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Accuracy • Independence • Integrity

November 20, 2017   |   Ithaca, NY

Sports

Former teammates take on coaching roles for the women’s basketball team

White jerseys with dashes of blue and gold flash by the Bombers’ bench as the team strikes with a quick counterattack. The ball is a blur as the Bombers hastily make their way to the basket. The Blue and Gold’s sideline claps and cheers as the team adds another two points to the board. The supportive sideline consists of players proud to wear Blue and Gold, veteran Head Coach Dan Raymond and two members of the coaching staff who are all too familiar with this adrenaline rush.

Assistant Coach Katherine Bixby ’11 and Graduate Assistant Jess Farley ’12 exchange a look and give a nod of approval. The opponent calls a timeout, and the young coaches are out of their seats. Before the team huddles up, Bixby and Farley are already giving advice to players coming off the hardwood. The two assistant coaches who once shared the court together are now both manning the sidelines, sharing their extensive knowledge of basketball and the Bombers’ program with a team that is on pace for one of its best seasons ever.

Both guards had successful careers on the court and are looking to continue their success as coaches. Bixby hung up her jersey with 1,335 total points and 366 total assists, and became the second all-American in program history. Farley ended her senior season leading the team with 90 assists and 66 steals while earning her fourth consecutive all-conference selection, tying a school-record.

Bixby and Farley joined the Bombers’ coaching staff for the 2012-13 campaign and continue to make contributions to the women’s basketball program. Only now, it’s outside the white borders of the court.

While Bixby finished her undergrad and is pursuing graduate-level education on South Hill, she continued coaching for two years, one at Ithaca High School and one at the college. Bixby returned to her alma mater this season after former Assistant Coach Alex Ivansheck accepted the head coaching position at the U.S. Coast Guard Academy. Raymond said one of the reasons he chose Bixby to join the coaching staff was because of her background in teaching as well as her love for basketball.

“I really do credit a lot of why she’s such a good coach to not only her passion for basketball and knowing how to play but also her teaching education,” Raymond said.

On the court, Bixby was a floor general, running the point with ease and finesse. She also knows the team’s personnel, having played alongside seniors Devin Shea, Elizabeth Conti and Catherine Lewis during their freshmen year.

Bixby and Farley were also teammates for two seasons. The two guards know each other quite well, as Farley would usually guard Bixby in practices.

“That’s another running joke between us was that since I always had to guard her, she made me look like a fool so many times,” Farley said.

Bixby said that she was “very professional” in her relationships with players on the team, so the transition from teammate to coach wasn’t hard. However, for Farley, the shift has been more difficult.

She played with 11 of the 14 members on the current varsity roster, and Farley said that she is still friends with her former teammates but must constantly remind herself that she must draw the line.

“I’m still friends with all the girls, but it’s on a more professional level,” Farley said. “I still almost every single day have to remind myself that I’m a coach.”

At the beginning of the season, Farley addressed the team to let them know that she is still their friend but to understand that she wanted to be respected as a coach. Shea said that though it can still be tough at times to make the adjustment, there hasn’t been an issue since.

“From [Bixby and Farley] being former teammates to coaches now, you still kind of want to have the urge to goof around with them because we’re friends, but there is that sense of professionalism that needs to be there,” Shea said.

The different approaches and experiences on the court have translated into two distinct coaching styles. Bixby uses her basketball IQ to scout out opponents and help the team prepare for each game, breaking down hours of game film and creating “cheat sheets” detailing everything from opponents’ offensive plays to a point guard’s quirks.

Farley uses her close relationships with the players to help with team building activities outside of practice. The members of the South Hill squad can be seen wearing silver bracelets with blue, gold and white beads around their wrists — courtesy of Farley.

“I came up with the dorky idea to have a bracelet, and for every game that they get to they’ll get a bead,” Farley said. “It’s kind of a fun thing, and every time you see the bracelet on your wrist you’re thinking of the ultimate goal. You’re thinking of the team and what you all want, which is to get to the 33rd game.”

The Blue and Gold still have a long journey ahead of them as they look to accomplish their goal of reaching the NCAA championship final, but junior guard Jenn Escobido said Farley and Bixby are helping them get there.

“They’ll give you insight on what they would have done in a situation, which is very interesting,” Escobido said. “Being previous players, they know some of the Empire 8 players, they know their tendencies, and Jess and Kat give you a different look at things than Coach Raymond does, which is nice.”

It is still uncertain whether Bixby and Farley will be seen on the sidelines again next season, but Bixby said her experience so far has been very rewarding.

“Coaching is definitely something that I want to pursue, but I do like the coaching and teaching aspect,” Bixby said. “I know that not every school does what Ithaca does.”

For now, the coaching staff will continue to push each player to perform to their highest potential. Although the future for Bixby and Farley is still unclear, Raymond said he has no doubts that both will have successful coaching careers if they choose to continue this path.

“I don’t really know what Jess wants to do, but she would be an excellent coach,” Raymond said. “I would love to have [Bixby] as long as she’d like to stay. I’m going to encourage her, but at the same time I feel that it’s my responsibility to help her be prepared to become a head coach.”