Coach and Me is a series of stories during the 2021-22 school year that reflect on the relationships between coaches and their children. It will also be a reflection of memories for Tony Chapman and his dad, who passed away July 6, 2021.
PINNACLE BANK ARENA – The state tournament moves on outside the Nebraska women’s basketball locker room early on Thursday afternoon.
And this year’s 2022 one-week state tournament has taken us some places. It kind of just feels like “coach” is leading the way.
Somehow, I am here. In the Nebraska locker room with head coach Amy Williams and her husband Lloyd. Coach and me.
If dad were here, he would let out a belly laugh on this one. Me and his favorite coach are talking basketball at Pinnacle Bank Arena.
“You dog,” he’d say.
Coach was a big fan of the women’s program at Nebraska. He and mom had season tickets for many years. A good escape in retirement and a short trip down the road. I have a feeling he has had a good seat for this season coach and her team are having.
But, that is beside the point on Thursday afternoon. Coach has a little time to share some lessons. I have a little time to listen. Her dad was a coach, too.
“I vividly remember going to the gym when I was little,” Amy says. “I had an older brother who was also going around to Elks hoop shoots. Dad would rebound for him.
“I would take my roller skates and skate around the gym.”
The lessons remain this week in Lincoln, as Coach Williams turns to mom to watch daughter Kennadi chase a state championship with her Lincoln Southwest teammates.
Kennadi Williams is bruised and battered on Wednesday night. But, her team is still alive.
She scored 19 points and made 13-of-17 free throws in a 53-46 upset of top-ranked Millard South. Surely, grandpa Gusso was happy about that.
Lloyd and Amy Williams’ daughter is a rare three-sport standout. Her favorite is the one she is playing. Last fall, she won a state softball title with the Silverhawks. She plays soccer in the spring. Her favorite is one she is playing and since it’s March, well, she can go back to her early days in South Dakota for some fond memories.
“I remember just going to love to watch her team practice,” Kennadi smiles, “and sitting on the bench. When they would be on one end of the floor I would be shooting and when they came my way I would hustle off to get out the way.
“I loved to walk the stairs with mom when they did conditioning.”
Amy was a double major at Nebraska and thought she would go to medical school, and when it was time she couldn’t imagine a life without basketball. So, she went to Nebraska-Kearney and was a graduate assistant. She met Lloyd when they were both assistant’s at Texas-San Antonio.
Lloyd got tasked with coaching a youth boys basketball team in Vermillion when Amy was the head coach at South Dakota. They had many sons of athletic department coaches at USD who needed a coach. Lloyd volunteered and brought his daughter along. Kennadi was in fourth grade – she quickly became a starter.
“When she was nine, I was watching film at our house,” Amy remembers, “and she was watching the film and she said, ‘Why did they switch to zone defense?’ She just kind of had that knack for the game.”
Now Lloyd helps to manage Speedway Village in Lincoln – good gig if you like being in a gym – and helps Kennadi with her game as well as kid sister Bentli, who celebrates a birthday on Friday.
“I love coaching her team,” Lloyd says. “Especially at that age. We have a lot of fun with it.”
Now, Kennadi has taken the lessons from mom, the coaching from dad and is employing these basketball lessons in real time.
“I have watched a lot of games and love the competition,” Kennadi says. “That has really helped with my (basketball) IQ. And with mom’s team this year it’s just been fun to watch their games and how they work together. I have really tried to watch Jaz (Shelley) and Sam (Haiby).
“I really like how they play the game and so I try and put as much of that in my game as I can.”
Amy Williams would like you to know she’s just like you, basketball mom.
Asked what’s more nerve wracking for her – last week’s Big Ten Tournament or trying to see if the Silverhawks can advance in the state tournament – there is no hesitation in her response.
“Way, way, way more nerve wracking (to watch Kennadi),” she says.
Amy says Lloyd’s relationship with Kennadi growing up has allowed them to work on her game and give Amy the chance to just be mom.
“I married a better coach than me,” she said. “So, he’s been just a great ‘assistant’ to me and has allowed me to be a mom.”
It has also allowed Amy to reflect on the valuable lessons of sports. For her team. For her daughter’s team. The lessons for life. The lessons of a coach and their team – their family.
“The greatest thing about sports is bringing people from all different backgrounds and walks of life and working toward something as a common goal,” the coach says. “Life doesn’t always center around you and you have to throw yourself into the bigger picture.
“How to be a great teammate. How to work together with other people. How to set goals and influence others. And, how to lead people and fight through adversity.”
These are the things we all need to hear. The things that coach taught me. And the lessons of life that are well beyond the result of a state championship game.
“I think what I get from my mom the most is that you can always have a positive attitude,” Kennadi says with a huge Williams smile on her face. “No matter what happens. She’s always looking forward to the next thing.
“It’s just been really fun for our whole family this year.”
No matter the result of the big game on Friday, Kennadi Williams and mom and dad and Bentley and grandma and grandpa know the value of sports goes well beyond a box score.
“When you lay it all on the line, then you can be comfortable with what the results are,” coach Williams says. That’s one I have heard a few times, it’s just coach sending a few more reminders.
“Make sure when the final buzzer goes off that whatever the scoreboard says you can feel confident that you laid it all out there.”
Lessons for a championship game. Lessons for life. And, another thankful lesson from the locker room. Just one I wasn’t expecting to be sitting in. A place where we spent so much time together — Coach and Me.
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