Just before my first season as the head coach of the CHI women's team 3.5 years ago, we held a meeting consisting of the leadership from both gender teams at BYU. The two main goals for our coaches and captains during this meeting was to set a framework for a successful program and to fabricate a timeline by which we would achieve the competitive goals we would discuss. The women's program in previous years always had a good core of talented women and usually had 10-12 players consistently coming out to practice. Those numbers were certainly enough for the team to win games and succeed during tournament play (which they did), but not quite enough depth to compete at a national level. In addition, we knew as a leadership that a few players would be graduating and some would be leaving to serve as missionaries for the LDS Church, and so the previous year's 10-12 person roster looked more like 5-6 players total for the upcoming season. Our recipe for success was going to have to center around recruiting and retention. We not only decided we wanted students to come out and play for us, we wanted the RIGHT players to come out and contribute. We were looking for athletes who were committed, talented, and would buy into the program we were trying to build. We went about doing that by raising the level of our preparation, specifically the structure and demand of practices. By this time the CHI Men's team was poised to burst onto the national scene, and so we decided to model our program very closely after the values and work ethic embodied by our male counterparts (even shamelessly adopting their team name and mantra: "CHI").
That first season, I was extremely nervous for the first day of practice. I knew we had solid returning players such as our captains ShaNae Foster and Mikayla Davis, and some very talented younger athletes like Zoe Rhodes, Emma Avery, and Emmy Heller. Quincey McKeen and Alyssa Challis were projected to return from serving missions shortly thereafter. Fortunately my fear of having a 6 player team was never realized. Through recruiting efforts, these players were able to get current students Bronwyn Burkhardt and Rebecca Lambert to lend us their talents, and we had possibly the best freshman recruiting class ever in Sheradyn Hamilton, Ciera Orr, Kaylie Caldwell, Sabrina Morgan, and Allison Roberts. Through their commitment and teamwork, these athletes and those who have joined us since have slowly built up our program to where it is today. They've created a culture of friendship, competition, inclusiveness and positivity that has become infectious and draws other athletes into wanting to be a part of what we're building.
This past month our team has had the honor of being ranked 25th in the nation in Ultiworld's preseason rankings, which is a testament to the years of work our athletes have put into building this program. In that meeting so many years ago, by year four we wanted to be competing at the nation's highest level, and we're arriving at that goal. I'm more proud of my athletes past and present than I can express. This is an amazing accomplishment, however, this is only the beginning. We still need to go out this season and prove that we deserve this great honor and implement the things we've practiced this preseason. The other things we need to do is focus on sustainability. Now that we're arriving at the place we want to be as a team, we can't regress or even level out. We need to focus more than ever on improvement and recruitment so that this program continues to succeed at the highest level. I'm looking forward to whatever opportunities the future has in store for our team, and to face the challenges this season will present to us.