For Coach Pamela Findlay, the new women’s basketball coach, it has always been about more than winning. She went to the Air Force Academy to play basketball, not on an athletic scholarship but on a military scholarship. Institutionally, the Air Force Academy doesn’t offer scholarships based on athletic ability.
Findlay said the lack of athletic scholarships changed her college experience. “It does have a different feel, a more similar feel [to Macalester],” she explained. “You’re there to play basketball and to get a good education. Basketball isn’t necessarily number one. It’s equal or even below the academic [side of things in] importance.”
This experience led Findlay to commit to coaching at the Division III level. Division III places an emphasis on both academics and athletics, unlike Division I, which often focuses solely on athletics. Division III doesn’t offer athletic scholarships, which forces student-athletes to focus more on academics and take a more balanced approach towards college.
Findlay chose to go to the Air Force Academy not only for the opportunity to play Division I basketball, but for the opportunities it provided inside and outside the classroom. Findlay said, “You’re not going there for a typical college experience and that’s what I wanted… It was the most challenging experience of my life – going through basic training and doing push-ups all the time and running and all that kind of stuff, but I wouldn’t have had it any other way. It made me who I am.”
Growing up, Findlay had family in the Macalester-Groveland area. She remembers walking through the campus to Pad Thai or French Meadow. “Even though it’s new to me and I haven’t really lived in this area, it still feels a little bit like home,” she said. Her early exposure to Macalester and her desire to coach at an elite academic institution made Macalester a dream coaching destination.
Findlay knew that coaching at Macalester would mean she was coaching a different type of student athlete. The student athletes here are often very busy and have many commitments due to the involved and academic rigor of Macalester.
“She empathizes with how busy we are, a lot more than other coaches. She wanted to coach at a high-academic school… Macalester needs a different kind of coach [that is aware of everything all the students do here],” Tyana Loiselle ’20 said.
As opposed to the traditional coaching experience, Findlay wanted a different experience like the one at Macalester. It was similar to her past experience at the Air Force Academy, where she had to balance many different commitments. She knew Macalester would be a great fit.
“Macalester was on a very, very short list of schools that I’ve always kind of dreamed of coaching at,” Findlay elaborated.
Once at Macalester, Findlay implemented her coaching philosophy, which is centered on running the team like a family.
“I want us to fight for each other and to believe in each other… to allow the better good of the team to shine through,” she explained.
This team-first mentality is something Findlay really hopes to build here at Macalester. She has a team core value of the week that is emphasized to build the team community and mentality. Findlay is continuously impressed by the buy-in she has from her players.
She hopes her players will become better people and students, not just better players. As a result, she is focused on the process of trying to win the day or practice, and does not want to solely focus on the scoreboard. She creates an atmosphere that puts much of the responsibility to suceed on the players.
“I give them a little bit of structure, because I think they like that, but not too much,” said Findlay.
When a drill goes wrong in practice, she doesn’t huddle the team up to lecture them. Instead, she tells the players to get in their own hundle and figure out how to fix it. This is a new experience for many players, who are used to a much more hands-on style of coaching.
Loiselle compared Coach Findlay to other coaches. “She gives us a lot of power… she wants us to hold ourselves accountable a lot more than past coaches,” Loiselle said.
The new style of coaching led to a bit of an adjustment period at the beginning of season. Not only did the players have to adjust to a new set of plays and a new system, many players had to adjust to a new coaching style and focus on just playing the game again. Loiselle said, “We all overthink a lot… we were just thinking so much and not playing as much.”
Findlay’s hope for this year is to control the controllables. It often seems cliché to say ‘only control what you can control’, but the players are buying in. They realize at the end of the day all they can control is their effort, whether or not that translates to the scoreboard.
“It’s actually kind of insane, I don’t even think, now, thinking back, she’s never mentioned winning once this season… that’s never even been in the discussion…[her focus is] just getting better and putting in work. She just wants us to control the controllables,” Loiselle said.