by Jared Grafenauer
What does it take to be a head coach of a college basketball team? Many people would say that experience is the most important trait. Sara Bergner, 23, puts that theory to shame.
“Most people think I’m a player,” said Bergner, who is entering her first year as Whatcom’s women’s head coach. Being a head coach of a college team at 23 years old is considered to be unusual. “My biggest fear in the beginning was if the girls would respect me as their coach,” Bergner said. “There is a point where you have to draw the line and make them realize that I am their coach, not their friend.”
Bergner has a very impressive resume as a player. She came out of Bellingham High School as the all-time leader in scoring. Living in Bellingham, she decided to stay close to home by taking classes here at Whatcom along with becoming the captain of the very team that she now coaches. After Whatcom, Bergner transferred to Central Washington University and had an outstanding senior year as co-captain for the Wildcats, averaging 12 points per game. She graduated from Central last June with a degree in business administration.
Making the transition from player to coach in a matter of less than a year is no easy task.
“It is completely different,” Bergner said. “There is way more responsibility, and it is very challenging.”
However, she stays optimistic because she realizes the benefits of having recently played. “I know what it’s like to compete at this level,” said Bergner. She uses her recent experiences of playing and applies that to her coaching philosophy.
Although this is her first season coaching at Whatcom, she is receiving very high praise from Whatcom’s veterans in the program. “Sara is exceeding expectations,” said Chris Scrimsher, head coach of the men’s basketball team at Whatcom, who was in charge of hiring the new women’s coach. “The way she runs the team is as if she has been with our program for years. She understands the game and has this team on the right track.”
Scrimsher had a tough decision in front of him. Choosing a new head coach can be a long and difficult decision because you need a well-qualified person for the job. “Teams need to be able to work together, without selfishness,” Scrimsher said. He also said that he is a strong believer in teamwork and team chemistry, so he looked for a coach who expects the same out of their team.
“I was looking for someone who I knew could be a strong leader,” said Scrimsher. “Sara was the obvious choice.”
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