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April 17, 2007 > Elizabeth Stanley, coach, teacher, mentor

Elizabeth Stanley, coach, teacher, mentor

By Steve Warga

Even though she admits to competitive urges as early as age five, Elizabeth Stanley is not the hyper-active, Type A character you might expect of a highly successful basketball coach. She notes that even as a youngster, spirited contests were welcome; "I had to compete, you know, even in brushing my teeth!" First impressions suggest a somewhat shy individual, a personality trait she struggles with in recruiting sessions.

Prospective Ohlone College athletes would be well advised to pay close attention to this insightful, dynamic woman. In characteristic quiet, measured tones, she describes her coaching philosophy; her intense interest in winning; and her highest priority of all: the personal development of Lady Renegades student-athletes into "persons with character; not just goofy characters."

Make no mistake about it, however. Shy and quiet Elizabeth Stanley is a stone-cold killer when it comes to winning on the court. She doesn't lose her perspective in the heat of a game, but she will lose her shyness, as arch-rival, Foothill College, discovered near the end of a tense, overtime contest in February. Ohlone freshman forward, Demi Wolfen tells the story.

"Okay, Foothill game; it was nearing the end. Coach Stanley was yelling plays and "Defense!" and whatnot, but she's drowned out by the crowd noise. She ran over and grabbed the mike from the man and started yelling "Defense!"

No one was more startled than her players. The underdog Lady Renegades grabbed the win on their way to a commendable 26-6 record and an unexpected Coast Conference South championship trophy.

Stanley shrugs her shoulders and modestly suggests she was only doing her best for her team. "I have a deep and quiet voice. And the players couldn't hear me without the mike." Obstacle encountered, obstacle overcome; simple!

It's all part of what Stanley calls "ego-less" coaching, a philosophy that places a much higher value on character development than on merely winning. 13-year old daughter, Justice, inspires Stanley's ego-less standards. "I don't coach with my ego, and I think that separates me from most other coaches. I try to treat my players as I would want my own daughter treated."

Freshman guard Jeni Williams found this past season under Coach Stanley the best of her career. The San Bernardino native says, "Overall we had a really good season; the team atmosphere was great." She and the other returning team members are already looking toward next season. Their motivation is palpable during an interview with TCV. A disappointing, first-round playoff loss last month still grinds on these intelligent, and focused young ladies.

They're fortunate to have the talents the likes of Stanley guiding their efforts. After collecting numerous conference and state titles, plus a slew of coaching awards, first at Oakland's Bishop O'Dowd High School, then at Amador Valley High School in Dublin, Stanley was persuaded to move up to community college coaching. Six years ago, she walked into the Ohlone College gym with one, overriding goal in mind. "Maybe we could start a tradition here; a place where girls can go and be successful." As is her habit, success after success followed.

Her first team at Ohlone came off a last place conference finish the year before. Stanley and her dedicated coaching staff began winning games and never looked back. Their conference championship this year was the team's second under Stanley. And she was voted Conference Coach of the Year - unanimously!

Again though, Stanley modestly defers the honor to others, in a true "team effort" spirit. "I don't necessarily think it just me. Coach of the Year, to me, should be Coaching Staff of the Year. The nine of us did a really good job of coaching our student-athletes. I'm just a fractional part of the whole staff."

Maybe so, but while still in high school, this woman took to coaching "like a fish takes to water," Stanley's early mentors were her high school coaches, Bob and Cathy Brown, who worked as equal partners. Among many innovative coaching methods they employed was requiring their players to coach middle-schoolers. "They told us, 'If you teach it and preach it and demonstrate it, eventually you're going to get it," Stanley remembers. "After my family, watching players improve is my greatest reward. Noting validates more why I think I'm here."

That non-ego centric coaching style begins at practice. Stanley and staff see practice sessions as the time when players improve their skills, not to teach how to avoid losing. They work together to achieve Ohlone's - and other community college - athletics mission: preparing junior college players to advance into major college programs.

This year's crop of players offers a fine example of mission success. Sophomore stars, Danesha Wright and Cee Cee Johnson are both enrolled at University of San Francisco (USF) this fall. Wright earned All State First Team honors this season, while Johnson landed a spot on All State Second Team. Readers may want to keep an eye on the USF team next season; these two ladies carry a lot of talent wherever they go.

Whether or not a bigger stage awaits her, Stanley doesn't fret. "If an opportunity opens, I would consider it, but time with my husband and daughter is very important to me. The goal here has been to make this a steady flow of great student-athletes who represent this community well. We want them to consider how they want others to perceive them and to become upstanding members of the community. The rewards here at Ohlone have exceeded my expectations."

It's been quite a ride so far for Elizabeth Stanley, going all the way back to those heady days as the family "Tooth Brushing Champion." Every step she's taken, up every rung of the ladder, this coach has secured exceptional success by helping others to succeed. Ego-less coaching is more than a quaint slogan. It's a way of life that brings credit to her, her family, her athletes and the greater Tri-City community. What finer role model could anyone want?

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