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Journeys: Alumni coach Q-and-A with … Legacy grad Emily Van Patten

Local product trying to impart lessons from 2012 state championship team to former rival club

Jeremy Papasso/ Staff Photographer
BOULDER, CO – Boulder High School Head Coach Emily Glen yells to her team during a game against Legacy on Tuesday in Longmont. (Photo by Jeremy Papasso/Staff Photographer)

In 2012, Emily Van Patten was Emily Glen and she was a key part of the Legacy girls basketball team that won the Class 5A state championship in Colorado.

After her days as a prep athlete in the BoCoPreps.com area, Van Patten followed in her parents’ footsteps and went on to study Kinesiology and teaching at teaching at Colorado Mesa University in Grand Junction. The Lightning alumnus then returned to her old stomping ground before taking her first head coaching job at Boulder High School, a former rival potentially in need of an injection of familiarity and youth to jumpstart a stagnant program.

Now, Van Patten has been the Panthers’ steward for two seasons and the team appears to be headed in the right direction under the local coach’s tutelage.

How did your journey in athletics lead you back to the northern Colorado area and Boulder High? How did the job at Boulder come to you and what all led you back there?

I have always been raised around athletics. Being the daughter of two P.E. teachers and coaches, it was something that has always been in my blood and something I have been passionate about. Throughout college, I always knew I wanted my path to lead back to basketball and always envisioned myself coaching and getting to share my passion with other players. So after I finished my bachelors degree at Colorado Mesa University in Kinesiology with an emphasis in teaching, I moved back home and took my first job as a P.E. teacher at Federal Heights Elementary, and was offered the amazing opportunity to coach one of the lower levels at my alma mater, Legacy High School. I did this for two years and when Boulder High School posted both a P.E. position and a head girls basketball coach position, I thought it was too good to be true. I applied for both and I was blessed with being chosen, which has brought me to where I am today.

Who were some of your main coaching influences in high school, college, etc., and can you talk a bit about how they may have inspired you to become a coach yourself?

I’ve been playing basketball since I was five years old. I can still remember the days at the YMCA with the colored wristbands and jerseys that engulfed our tiny bodies. I remember wearing frilly socks with my high tops and eventually growing to a size where the ball wasn’t bigger than me. I remember growing older and the game turning into X’s and O’s, and there being a pit in my stomach anytime a W wasn’t the end result. All of these memories are also accompanied by some wonderful coaches. I was blessed with coaches who have influenced me in not only the way I play the game or the way I coach my own players, but in how I view and live my life as well. All the way from my youth days to playing through high school, I got to experience these role models, and I am incredibly thankful for them.

Boulder girls hoops has been battling to get back above the .500 mark for seven years. But you have an intriguing young core coming back after last season. What do you think of your program’s prospects moving forward?

I am incredibly excited for the group of girls we have returning to Boulder High this coming season. Not only are they a wonderful group of players, but they are an even more amazing group of young girls who I love getting to coach. They are so passionate and willing to learn and improve, and as a coach you really can’t ask for better qualities in your players. I am also looking forward to seeing a large group of the girls I coach move into their leadership roles on the team as they start to move up in the ranks of age. I will have six returning sophomores who will be juniors this year. This being my third year as head coach at Boulder, I have gotten to coach this upcoming group of juniors since they were freshmen and it has been so exciting to see them grow and develop over the years. It makes me excited for the season to start. I also have a strong group of seniors returning. Among them is Abbie Gillach. I love getting to coach this girl and watching her play and I am excited for her to have a breakout season.

Now that you’ve been head basketball coach at Boulder for a couple full seasons, what are the main takeaways from your experience so far? Is coaching at the high school level something you see yourself doing long term?

I have been so blessed with the opportunity to be the head coach at Boulder High School and it has brought me more joy than I ever could have imagined. I have learned so much not just in the game of basketball, but in life too. Getting to coach such a wonderful group of young girls has allowed me to step back from the teaching role at times and become the student. They have given me examples of kindness and compassion for not just each other, but other teams and players as well. Coaching has been an extension of love that not many get to witness. They have mastered the art of being strong, yet kind, which is a skill that many never learn, and one that I am honored to be a student of. I definitely see myself coaching at the high school level long term. It is a way for me to keep the competitive side of me alive while getting to share my passion and time with amazing young athletes who love the game themselves.

Did you ever envision yourself coaching high school? And has there been a period during which you had to adjust to coaching Boulder, one of your high school team’s local rival?

I always knew I wanted to be a coach and I always envisioned it being at the high school level. I never thought I would get the opportunity to do it so early. Getting the head coaching position at only 24 years old has been both humbling and incredibly motivating. To be honest, I never really had to adjust to the idea of Boulder once being a rival school that I used to play against. When I stepped into the position, I took ownership and was proud and excited to be where I was at. I do, however, always get a little more amped up when we play Legacy, especially this past year when we went there to play. Walking into my alma mater with my players by my side though, was a euphoric experience and it really felt as though I had come full circle in my life with basketball.

As a member of the 2012 team at Legacy that won the Class 5A state championship, what lessons and knowledge from that experience do you try to impart to your players now that you’re a coach?

Being a member of the 2012 state championship team is a memory that I will forever cherish and hold close to my heart. It was one filled with an abundance of emotions. It brings me great pride and happiness but it also makes me reflect on the bittersweet meaning that it holds. That my senior year, the last competition game I played, was one of victory, and the greatest victory at that. I think as a coach, being a former player, and having such an experience, I want to impart the work that it took to get there to my players. I want them to understand that while we were a strong team, and I was surrounded by great players on that team, we had to overcome a lot together. And each day we had to grind and show up to practice ready to outdo ourselves the previous day. But also that this work didn’t start my senior year, but it was years and years of practice and dedication, conditioning and workouts, thousands of shots put up, hours beyond hours of ball handling, and choosing my team over myself often. I think the work ethic and dedication to not only be good but to be great is the knowledge and lesson from the state championship that I want my players to take away.