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Coach Hernden: Wins, losses and relationships PHOTO GALLERY

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Romeo coach gets her 200th varsity win

Doc Naismith had it partially correct.

Put the ball in the peach basket.

But that hardly skims the surface of what it takes to succeed in basketball. There are multiple defenses and a wide variety of offensive attacks. There are presses and traps and fast breaks and pick and rolls.

What there are not is X’s and O’s.

Nope, those X’s and O’s are people. And people are what the game is all about.

“It is all about relationships,” said Connie Hernden, the girls varsity basketball coach at Romeo. She picked up 200th career win in the Bulldogs’ Class A district semifinal victory over L’Anse Creuse North this past season.

“To me, if the girls know that I care about them, respect them and treat them fairly and that it is not just a one-way street, that is so important,” said Hernden. “As coach, I am the boss but I also want the players to have a say in what we do. It is not just about me, it is about us. It’s about a family going through the journey together.

“One of the things I’ve always talked about is respect. I tell them that I will respect them if they respect me. Relationships are important because even though we’re just playing a game, there are also life lessons to be taught. I want them to be able to apply some of the things they learn in basketball to life,” continued Hernden.

Hernden was a three-year varsity player at Romeo. She played on some very successful teams.

She just completed her 14th season as the varsity coach. She led the junior varsity program for seven years prior to that.

“My friend, Stephanie Mason, was the varsity coach and she was looking for a JV coach. I’d just had my daughter, Lindsey, and I had stopped working to take care of her. I thought `why not?’ so I took the coaching job.

“I’ve always loved the game of basketball. I had been playing since elementary school. I loved the competition, the challenge, and the fact that it was a team-oriented sport. It was a game that I had loved since I was a young girl,” continued Hernden.

She was 26 when she took over the junior varsity program. Her coaching resume’ was minimal, limited to some youth league teams.

Still, she had success at the junior varsity level. Seven years later, she took over a varsity team that had won just one game the previous season.

“The program was in dire shape. One of my goals was to bring that respect back to Romeo. When I played in the 80’s we were really good. We won three district titles and went to the regional finals once. But it had gotten pretty bad. Softball and volleyball were big, but basketball was just something they didn’t take very seriously. That first season was pretty difficult. I’d go home at night and wonder if this is what I should be doing,” said Hernden. “Had I made the right decision?”

Her Bulldogs won four games that season. The next, they had a winning season. In Hernden’s 14 seasons, she has only had two losing campaigns and that includes that initial season.

There have been plenty of special teams and players during her tenure. Hernden points to the 2009 squad as one of her most memorable. That team which won Hernden’s first district championship and the first for Romeo in 20 years, included players like Paige Sickmiller, Ashley Flinn, Katie Becker, Shanyn McIntyre and Sam Tomaschko.

“We went on to regionals at Troy Athens and beat fourth-ranked Marian in the regional semifinals,” recalled Hernden. “We finished 22-3. It was just a great year. They were great kids and great athletes. They worked so hard for everything they got. It was a special year.”

It has been a very special two decades since Hernden took that junior varsity coaching job at her alma mater.

“I have to thank (athletic director) Greg Brynaert for giving me this wonderful opportunity. It’s been 21 years and I have never regretted a single moment of it. I have learned so much from so many people. Obviously I have to thank all of the people who’ve coached with me throughout the years. I have to thank my family for letting me do this. I have to thank Dale Teller. When I first started coaching, he was my junior varsity coach and he taught me so much not just about basketball but life in general,” continued Hernden.

Basketball isn’t X’s and O’s. It is relationships.

Last Updated: 4/6/2017 6:43:36 PM EST