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That isn't quite so true, however, for Cathy Crosslin, who has replaced the retired John Wilcox as skipper of the women's basketball team at Whitman College. For Crosslin, coaching at Whitman is like coming home.
A decade ago, as a 6-foot post player, Crosslin was a four-year starter at Whitman and a senior captain in 1988 when the Missionaries captured a Northwest Conference championship.
Given her background, experience and familiarity with the school, Crosslin sees herself as a "good fit" for Whitman and notes that her return to campus has gone more smoothly than anticipated. "I expected some transition time between Coach Wilcox's players and the ones I'll be bringing in," she said. "What I found was a group of women who want to work hard and win."
For a number of reasons, Crosslin added, "I feel like I've walked into an ideal situation. It's been my dream to be a college head coach, and for me Whitman is a very comfortable place to be. I'd forgotten how friendly it is here at Whitman."
In addition to coaching, Crosslin is teaching classes in the physical education department and directing the school's intramural athletic program, which offers a wide range of sports and attracts participation from about 80 percent of the student body.
Crosslin, 30, graduated from Whitman with a degree in psychology and later completed a master's degree in student personnel administration at Western Washington University (WWU). While working on her master's, she sampled her first taste of coaching, serving as an assistant basketball coach for three seasons at Bellingham's Sehome High School, her alma mater, as well as nearby Blaine High School.
After two seasons as a WWU coaching assistant, Crosslin was hired as the head coach of the girls' basketball program at Bellevue High School, a post she held for two seasons through the spring of 1995. She added to her coaching resume in 1993 when she took the reins of the Seattle Magic, a highly successful AAU basketball team.
"The Magic attracts some of the best high school-age players in the state," Crosslin said. In 1995, under her guidance, the Magic won the AAU Junior National championships and placed first in the "Cream of the Crop" tournament in Ventura, Calif. Her squad placed second at both the 1995 BCI national championships and the 1994 junior nationals.
Crosslin, who worked as a teaching assistant for one year in the WWU Department of Human Services, has not limited her contact with young people to the basketball floor. While coaching at Bellevue High School, she served for six months as coordinator of a support program for at-risk teens. During a 15-month stint as a Washington state social worker, she worked with women and teens in South King County on issues of family planning. More recently, she worked for a motivational company that specializes in educational seminars and video programs for young people.
In accepting the basketball position at Whitman, Crosslin recognizes the difficulties of recruiting and coaching in a conference that prohibits athletic scholarships. Drawing on her own experience, however, she remembers graduating from high school and rejecting scholarship offers from NCAA Div. I and II schools to attend Whitman, where athletic opportunities are combined with one of the nation's finest small-college academic programs.
She expects that other serious student-athletes will make the same choice in the years ahead.
Crosslin, a strong competitor on the court during her playing days, gears her coaching philosophy toward success. "I believe in high expectations with matching support," she said. "I hold my players to high expectations but I offer a lot of support in return. We practice hard and we play hard."
As a coach, Crosslin concentrates on teamwork, defense, and skill building. She doesn't want to hear the word 'can't.'
Playing good basketball is her team's first priority, but Crosslin understands the larger picture that helps define a student-athlete's education at Whitman. She plans to take full advantage, for example, of the travel opportunities that come with road games. "When we travel, we're there to play basketball but we also need to see and enjoy what's around us."
Crosslin has yet to set any specific goals for the season ahead. "The main thing is that we want to win more games than we lose, and we want to win any game that is close. This will be a playoff contending team, either now or in the near future."
Crosslin also intends to redefine the image of women's basketball at Whitman. "I want to recreate an air of success and accomplishment in the basketball program and then balance that atmosphere with academics," she said.
An abiding affection for the game of basketball and the relationships she builds with players are the most rewarding part of coaching, Crosslin notes. "It was difficult to leave my Magic team in the Seattle area," she said. "It's the players and the game itself that keep me in this -- what it can give you as a player, coach and woman. Women need to learn how to compete in this world."