve gained this year is perspective.  I’ve been reminded of what’s really most important.  Like every coach with a family, I always claim that my family comes first.  This year I had to put my money where my mouth is and take one for the Lambert team.  Going forward, my desire to be a college basketball coach is just as strong as ever, and I believe God placed that desire in my heart (Psalm 37:4).  It’s a hope I have to cling to, because there are currently no job opportunities for me in Minneapolis, MN where my husband will soon begin residency.  We’re moving in a month.  I’m still riding the Coaching Carousel, and I’m trusting the Lord to let me off somewhere according to His perfect timing.   I would be so excited to get back on the court.  But after all the memorable, messy, funny, heart-melting moments I’ve had at home with my girls this year, it’s hard to imagine “leaving” them again.

Going back to work would be really, REALLY hard. 

I’ve learned something about challenging transitions, though: The things that seem difficult to you now will eventually become your new normal, and you’ll wonder why you thought they were so hard in the first place.  This couldn’t have been more true during my year as a stay-at-home Mom.

Mya's really into this moving thing so far.

Mya’s really into this moving thing so far.

Erika Lambert



For a Special Coach Who is “Like a Mother”

This Mother’s Day, we want to celebrate a special coach who is “Like a Mother” to the players on her team, even if she does not have children at home.  These coaches mean a great deal to their student-athletes, probably more than they could ever know.  For this recognition, we asked players to nominate their coach and one nomination stood out from the rest.  Without further ado, rising sophomore guard Lauren Brown will tell you why Elon University Head Coach Charlotte Smith is deserving of this exceptional award:

“I am truly fortunate to play under Charlotte Smith not only because of her immense knowledge and passion for the game, but also because of her mother-like qualities.  Playing division 1 basketball limits the amount of time we are allowed to go home and spend quality time with our families, yet I have never felt or heard my teammates speak about being homesick.  Coach Smith has established a loving family environment within our basketball team and she is unarguably considered mother bear.  Coach Smith wears the numerous hats that come along with motherly duties.  The most essential role that comes to mind is unconditional love.  There is nothing like the comfort of knowing that no matter what occurs someone will be there for you.  I will never forget the spoken words of Coach Smith before our match up against the undefeated top team in our conference. My teammates and I all attentively waited to hear the game plan.  She looked around at us all and stated, “Don’t put yourself in a pressure bubble.  At the end of the day your parents will love you, I will love you, and God will love you”.  Her statement calmed us all and further displayed her special ability to separate our roles on the team and who we are as people.  She encourages us to love one another by emphasizing the God given opportunity to form life long relationships with others sharing similar goals.

Coach Smith is a role model.  I hope that one day my actions will perfectly align with my beliefs as hers do.  She speaks of striving for excellence with everything she does and acts accordingly.  She is strong in her faith and works to get closer to God each day.  She is a nurturer.  She prays over our injuries and protects us from the radical calls made by referees.  She is a teacher.  She has taught us the importance of selflessness and representing something bigger than ourselves.  Although I have not received her athletic abilities, nor will I ever have the ability to dunk, Coach Smith has been and will continue to be invaluable to my individual growth.”

-Lauren Brown








No Mother’s Day celebration is complete without flowers, so enjoy the blooms sent to your office today, Coach Smith!  Thank you for the ways you pour into the lives of your “children.”  And Happy Mother’s Day from all the Coach Moms!

Erika Lambert