Usually, when athletes succeed, credit is mostly given to them: their grit, commitment, discipline, etc. Athletes are individuals who work day in and day out in order to accomplish sport-related goals. They deserve to be recognized when they achieve such goals since they are the ones performing and getting the spotlight. Nevertheless, there are people behind the scenes who play a huge role in the athletes’ success, not only developing them athletically, but simply as people, and women’s basketball coach Keisha Newell is one of those individuals.
A former basketball player herself and Loyola University alumna, Newell was hired back in July. As anything else in life, being the new person in a new place can be challenging; yet, she has embraced the opportunity. Soon after the team started conference play by the end of November, she led the team to a winning streak of seven games during the whole month of December and the beginning of January.
Newell’s passion for basketball started at a very young age, initially because she wanted to follow the steps of her older brother. With time, she learned to enjoy the game and realized basketball was where she belonged. “It [basketball] literally changed my life,” said Newell. “It played a huge role developing my character and I will be forever grateful that my brother introduced me to this amazing sport.”
During her time at Loyola, apart from being a stellar athlete for the Ramblers, Newell served as team captain for three years. Soon after graduation, she became the Ramblers’ Director of Operations, and the following season was named assistant coach.
“At the very beginning of my career I don’t think I saw myself as a coach, but once I stopped playing, I thought that maybe getting into coaching was something I could excel at,” said Newell. “Interacting with people, especially young women, is something I really enjoy… I just love to give back and share some of the lessons I have experienced throughout my life in the sport.”
Newell’s coaching philosophy goes beyond the technical aspect of the game of basketball. As a Flyer, her goal is to inspire her players and make them realize that what they learn through the sport can be very valuable outside the court as well. She wants to empower young women, uplift them and instill confidence in them.
“From a basketball perspective I think I am a defensive-minded coach,” said Newell. “But overall, my coaching philosophy revolves around the power of teamwork and hard work… I want them [players] to respect each other, do the little things and see them grow not only as players, but as human beings.”
As for the team goals Newell has for the Flyers, she does not want them thinking too much about the future. With nine in-season games left, their goals are to focus on the day to day, one game at a time. She affirms that if remaining consistent, “The results will come.”
Newell believes her role as a coach is more than just telling her players what to do. It’s about long-life support and encouragement, even after they stop playing, and that is what she aims to do for her Flyers in the future. “I just look forward to continuing impacting as many lives as possible.”
Photo credit: Somkene Ugwu