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Gilbert completes first season of coaching boys

Contributed photo: Desiree Gilbert.

FARMERSBURG — It is not usual for men to coach women, just ask UConn women’s basketball coach Geno Auriemma. But he is just one of three that is among the top 10 in all-time wins.
On the all-time win list for high school girls basketball, there are only three ladies among the top 10.
On the list of Indiana High School boys basketball coaching wins, you guessed it, only men.
In college, Teresa Phillips was the first to coach in the men’s game at Tennessee State in 2003. She only coached one game but went on to a standout career in coaching women’s college basketball.
I don’t know if there have been any women that have coached a boys basketball team in high school or not. But it is pretty rare.
But at North Central this winter, Desiree Gilbert was on the Thunderbirds boys basketball coaching staff, in charge of the junior varsity squad.
“When I got the job late I wanted to find the most positive people to be a part of building a program,” said North Central boys basketball coach Scott Pherson. “Especially knowing that this year would not only set the tone as far as expectations, but also it was going to be a very difficult season.”
It was the most difficult of seasons as the varsity went 0-24 and the JV posted a 1-19 mark.
“This was my first experience coaching a team,” said Gilbert, a graduate of Argos High School and Anderson University. “Here at North Central, this season we had a completely new staff, and coach Pherson asked if I’d like to join as an assistant.”
Gilbert, who received her degree in Exercise Science and Spanish, is in her first year of teaching Spanish at NCHS.
As a student-athlete at Anderson, Gilbert said she would help run camps in the summer for kids, girls not boys.
“That was my first experience coaching,” she said.
Gilbert added that coaching boys is completely different than girls.
“The first difference is the respect factor,” she said. “Living down here in a rural area, people aren’t used to seeing a female coach.
“So there have been some instances when the referees or opposing coaching staff overlook me and head straight for the male coaches.
“Although frustrating, I have learned to laugh it off and show them that I am just as capable.”
She said you have to gain the respect of your players.
“Young boys often times don't think that a “girl” knows anything about sports,” said Gilbert. “This is one of the most difficult parts.
“But once you show them that you are knowledgeable about the game and work just as hard with them, they slowly begin to open up and become more receptive.”
Pherson said that Gilbert did well for her first time on the sidelines.
“I thought she was able to transition and grow into her role extremely well,” said Pherson, who was serving as a varsity basketball coach for the first time. “She was dual major in college with Exercise Science and Spanish where she also played basketball.
“The fact that she is a woman did not matter to the staff or the players. She did a great job with our players. Her position was JV coach, but we all practiced together and she was just as much involved with the varsity.”
Pherson said Desiree was able to help the young players prepare to eventually play varsity basketball.
“She was also able to handle managing the quarters, and helping to get our players ready for the next level,” said Pherson. “I thought she did an outstanding job and was able to get the lone victory for the program on the season, so it was really awesome for our JV to end the season on a high note with a last-second shot for the win.”
Dylan Thacker’s buzzer-beating 3-pointer gave the North Central junior varsity a 42-41 win over Turkey Run to end the regular season.
“In our last second win against Turkey Run, I couldn't have asked for a better way to end the season,” she said. “When Dylan hit that shot, it was as if we had won a sectional title.
“Although it was only one win, I believe it was the spark that we needed to build our confidence into next year's season. It was a great reward for all the hard work we put in at practices this year.”
Gilbert said that the most important part of coaching and her “style,” is to always stay positive.
“I continue be a student of the game, and open to constructive criticism,” she said. “I try to remind my athletes and myself that a winning season is not a guarantee.
“If I can teach them about life, being a hard-working and good person, then I have succeeded far beyond what my record showed this season.”
“It was awesome to have Coach Dez on our staff,” said Pherson.

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