Dealing with the unexpected

Tia Jackson, Debbie Ryan and Van Chancellor all saw their tenures at major programs end in a different type of March Madness. AP Photos

Change is difficult no matter who you are. I've found that the older I get, the harder it is for me to accept change. This idea of change has never become more relevant to me than over the last week of my college career. After wrapping up my junior season, my teammates and I were reflecting on our up-and-down year and were already looking forward to next season's promises. Only four days after our season-ending game, however, we were informed that our coaching staff was being released and no one would be returning next year. The ultimate change a team can endure is a changing of coaches, which essentially means a changing of everything from post-season workouts to style of play.

This is not my first time going through an experience like this one, however. After committing to the University of Washington (UW) as a sophomore in high school, I learned as a junior that the coach I had committed to would no longer be the coach. Although this is a little different, the process is the same. The one thing I've learned, and am continuing to learn, is that change can be a good thing if handled correctly and worked through with a positive attitude.

As a sophomore in high school, I committed to the UW without hesitation. I'd been to Husky hoop camps since I was in elementary school and they were my hometown team. As soon as I was offered a scholarship, I committed immediately. I basically picked them before they picked me. Since I was able to commit at a young age and I had attended camps since I was a girl, I had spent enough time around the coach to build a solid relationship with her. I knew her style and her system. I got to know her as a person and she got to spend time getting to know me. In this sense, when I learned I would not be able to play for her when I became a Husky, I was extremely disappointed. I became unsure of whether or not the new coach would even want me, or if I would ever fit in. This dream I had of playing for the school of my dreams now seemed to be in jeopardy. During the month or so that it took for the school to decide on a new head coach, I felt uneasy and nervous, to say the least. When I was informed who the new coach would be, I spent countless hours doing "research" on her and asking people what they thought. Before she ever got the chance to get to know me, I was finding ways to get to know her.

About a month later when the new coach reached out to me, I had already thought about a million different questions to ask. I asked about her style of play; where she saw me playing; and if she even could see me fitting into her program. Since I was a junior in high school, she was able to watch me play in viewing tournaments in the spring and summer before she eventually reassured me I would be a great fit. I cannot tell you the relief I felt knowing this new coach wanted me and was willing to honor my commitment.

For the next year, before I would actually arrive on campus, I spent time building a relationship with my new coach. I took my official visit along with multiple unofficial visits and went to almost every Husky home game. Along with the numerous letters and text messages I received, I was beginning to build a strong relationship that would carry me through my years of playing for my new coach. As disappointed as I was to not be able to have the chance to play for the former coach, I remained positive that playing for my new coach would help me have an amazing college experience.

So here I am, almost exactly four years later and in a very similar position. I've spent three years playing for my coach and developing a strong player-coach relationship with her. There's just something special about a player-coach relationship once you've been through highs and lows together. At this point, so early along in the new coaching-change process, I'm still unsure of what the future holds. It's tough knowing I won't be able to finish my college career with the same coach I had as a freshman, but I'm remaining positive. I've learned that it's okay to question the future as long as I remain positive that the people surrounding the University of Washington are doing everything in their power to bring in the best coach. I'm hopeful for the future and at the same time, so very thankful for the past. I am thankful for all the time and efforts that my previous coaching staff invested into my teammates and I, and this is something that will never be replaced or forgotten.

At the same time, I have faith that things are going to work out for the best and that the next coach they bring in will be someone with whom I can share a memorable senior year. This change is not easy and not anything someone would choose to go through. I still have so many steps left in the process before I am able to say I've built a relationship with the new coach, and understand a lot about their system. But, I'm staying positive. And I can confidently say that I am hopeful a new coach will come in and do great things for the University of Washington. I hope you will join me in this process I'm going to go through these next couple months!

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Kristi Kingma is a junior guard for the University of Washington's Women's Basketball team. She is a Communications major at UW. She was an honorable mention for the Pac-10 All-Freshman team in 2009 and was honorable mention for the conference's All-Defensive team as a sophomore. She was ranked by ESPN HoopGurlz as the country's No. 44 prospect at Jackson High School in Mill Creek, Wash. Kingma twice was selected as the Athlete of Year by the Seattle Times.