By Coach Cooper
In a fresh pursuit of new team bonding opportunities and activities, I have elected to pull a page out of another coach’s playbook and publish “beyond the baseline” articles about our team. These pieces of literature will enlighten our community on who our players are as people, not just basketball players. As a way to get the girls involved in this venture, they will be the authors of these spotlight articles. Each returner from last year’s season has been given a “little”, or newcomer-partner. The idea of “bigs” and “littles” bridges the gap between upperclassmen and lowerclassmen. With a team of 21 high school girls, you can imagine the variety of personalities we bond with daily. “Bigs” and “littles” will write their partner’s “Beyond the Baseline” article and submit it to me to publish periodically. Not only will this bring the girls closer, but it will also provide opportunities for their stories to be told. These articles are not meant to add stress to the players’ already strenuous academic workload—these should be easy “writes” and even easier “reads.” Because I do not want to aimlessly lead them into the abyss of writing composition, I’ve decided to inaugurate “Beyond the Baseline” with a special “coaches edition” where I feature my 3 assistant coaches: Megan Kiser-Petrie, Austin Burton, and Andy Burnett.
Megan (Montgomery) Kiser-Petrie
Megan joined our staff last season after my former assistant, Linley Whitcraft, decided to take pregnancy leave with her baby, Sydney. Megan is a former Berry, which was a plus from the get-go. She was finishing her undergrad at IU South Bend, and student teaching at Fairview Elementary. For months I had searched high and low for somebody to fill Linley’s position and had no luck finding anybody that could commit the great deal of time it takes to coach a high school sport. Brian Strong forwarded Megan’s information to me and I remember touching base with her and setting up a time to sit and talk basketball. I had no clue what to expect, but when I saw a short, brunet, former-baller walk in my classroom door, it was a done deal—hired; short coaches unite! Okay, so, maybe I picked her brain about basketball for a while before making the decision, but she sure got off to a good start! She spoke of how much she loved playing basketball for Logansport High School and the many memories that she still carries with her today from being a part of the program.
It takes a special individual to mesh well with the combination of 3 basketball-crazy people from Tipton County. I can honestly say that I don’t think I could have chosen a better person to join us. Megan has many qualities that allow her to fit in with us – she has a great sense of humor (a must with us), she displays the same tough love we have for all of the girls, she’s reliable and trustworthy, and above all else, she is a hard worker. I sometimes forget that Megan is *cough* six *cough* years *cough, cough, cough* younger than me. She is younger than my younger brother – and that’s crazy to me! I was literally dribbling and shooting before she could walk, talk, or feed herself. My husband, Roy, and I had the pleasure of attending the wedding of Megan and her husband, Austin, this past summer. It was so awesome to see her special day play out, as I had been listening to the planning efforts for many months, thinking, “I sure am glad I never have to do any of that again!” All in all, I’m very fortunate to have Megan on our staff and I know the girls benefit from the hometown connection she shares with them.
When I say Austin and I go way back, I’m talking, waaaaay back. I first met Austin when my brother, Blake, invited him over after school one day. He (maybe) weighed 60lbs and looked awfully small compared to my brother’s stalky, athletic build. Their friendship flourished and they bonded over all things little boys bond over – WWE wrestling, sports, cute girls, mountain dew and chicken nuggets, annoying me, etc. I learned to accept him as another younger brother over time. I watched him and Blake grow up. Do NOT get us started on childhood stories, unless, of course, you have a free 2-3 hours.
Anybody that knows Austin, knows that he and his wife, Summer, are devout Duke Blue Devil fans. Every August-September, Austin anxiously awaits the release of our official schedule to see if he’ll be able to catch Coach K and his squad in action. The guy just has basketball on the brain all the time and that’s something I can appreciate, because I suffer from the same disease. It was late-July in 2013 when I called Austin to ask him to be my assistant coach for my first varsity coaching position. The conversation went a little like this:
(after telling him I got a head varsity position)
Austin: “Nice! Congratulations!!”
Me: “Yeah, thanks! So, I’d like for you to be my assistant. Would that interest you?”
Austin: “Wait…..for girls’ basketball?”
Me: “Uhhh, well, yeah, Austin… I didn’t apply for the boys’ position.”
Austin: (pause) “Um, I’m going to have to check my schedule and get back with you.”
He iced me; made me sweat it out until he got back to me with his decision. He was a little hesitant with the idea of coaching high school girls’ basketball, because, as he mentioned, he “knew nothing about it.” Eventually he decided to seize the opportunity to get his feet wet in high school coaching and the rest is history. His passion for the game is contagious. His ability to play devil’s advocate while strategizing game plans is extremely helpful—always thinking one possession ahead. I value his input and dedication to our program.
Like many other young girls of my generation, I started off my athletic career in gymnastics. My little 5-6 year old self would spend hours tumbling, balancing, and twirling ribbons. This sport, however, just wasn’t my dad’s cup of tea. My parents never forced me to play a certain sport, but I will admit they painted the idea of playing basketball extra pretty. I saw the excitement they had while watching the Hoosiers play in the 90s, during the Knight Era. Sold. Over the years, I played for so many different teams: leagues, school teams, travel teams, AAU—you name it. My parents invested many hours (and dollars) in my habit. With another child involved in sports and school activities, my parents developed as close to a schedule as they could, titled, “Who’s taking Meranda to and from basketball practice?” For the majority of my youth, I had the pleasure of spending time with my mom at distant national tournaments. We traveled everywhere—all across the Midwest and South mostly. Many of my most cherish memories from those years are with my mom on those trips. The “in-between” was more fit for my dad’s schedule. He took me to and from practices and try-outs and even helped coach or keep book for my teams. For two whole years, I played on a Roncalli AAU team that practiced at Greenwood High School on Sunday evenings from 6-8pm (out of season). Every Sunday, my dad and I would make the 2-hour, round-trip journey from Sharpsville to Greenwood—talk about some Q.T. with dad! My dad taught me a lot about basketball, but more so, about how to be mentally tough and coach myself through adversity. I was never allowed to quit anything while growing up. I was never allowed to shift blame or point fingers when something bad happened. Everybody has their own ideas of what parenting “should look like”; I think I turned out alright.
My dad adds quite a bit of depth to our coaching staff, as he has coached at the high school level well over a decade longer than us other pip-squeaks. Playing experience does not parallel with coaching experience, contrary to many beliefs. He has been in every situation you can think of as a coach. If Austin, Megan, and I cannot come to an agreement on something, we look at dad for his 2 cents, in which is usually some kind of curveball option that somehow always has us scratching our heads, saying, “that’s actually a really good idea.” I’m thankful for basketball, because it has served as a platform for so many years of bonding between me and my dad.
Fast/Fun Facts Section
Megan: Anything Chicken
Favorite Basketball Player
Megan: Reggie Miller
Austin: JJ Reddick
Andy: Larry Bird
Favorite Sports Memory
Megan: Watching the Cardinals win the World Series in 2011
Austin: Watching the Duke Blue Devils win 2 national championship, 2010 and 2015
Andy: Being a part of my kids’ athletic successes coaching – Meranda: 3 state championships, Blake: 2009 Indiana All-Star
Favorite Subject in School
Megan: Social Studies
Favorite TV Show
Austin: Everybody Loves Raymond
Megan: Carrie Underwood
Austin: Jimmy Buffett