10 Questions With…Girls Basketball Coach Ms. Slate


Lauren Salisbury, Staff Writer

As the school year comes to a close, we find ourselves looking back at the school year and all the memories that were created. The JV Girls’ Basketball season made history being first in the downriver league and going undefeated the whole season. All successful teams have qualities and characteristics that make them stand out, coaches and mentors being a huge part of that. With that said, here’s a first-hand account of basketball enthusiast Ms. Isabel Slate, the new JV Girls’ Basketball coach. 

Tell me about your basketball experience. How old were you when you began playing? Why was basketball intriguing to you? 

I’ve been playing basketball for as long as I can remember. I’ve played organized basketball on a team since I was 7 or 8 years old through school and camps outside of school before that. I started playing originally because it was something that my parents put me into since they and my siblings played too. It brought us together as a family and gave me a lot of friendships. I’m extremely competitive and I felt like it was a great outlet for me so I stuck with it. I was also successful at it and loved the taste of success. I played in middle school of course and in the winter I was playing between 50-60 games in school and on other teams. I played 3 years of varsity basketball at Allen Park and played a bit on the side in college. It was just for fun because I played softball at Central Michigan University but basketball has always been my first love. I lived abroad in Germany and was playing pick-up basketball with a bunch of friends I had met there and one of the girls on the university team saw me. She asked me if I’d be willing to come to some of the practices and they liked me so they asked me to join the team. It was the off-season so we only did a few things here and there but overall it was a really fun experience. 

How did you end up here at WHS and what led you to become the JV Girls’ Basketball coach?

I graduated from Central with my teaching degree and ended up doing student teaching at Trenton High School. I moved to Germany and then came back applying to jobs downriver. Downriver is home to me; I’m from Allen Park and I really love it here. The community matters to me, Woodhaven facilities are phenomenal, and they have great students and strong staff. I was also really drawn here because of the diversity and the community so that’s what led into the teaching. Coaching started when I was at Trenton and I was coaching alongside my old varsity coach. He has been a mentor to me my whole life and I’ve known him for 15 years. He was very supportive of me wanting to pursue head coaching. I’ve always wanted to be a head coach because I like being in control and formulating the game plan, making the big decisions under pressure. Mr. C. and Mr. Roberts, who is from CMU offices, both came into my office one day and basically said I needed to apply for the JV Girls’ coach position. I love it so much and I wouldn’t trade it for the world. 

Coming in as the new JV coach, what did you learn from the previous seasons that you found important to bring here?

I had 4 years of varsity coaching experience. I’ve been an assistant coach at the varsity level for four years before moving here to be a head coach. When I was in my undergrad at Mount Pleasant, I was coaching with a guy who had won 3 or 4 state championships. We were learning from the traditional and cultural aspects where you weren’t allowed to slack off or just show up and do whatever you want. Basketball is fun but it’s like a job in that you need to put the work and effort in if you want to be successful. My girls know you’re expected to come in and work. We have a lot of fun because we’re successful. Outside of basketball, knowing and understanding that they’re just not basketball players but also students and young women that you’re mentoring is important as well. I’ve had coaches not feel that way so I wanted to be the one who did try and be there for all the girls.

Who inspires you as a coach? Who do you look up to? 

Coach Perez was my varsity coach and he was someone who believed in me. He knew that I knew the game well and he always pushed me to be better and that is something that I do as a coach as well. Coaching alongside him and learning more about basketball smarts and the game was an incredible insight. My parents also played a huge role as they both coached me when I was younger. I would come home and talk about the game, debriefing it and asking about the strategies and what certain plays meant. There are coaches at the college level that I really look up to as well. I take a lot of plays and drills from the UConn coach Geno Auriemma and the LSU coach. Seeing a powerful woman in those positions makes me want to also follow in those footsteps and it feels attainable because I can see people doing it. 

How did you strengthen your team’s basketball IQ?

I know they’re smart and I know they’re capable so I’m always going to tell them why this play is going to work or why this defense is going to work. If one part is missing, it’s not going to go the way we want it to go. Getting everyone on the same page and having everybody work together in a unit helps them make decisions on plays that we aren’t drawing up and setting up, whether it’s just for fun or in a fast-paced game; Teaching them as well to make the right basketball choice, not just standing on the line or the block. 

What did you bring to the plate that was different from other coaches?

I always told them ‘why’ we were doing things. A lot of coaches I feel I tend to underestimate women in sports and I don’t want to be that person. 

What are some of your defensive/offensive plays that you have that help your team win–The Allen Park games in particular?

My squad plays incredible man-to-man defense. All of our great games have started with our defensive efforts. A lot of teams in the downriver league especially at the JV level are going to play zone and sit back and wait. As for us, we are going to be in your face, full court, lots of pressure, and ultimately make them make mistakes so we can capitalize on those things. We also ran a half-court trap towards the end of the season because we felt we were kind of uninspired with our man-to-man and were starting to get a little lazy. We put ourselves in a zone which was kind of out of our comfort zone as a team but it ultimately made us better because the girls had a change to look forward to, an energy they could bring to the zone that looks a little different than our man-to-man. It revived the spirit towards the end. 

What is the average amount of rebounds in a JV game? 

It really depends on how much scoring is happening. It can range from 30 rebounds total to 70-80 rebounds. Most of my best rebounders, they probably have 10-12 rebounds a game on defense and offense combined. Two of our best rebounders are Isabelle Kriebel and Abby Loger who are both starters and incredible athletes. My theory in regards to rebounds is whoever wants it the most gets and those two ALWAYS want it. It’s a hustle game at the end of the day. You have to be hungry for it, plain and simple.

What was one of the biggest changes as a coach you saw in your team this past season?

I think at the beginning when they were learning what their roles and identities were was crucial. It took us 6 or 7 games to nail down who did what and what our strengths and weaknesses as players and as a team were. After winter break and throughout the season we asked ourselves “What do you bring to the table?” “Where are you best successful?”, and “Where do you want to go from here?” That kind of sparked something in them and they would be practicing on their dribbling and shooting free throws and whatnot. They wanted to be better and do better in the hopes that in the future they’ll be better. 

What are your future plans with coaching? Do you plan on sticking with JV coaching? Any improvements you plan on making?

As long as I’m teaching here, I want to be coaching here. I’m happy to stay with JV for the next couple of years but eventually, I do want to coach varsity and I do see myself coaching varsity. As far as improvements go, I will play into the strengths of my team sooner and say that you are our shooter, you are our blocker, etc. It makes for an amazing well-rounded team.