Grace Vander Weide, Marist’s starting point guard for the past three seasons, concluded her collegiate career with a dominant performance and a dominating win in the first (and only) round of the MAAC tournament. The redshirt senior recorded 14 points, a game-high eight assists and a tied-for-team-high six rebounds in Marist’s defeat over Monmouth. But she is far from being away from the sport.
Vander Weide, a two-time All-MAAC Team member (named to the second team this season and the third team last season), plans to get into coaching after she graduates in May. It’s something she’s always wanted to do. “From an early age, I knew I loved basketball,” she said. “I want to be involved with the game in any way that I can and if God opens the door for me to go into coaching, I’m gladly gonna walk through that door.
“I’ve known for a long time – since, like, second grade – that this is something I could do for the rest of my life,” she continued. “I love the competitiveness. I love how influential coaches can be.” She credits her coach from second grade through high school, Jake Sullivan, for helping her see that a coach can impact life both on and off the court. “And be a spiritual leader, too.”
Sullivan, a former player at Iowa State and the Big 12 Rookie of the Year in 2001, was a loud, intense, detail-oriented coach; Vander Weide said that his style of coaching toughened the players up. In addition to being the coach, Sullivan taught his players scripture and Gospel readings. On a note more personal to Vander Weide, Sullivan led her family on mission trips to Ghana, where the family would end up adopting three children.
Vander Weide sharpens her coaching skills by studying other coaches. She’s a sponge for the coaches she plays under, absorbing basketball knowledge and observing her coaches’ tendencies and decisions. Week to week, Vander Weide will find some extra film on Marist’s next opponent and ask her coaches questions about what she sees.
And she doesn’t limit herself to coaches she plays under. She studies coaches throughout the MAAC; Marist head coach Brian Giorgis and Quinnipiac head coach Tricia Fabbri stand out to her. “The way both of those coaches are able to rally their troops and get their players to play for them and just unite everyone and be the head of the program is impressive to me,” she said. “It’s something that I hope to be someday.”
Another coach that has always been impressed Vander Weide is Kellie Harper, her former head coach at Missouri State who is now the head coach at Tennessee. “The way that she instills grit into her players is something that I learned from my freshman year [and] on and I’ll carry with me wherever I go,” she said. Vander Weide also studies some of the most well-known and successful coaches in women’s basketball, such as UConn’s Geno Auriemma and Tennessee’s Pat Summit.
Vander Weide’s coaches believe in her. Giorgis thinks she already has all the qualities of a coach, citing her leadership, knowledge of the game and positive locker room presence. “She has a lot of the ‘it’ factors for being a coach,” he said. The seven-time recipient of the MAAC Coach of the Year award also pointed out Vander Weide’s immense passion for the game, which he says is a key trait for coaches to have.
Assistant coach Erin Doughty complimented Vander Weide’s leadership and basketball IQ, too. “She’s got great leadership ability,” she said. “She’s a strong personality; she’s willing to speak up. She’s played a lot of basketball, so she’s had a lot of different types of experiences.” She said Vander Weide “learns by making mistakes, which I think is a great thing in any profession.”
Doughty also mentioned that Vander Weide is a risk-taker on the floor, which she believes is a benefit to have as a coach. “I like her riskiness. It’s one of those things — we say all the time — that it helps us way more than it hurts us,” she said. Indeed, some of Vander Weide’s decisions on the court are too ambitious to be pulled off, but Doughty explained that it’s something that benefits the team. Racking up an abundance of assists is worth the cost of a couple of turnovers.
Doughty believes this tendency of Vander Weide’s play will show up in her coaching through her boldness and confidence. “I think she’ll be willing to try different things,” she said. “She won’t be afraid to speak up in a coaches meeting. She won’t be afraid to talk to one of her players about something that she might see and maybe they don’t and hopefully, she can help the point guards she’s coaching be effective in the [fast break] and the half-court game. Things like that.”
Vander Weide will begin her pursuit of becoming a coach in early April with the “So You Want To Be A Coach” program. The program — organized by the Women’s Basketball Coaches Association — hosts 50 collegiate players for a weekend of helping current collegiate players begin their coaching journeys.
Attendees will have the opportunity to network and listen to a wide variety of speakers, from former coaches to coaching assistants. Vander Weide is interested in hearing different coaches’ perspectives on how to run a program. “Figuring out different ways people coach and different styles, I think, is something really interesting ‘cause I’ve got so familiar with Coach Giorgis and how he does it.” Though the workshop has been canceled due to the current coronavirus outbreak, the WBCA plans to hold an online workshop in its place. Online or not, Vander Weide will be the first Red Fox representative since Kristina Danella in 2013, and will be the only player representing the MAAC.
“I’m so proud to be representing Marist anywhere that I go,” she said. “I feel honored to represent our program and everything that our coach has built.”
The dream job for Vander Weide is being a head coach at a Division I program. For now, though, she’s focusing on finding a graduate assistant position after she leaves Marist. She anticipates the job would include helping assistant coaches with tasks such as cutting film and coordinate meals. “It won’t entail a lot of coaching right away,” she said, “which is something you just have to climb the ladder [for] and go through that first position. It’s a lot of the dirty work but I think it’ll pay off and it’ll show me this is the other side to coaching and I’ll be able to sit in on the meetings and just learn – learn how to be a coach.”
Vander Weide’s desire to be a coach stems from a deep passion for the game of basketball. She described herself as a basketball nerd and diligently studies the coaches she seeks to emulate one day.
“I’m learning first-hand that coaches are so influential on the players’ everyday life and I think that’s the really important thing,” she said. “I know that the coach is the leader and it’s someone that the players look up to and I plan to be someone to someday mentor my girls and my team and be a leader for them – spiritually, too, ‘cause I think that’s important to have that rock as the foundation.”
Edited by Will Bjarnar
Correction: A previous version of this article stated that Vander Weide was a two-time All-MAAC Third Team member. She is a two-time All-MAAC member but was named to the second team this season. It has since been updated.