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A Woman For All Seasons: Fostering Champions

Picture this. The clock’s ticking. The crowd belts out a mighty roar. Bullets of sweat stream down a dozen faces. A hundred eyes are fixated on the monumental clash that lay before them. It’s the championship basketball game. You’re on the bench. A player gets hurt, and your coach puts you in as the replacement. […]

Picture this. The clock’s ticking. The crowd belts out a mighty roar. Bullets of sweat stream down a dozen faces. A hundred eyes are fixated on the monumental clash that lay before them. It’s the championship basketball game. You’re on the bench. A player gets hurt, and your coach puts you in as the replacement. The clock’s winding down. The ball comes to you. You’ve got no choice. It’s your moment. You feel the leathery grip of the ball as it leaves your hands, hear the blaring buzzer, and suddenly…

Sounds gut-wrenching doesn’t it? Without a doubt, there are very few people reading this article who could handle the immense pressure of such an intimidating situation, let alone act in a composed manner. And let’s not even talk about making the shot. I know I couldn’t.

There’s a woman, however, who hit her shot. Who won her championship. And when the time came, she didn’t crumble under pressure.

This woman is no other than Shandyn Foster ’00.

Now, Shandyn wasn’t literally called from from the bench into the championship game (though she would be very well familiar with such a situation from her experience as a high school and collegiate hooper). The challenge she faced is more menacing than any single basketball game could ever be. Shandyn Foster unsuspectedly and unpreparedly became the head coach of the Christian Brothers Women’s Varsity Basketball team.

A daunting task to say the least.

However, if you’ve been keeping up to date with the athletic world of Christian Brothers, you would know that this challenge was ultimately surpassed. A Capital Athletic League championship , a second Sac-Joaquin section banner, the farthest appearance in the NorCal tournament the team has earned yet, and a renowned popularity are just some of the numerous accolades the team earned in its 2017-2018 season, with no small part of this success due to the coaching of Foster.

But how was this unprecedented success possible? How could an assistant coach, unexpectedly thrust into the role of leader of the team, convert her newly acquainted program into seasoned champions? The answers to these questions lie in the character of Shandyn Foster and the integrity she has brought to the program, and ultimately, the court.

To begin understanding Foster’s accomplishments as a coach, one must first understand how she got her start in the wide world of basketball. Shandyn (then with her maiden name of Hicks) began her basketball career in the (soon to be become) Ron Limeberger ’53 gymnasium as one of our very own Lady Falcons. Shandyn gained a strong commitment to the game itself on the CB court, a commitment which would drive her forward into her adult life. After departing from the campus as a graduate in 2000, Shandyn began attending Sac City College and advanced her basketball career further.

It was in the Sac City basketball program in which Shandyn came into contact with one Don Moser, an assistant coach for the team. Shandyn’s level of integrity and drive left a considerable impression on Moser, one that would impact Shandyn’s future as an adult. Years after her collegiate basketball career ended, Shandyn came into contact once again with Moser, who had taken up the role as Freshman coach and Varisty assistant for the Women’s Basketball program at CB. Moser reached out to Shandyn last year, offering her the opportunity to coach alongside him as an assistant coach. She happily embraced this new opening, unaware of the immense gravity it would have for her future.

“I will forever be grateful for [Moser]  getting me back into a game that I love and to top it off, returning to my alma mater,” Foster told the Talon, warmly recalling her beginnings as a leader of champions. Shandyn felt a strong sense of satisfaction in getting the chance return to the game she loves, and on top of that, the school she loves.

“Returning to CB has been a whirlwind. So much has changed aesthetically, but it’s nice to still feel that family atmosphere and to see familiar faces! From staff that were here when I was to students who I went to school with and and are now back. I feel blessed to be able to say I am back and able to give back to a school that gave so much to me.”

Due to Moser’s doubling as a Varsity assistant coach, last season Foster was often left to coach the Freshman by her lonesome, allowing her to gain valuable experience and acquire a wisdom for the program. This elevated understanding allowed Foster to shine as a coach, attracting the favorable attention Ron Gully, the Varsity head coach at the time. Eyeing the unique talent and steely willpower that Foster held, Gully offered yet another golden opportunity for her — the chance to step into an assistant role at the varsity level.

Foster quickly took advantage of the path before her. “I was beyond willing and ready!”, Shandyn proclaimed excitedly.  “I knew that he had built such a strong program that I could be mentored and learn a lot by coaching beside him.”

Unfortunately, halfway into their summer league season, tragedy struck — Ron Gully announced his retirement. Chaos ensued, and a substitute for head coach was hurriedly sought after. Foster was encouraged to apply for the position, to which she excitedly obliged. After a tedious interview process, the job was ultimately given to someone else, but Foster was asked to stay on as an assistant. Foster happily accepted and returned to her former position. However, destiny had different plans for Shandyn Foster.

Early on in the conditioning portion of the 2017-2018 season, the coach replacing Gully left the program. The Women’s Varsity Basketball team had lost a two coaches in span of a few months. Not exactly the most favorable situation. But the world works in mysterious ways.

Foster’s Lady Falcons hype each other up as they prepare to take flight.

The frantic CB Athletic Department, unwilling to perform another interview process so close to the Winter season sought their best option — the Varsity assistant coach. Within a span of a single year, Foster had ascended from the Freshman assistant coach to the Varsity head coach and leader of the entire program. In a matter of moments, Foster inherited one of the greatest responsibilities in her respective field. Many other people would’ve easily cracked under the pressure of such a change, but not Foster.

Recounting this surprising time, Foster recalled her uneasiness heading into such a tumultuous position.

“Although I was nervous and not quite sure I was ready, I knew with the right people surrounding me, I would be okay.”

Aware of the immense challenge of a season that lay before her, Foster immediately set to work to find the new structure and style of the team. There was much to be done — everything from meeting and evaluating the players and establishing a playing style to setting seasonal goals instantly became the forefront of Foster’s agenda. Overwhelming odds aside, Foster was able to shoulder the burdens of her new position with a little help from her colleagues.

“The new position came with a lot more than just coaching my team and going home”, Foster stated. “There is a lot of behind the scenes work that no one really knows about, but essentially I’m learning on the job. Also the support from the administrators, Dale Milton, Rolf Schumann, and Mr. Orr, just to name a few, have been very helpful in making adjustment for my staff and I smooth.”

As she began to settle into her new role, Foster’s first official order of business was undeniably paramount — creating a culture of trust and dependency with the girls. Successful teams are built on the foundation of a strong reliance of players on the wisdom and guidance of the coach, and it was vital to Shandyn to begin fostering such a connection.

“First and foremost, I wanted the girls to know they could trust me,” Foster says. “That took some time to build, but I knew without that things may not go as we hoped. I wanted them to know that although I may be their biggest critic at times, I will also be their biggest cheerleader. My sideline antics will show that.”

Entirely aware of the significance of the coach to the lifeblood and longevity of the whole team, Foster primarily focused on establishing the confidence of the team in her. However, she also recognized the startling importance of the trust of each individual girl in one another. After all, the coach can only bestow on players a certain amount of values and honor — the rest must be brought about by a culture of respect and reliance within the actual team. Knowing she had a limit of authority with the girls, Foster set out to make sure that the girls could depend not only on herself, but also on one another.

“I wanted the girls to bond like a family. I wanted them, even in tough losses, frustrations with ourselves or with each other, big wins and hard practices. We are family and will always have each other’s backs.”

Shandyn’s frequent and passionate pursuit of a sense of codependency within the team was ultimately effective, and great relationships began to blossom between the players. And with a good amount of girls who, prior to the season, were unfamiliar with one another, this was crucial to the success of the team. Through this new culture created by Foster, the team grew to be far more connected and reliant than years before, greatly benefiting the program.

Senior baller Anna Clare Nelson (’18) is a clear testament to this improvement. After her four bountiful years in the CB basketball program, Anna Clare felt a monumental difference in the team with Foster’s arrival.

“I have really noticed a complete change in the atmosphere,” the senior says. “We can joke around and have fun at practice but can quickly and easily jump into a much more serious tone.”

Sophomore star Laney Prichard (’20) concurred with Nelson’s sentiments. As a younger player on a Varsity team, Laney is able to truly value the connection between players that Foster promoted so persistently.

The Lady Falcons exemplify Foster’s signature team bonding in a rally.

“Coach Shandyn has really helped to enhance our team camaraderie and I feel like our team has been brought closer due to her, since she gives us the opportunity to work hard while also having fun at the same time,” Prichard proudly stated. “I believe that Coach Foster has really pushed our team to be more ‘together’, which helped us to be as successful as we were.”

And successful they were. Foster’s dedicated coaching style worked wonders with the girls, and the program as a whole soared into a new era of team composition and unity. The team had a strong connection on and off the court that greatly attributed to their triumphs throughout the season. But the team’s success wasn’t all due to the new culture of companionship Foster established. She also brought a new sense of vigor and hard work to the CB court, the likes of which had never graced the program before. And yet, despite this new intensity facing the team, the girls did not disappoint. Instead of cracking under the pressure of the big expectations laid before them, the Lady Falcons took up their responsibilities and delivered.

“The ladies bought into what, we, as a staff, were selling,” Foster beamed. “There were a lot of changes made this season, and I wanted them to become more defensively minded. I wanted them to use their athleticism to pressure the opponent on one end, then push the ball and get easy buckets on the other. It was a lot of different than what they were used to offensively and defensively. New plays, new defensive sets, new staff — but they never batted an eye.”

And suddenly, the Lady Falcons were back on top. Earning nearly twenty wins in the regular season with a mere five losses, the team astounded their opponents and earned some much valued recognition among the community at large. In other words, buckets. Buckets galore. You would’ve sworn you were watching the ’02 Sacramento Kings, only without the corrupt refs (still bitter!) It was this new level of intensity that the girls brought to the court that ultimately lead to their greatest achievement of the season — a second consecutive section championship victory. A prize long and passionately sought for by all teams in the Sac-Joaquin Section, the blue threads of the section banner have become the Holy Grail of the CB basketball program.

That’s why after they totally devastated River Valley 72-58 in the title game, the Lady Falcons were ecstatic. In her very first year as a Varsity head coach, Foster had driven her new team to one of the greatest victories possible in the region.

“I’m still in disbelief. Like, wait a minute… we won, again, back-to-back? I actually didn’t come in and mess things up? I am so proud of these girls, they overcame a lot this season! They had to learn a lot of new things, and not every moment was rainbows and puppies. They are beat up, tired, and drained, but they are battling, working, and determined. They set goals in the beginning of the season and they are knocking them out one day, one game at a time. They grow with each game, each practice, each loss, and each win.”

Now that the beloved basketball season has come to an end, it’s difficult not to see all the spectacular work Foster has done with the team. She united her players and forged forward, leading them to a glorious and well-earned success. And as we now look forward towards next season, we can most definitely be sure that Foster will help our Lady Falcons soar to new and exhilarating goals, and accomplish them with a sense of vigor and integrity.

Foster didn’t just make her shot- she drained it. And yet, after all she accomplished, Foster still holds that genuine humility that she brought when taking her new position.

“I beam with pride, not for myself, but for them!”

 

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