Tara Roach: A Success in the Making

The most challenging part of Journalism 101 was learning to write a first-person story. Journalism 101 is about as far as I got into that college major. However, now blogging has forced a lot of journalists to follow the rules of a first-person story. I am going to attempt that as I try to give the Northwest Nation an insight into our women’s basketball program.

Most people think coaches’ favorite players are those that are our leading scorer or a four-year starter. That’s not always true, and I would never admit to having a favorite player. Sometimes, though, a player will be so unique that you can’t help but root for their success.

I had a player like that last year. It was a tough year 2009 after coming off a conference tournament championship in 2008. We struggled through a nine-win season. Several players were forced to end their season early with injuries and some underestimated the work ethic needed to succeed. I want to talk about one particular freshman who didn’t quite figure it out, but I can’t wait to coach this fall.

This freshman really opened the coaches’ eyes early when she led the team in every test of strength and conditioning. This freshman could jump higher and run faster than anyone on the team. But could she play basketball?

When practice began Oct. 15, this young recruit from Nebraska continued to surprise coaches and teammates. Though not highly recruited, she scored 16 points against Division I Illinois State in her first game action barely two weeks into the official start of practices.

Much to everyone’s surprise, the success continued early in the season. This 5-10 dynamo kept out-running, out-jumping and out-scoring her much more experienced competition.

The problem with being a freshman is simply being a freshman. It’s the first time away from home for any large amount of time. There is the freedom of an adult but most freshmen are very, very inexperienced adults. The basketball success came less and less.

I don’t want to drag out the negative, but by the end of the year, this early season surprise had come back to earth with a thud. I have to admit, I doubted if she could ever get it back. I wasn’t even sure she wanted to keep playing college basketball.

My season ending meeting with her was very blunt. I expected her to show up a day or two later and quit the team. Sure enough, she showed up a day or two later, but not to quit. She wanted to make sure I still had a roster spot for her.

Then things turned around on a huge scale. This very inexperienced adult decided to stay in Maryville this summer. Most freshmen go home after that first year of college. She didn’t expect her parents to pay for it, so she got a full time job.

This freshman who had crashed and burned in the spring was now rising from the ashes. The best athlete on last year’s team is lifting, running and working harder than anyone on the team. She encourages teammates to join her. In a recent workout with three other players, the strength and conditioning coach suggested they run a 400-meter dash. He also suggested this new sophomore dynamo start 30 meters behind. She won the race by 20 yards.

I don’t know if Tara Roach from Elkhorn will be a success in our basketball program. I do know she is a huge success in my eyes. I can’t wait to see what she does her sophomore year.

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Gene Steinmeyer

About Gene Steinmeyer

Gene Steinmeyer coached the Northwest Missouri State women’s basketball team for 13 seasons before retiring after 26 years as a collegiate head coach after the 2011-12 season. He retired as the second winningest women’s basketball coach at Northwest as his 2010-11 team won both the MIAA Regular Season and Tournament Championship advancing to the NCAA National Semifinals one game shy of the national championship game.