CABOURG, France – The Drexel women’s basketball team spent nearly the entire day on Tuesday in the bus, heading from Ghent to Cabourg near the Normandy coast. Tomorrow morning, Drexel’s tour will visit the Normandy landing beaches and the American cemetary before heading towards Paris.
In the locker room, all eyes are laser-focused on Drexel head coachDenise Dillon, her players listening intently as she delivers her pre-game speech. It is Aug. 21, and the Drexel women’s basketball team is about to play its first international exhibition game against Binnenland Rotterdam, a team from outside of Amsterdam, The Netherlands.
With three freshmen who are about to play in their first college game as Drexel Dragons, there is an atmosphere of excitement in the room and perhaps some jitters. These young women, who have been star players on their high school teams, have been anticipating this moment for years – their debut playing on a college team.
Coach Dillon, along with her staff Amy Mallon,Stacy McCullough, Michelle Baker and Taylor Wootton, lead the team in prayer before heading out onto the court. This moment reminds me of the Notre Dame locker room prayer scene from the film “Rudy” just prior the season’s final game. You could feel the power of unity and cohesion in the room and the extraordinary feeling of being part of a team about to do battle with their opponent.
I was invited to serve as honorary assistant coach for this game, with the opportunity to get a behind-the-scenes view of how Dillon and her coaching staff interact with their players at game time. I am grateful to assistant coach Baker and director of operations Wootton for providing guidance during the game, which enhanced my experience. My goal is to provide encouragement to the players, observe and stay out of the way.
I watch the veterans of past seasons provide encouragement and guidance to the freshmen on the team. I watch Dillon and her assistant coaches shout instructions to the players on the court. During halftime, Dillon shares her observations on the first half – what is going right and what can be improved on during play in the second half.
At the end of the first quarter, the Dragons are down by one and at the end of the first half, up by 12. As the game progresses, it is very apparent that the Dragons hit their stride, winning the game 77 to 49.
I have watched the Dragons play over the years, and this team looks very strong. Pass pass pass shoot. This is coach Dillon’s style of play. A great start to what will be a great season.
As I watch this team play their first game, I wonder who will emerge as leaders as the season progresses. Athletics is a great way to develop leadership and team skills – skills invaluable in later life. What an extraordinary opportunity these young women have.