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Woman-Up: A conversation with WNBA Lynx Head Coach Cheryl Reeve. Part I

WNBA Champions Head Coach Cheryl Reeve and 2013-14 Minnesota Lynx starting five from Media Day 2014.
WNBA Champions Head Coach Cheryl Reeve and 2013-14 Minnesota Lynx starting five from Media Day 2014.
Matthew Fleegel

Welcome to Woman-Up. A three part exclusive interview where I sit down with WNBA Lynx Head Coach Cheryl Reeve and discuss how and when she became interested in sports, how that interest led her to coaching, the WNBA, and the state of woman’s athletics as a whole at home and abroad.

Part I: Getting to know Cheryl Reeve

Examiner: “I want to start by congratulating you on being named as an Assistant Coach for the US National team."

Coach Reeve: “Thank you. It’s a real honor.”

Examiner: “How do you feel that role will differ from your position with the Lynx?”

Coach Reeve: “ Obviously the decision making will be done be Geno, (Geno Auriemma, Women’s basketball Hall of Fame Coach, and US National team Head Coach since 2010) he’ll make the decision so it’s a little bit different. My role will be more suggestions or following instructions verses being the one to have the final say.”

CR: “ I’ve been in both roles, Assistant and Head Coach. I think having been a Head Coach you’ll understand really well about what’s needed. When it’s time to say something and when it’s not time to. I’m looking forward to it.”

Examiner: “What initially sparked your interest in basketball when you were growing up?”

Coach Reeve: “We came from a sports family, in that, I had two brothers one older and one younger. My Dad was pretty interested in sports. He was in the Air Force; he was kind of a weekend warrior sports guy. We were gifted as young people. We loved… loved watching sports, whether it was baseball, football, and we played a lot in the backyard. Emulated Chuck Foreman, Fran Tarkenton and those guys back in the day.”

CR: “Basketball for me was later, I was really into softball. My Dad got me at a very young age starting playing t-ball; I think I was like five years old. So softball was really my first love for a long time. I did the whole ASA stuff, traveled, so we really invested a lot of time in that.”

On how her love of sports influenced her youth…

CR: “It was probably about fifth grade. My feet were growing; I just remember how big my shoes were…My Chucks! I had my green Chucks and my green and yellow striped socks, y’know the tube socks that went all the way up to my knee. That was my first team, that was probably fifth grade. I was a young girl who loved sports and was aggressive, and that’s something that you just have internally. I had two brothers and I had a Dad who was pretty hard on me. So, it toughened me up, and I just played more and more and starting liking it more.”

On when she decided basketball was going to be a part of her future…

CR: “It wasn’t until I got to high school that I saw basketball as a big part of my future. It was my high school coach that told me that softball I was really good at and basketball I was pretty good at. And then she said if you want to get a scholarship to college that it’s basketball, that there’s more funds available, and she was absolutely right.”

CR: “So then I started to focus more on basketball, all though I was a three-sport athlete through high school. Actually played softball in college for a year, but that was my last year…my freshman year. Yeah, so basketball is my love.”

Examiner: “When did you make the transition to coaching, what is your earliest memory of switching from being a player to being a coach?”

Coach Reeve: “It definitely wasn’t until my junior year of college. A couple of things happened…I did an internship for the IRS in my major; I was a computer science major. Did an internship, had to do the 9 to 5 thing. Rode the city bus to work, and then I thought, ‘There has got to be something different that I can do in life than this’.”

CR: “I also worked five weeks at the Kathy Rush Basketball Camps. Which is very famous in our area of Doylestown, Pennsylvania. If you were anywhere close in the area you went to work Kathy Rush Basketball Camps. Not only did you work and coach, and instruct. But we played pickup games, so it was a big part of our summer improvement. From freshman year to sophomore year you wanted to make that jump. If you were anybody within a 5 hour radius, you came to Kathy Rush to work.”

On her initial impressions about coaching…

CR: “It was then that I got that feeling of…not so much the skill stuff, that was fun teaching young girls…but the game as a whole. Y’know it’s your team, and you conceptualize what you think you are going to run, and plan strategy in the game even though it’s camp. I was like, ‘I kinda like this’, and I felt like I had a connection to it.”

CR: “I was really fortunate that my college coach thought it was important to give opportunities to former players and I was able to stay on and be a graduate assistant at LeSalle. By the time I was done playing I had transitioned right into it, I was hooked. I was hooked on coaching and I knew I didn’t want to leave basketball.”

Examiner: “In your opinion, what were those key elements that led to your success once you became a coach, both in Detroit with the Shock and now with the Minnesota Lynx?”

Coach Reeve: “Number one, I’ve had the fortune of having really good players. I think for me it doesn’t matter whether I was a student in computer science, whether it was softball, basketball, or coaching. The way that I approach my business was that I was a preparer, so I was going to study really hard for a test. I didn’t like feeling unprepared.”

CR: “That’s kinda the way it has been for me as a coach. I’m passionate, I’m persistent, and I’m prepared. I think that these players, particularly here in Minnesota, allowed me to be myself. Anytime you have that, then you have a chance to be successful, so I’ve been very fortunate.”

That concludes part I of Examiner’s exclusive Woman-Up interview with WNBA Lynx Head Coach Cheryl Reeve. Keep on eye out for part II, when Coach Reeve and I will delve into a discussion pertaining the marginalization of female athletes, and the effect that has on the public’s perception of the WNBA.

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