Latter-day Saint Life

Why SVU’s women’s basketball coach is most concerned with helping her players know they are daughters of God

Photo courtesy of Lynette Schroeder, design by Holly Robinson

Following the initial publication of this article, Lynette Schroeder led the Southern Virginia University women's basketball team to its first-ever trip to the NCAA Tournament where they recorded the Knights' first-ever NCAA Tournament victory.

On New Year’s Eve 2016, Lynette Schroeder sat with her grandparents who were visiting from their home in Calgary, Alberta, Canada. It was the last holiday she would spend with them, as her grandpa and grandma would pass away just hours apart later that year. But she remembers her grandpa asking a question: “What challenge are you going to take on this year?” Her answer? She was going to get her master’s degree. So when the year came and went and she hadn’t applied to a graduate program, she found her grandpa’s question resounding in her head.

“I am a woman of my word and I thought, ‘You know what, I need to do that.’ I kept thinking, ‘Now’s not a good time,’ but when is going to be a good time? I needed to do it now.”

She is already the head coach for the women’s basketball team at Southern Virginia University, so the decision to pursue her master’s degree in sport coaching from West Virginia University may seem curious to onlookers. But Lynette has always loved learning, and the reason is fairly simple: “I want to be the best. … So, in order to do that, I need to learn. I need to have a growth mindset. I need to gain all the information and knowledge I can. So, even though I did have some success in my coaching career up to that point, I still had—I still have—so much to learn.”

It is this desire to learn and improve each day—this drive to be the very best on and off the basketball court—that she strives to instill in each of the women she coaches. She is a firm believer that God has given her a love for basketball and the ability to play so that she might be an instrument in His hands.

Basketball and Daughters of God

 Aside from the gospel of Jesus Christ, nothing has guided Lynette’s life decisions more than the game of basketball.

“My goal was always to play collegiate basketball in the US, so having that insight and desire to go and play basketball was always something that motivated my decisions,” she says.

It is the reason she spent long hours in the gym in high school, perfecting her jump shot, and the reason she often passed on things her friends were doing. Her focus was sharp. She knew what she wanted. But just a few weeks before her freshman year of college was set to begin, she was committed to play for a college in Canada, seemingly falling short of her goal. She had never heard of Southern Virginia University when a family friend came to visit prior to the beginning of her freshman year. He mentioned that he was headed to SVU, a small school owned by members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and Lynette’s interest was piqued. She reached out to the coach and sent in her highlights from high school, and before she knew it, she was in the car with her family driving to Virginia to visit the small liberal arts school.

When she graduated from SVU four years later, she was a four-time USCAA All-American, having led SVU to the 2006 USCAA National Championship in 2006. Today, she is still considered one of the most accomplished student-athletes in the history of SVU athletics, holding the program record for career three-pointers (251) and second all-time for career points (1,796).

She never anticipated coaching after hanging up her jersey for the last time; it would be too hard to be so close to the sport she loved without being able to play. But while she was working in a physical therapy clinic in Salt Lake City after graduation, one of the physical therapists she worked with encouraged her to apply for an assistant coaching job at Skyline High School. She got a coaching job under a woman named Deb Bennett, who had been coaching there for over 15 years and was one of the top five winningest coaches in state history. Lynette credits Deb with answering her questions and helping her understand the ropes, and when Deb retired, Lynette got her first shot at a head coaching job. In six seasons, her teams tallied three state championship appearances.

It was there that she began to make intentional decisions about the environment she wanted to create for the players she coached, and so she chose to pray before games. Her players could choose whether or not they wanted to participate but before every game, a prayer was offered.

“Regardless of the athletes on our team’s beliefs or denomination, prayer brought unity to our team. So when we decided to commit to pray before games, it brought that closeness and faith that only prayer can usher in. The season that we committed to praying consistently as a team is the year we won a state championship,” she says, speaking of the 2016–17 season. “And I’m not saying that praying with your team is going to provide you with a state championship … but for us it was like the missing piece to our team culture.”

She found that a greater confidence entered their program as her players understood that they were daughters of God: a knowledge, she says, we sometimes take for granted as members of the Church.

“It keeps things in perspective for me as I choose to see them the way our Father in Heaven would. As I do so, I am constantly reminded of their potential. … This is such a small moment. Basketball is such a small moment in their life, and that time I have with them is so short,” she says.

Read the rest of Lynette's story on the Magnify blog.

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