Players on the Rock Bridge girls’ basketball team say its been easy getting to know their new coach Jill Nagel.
“She definitely brings intensity in the gym, but we know that we can talk to her about anything basketball, and anything not about basketball,” Bruins sophomore point guard Claire Schaeperkoetter said.
When Nagel was hired last spring, Vicki Reimler, the Rock Bridge athletic director at the time, said Nagel would be a positive role model for the girls.
“I just think it’s a good thing for girls to have a female figure to look up to,” Reimler said.
Cameo Holly, the Bruins senior shooting guard, said in past years, having a coach you could be friends with off the court wasn’t always the case. However, this isn’t the situation with Nagel.
“I always say, I hope they learn more from me about the game of life, then the game of basketball because you’ve got that forever, you don’t have basketball forever,” Nagel said.
Although this is Nagel’s first head coaching job, she has experience coaching as an assistant in college for six years. After her playing career was over at William Jewell College, Nagel stayed on to coach as an assistant for two years. She then coached at the University of Findlay (Ohio) for one season before landing at Central Michigan for three years where she was a recruiting coordinator as well as a coach. Coaching at a Division I school like Central Michigan was something Nagel had dreamed of doing since she began her coaching career.
“It was great,” Nagel, said. “I had a lot of fun, but we were 13 hours from home.”
After Nagel and her husband Greg, who are both from Missouri, had a baby boy last year, they decided to move closer to home. With a year off from coaching, Nagel, who has a biology degree, was hired at ABC Laboratories in Columbia while still keeping up with the game she loves. She watched between 75-100 basketball games last year while considering starting a recruiting service if she didn’t get back into coaching.
“I’m just kind of a basketball junkie,” Nagel said.
With the job at Rock Bridge, Nagel was able to stay a coach. She said going from college to high school didn’t bother her one bit.
“I don’t really get caught up in Division I, Division II, or high school,” Nagel said. “I just love basketball. I love being around the kids.”
While Nagel adjusts to her new position, the Bruins are adjusting to their third coach in three years. The changes appear to be going smoothly.
Holly said Nagel is easy to adjust to because her up-tempo style of play fits the team well. Schaeperkoetter said though it’s hard to continue to learn new offenses, it makes the team become more focused heading into the season.
Despite moving from college to high school, Nagel’s philosophies and coaching style have stayed the same. In conditioning, Nagel holds her players to the same standards as she did in college. They are required to run their sprints from one end of the court to the other in 11 seconds, just like at Central Michigan.
“I think if you want be a top tier team, a championship team, you have to do that,” Nagel said.
Being coached like college players allows the Bruins who have a future playing in college to experience that early.
“As a senior, I love it,” said Holly, who scored about 10 points per game last season. “My time is coming next year, so I want her to continue to treat me like I’m a college athlete. Because I know when I get out to a college atmosphere, it’s going to be the same thing.”
Schaeperkoetter, an all-district selection a season ago, also said being treated like college players helps.
“I think it definitely helps with college preparation and I also think just on the high school level, it brings us to another level because we’re trying to be really intense in the practice gym,” Schaeperkoetter said.
Along with bringing her college coaching style to the Bruins, Nagel has brought her belief in defense and fundamentals. Nagel said intense defense allows the team to play up-tempo.
“I’ve always said because of the defense we play, I hope we score all layups,” Nagel said. “That would be great. But I keep trying to tell them, a good team can really pressure, can really get after it, they can do one thing well. Great teams can really change the tempo, and that’s what we’re looking to do.”
Nagel said her belief in fundamentals is old-fashioned. She loves the movie Hoosiers and she thinks this style is necessary to instill in high school players.
“There’s no such thing as an unimportant day, is what we tell the girls,” Nagel said. “There’s no such thing as an unimportant drill, an unimportant series.”
Nagel takes her coaching responsibilities as far as even helping their recruiting. Being a recruiting coordinator in college, she has an eye for talent and lots of contacts to help the girls earn college scholarships.
“That’s not about me, that’s about the kids,” Nagel said. “I was fortunate enough to play college ball, and I want them to have the same opportunity I had.”
This season, Nagel inherits a team with a talented blend of youth and experience. After going 6-20 in 2003, the Bruins had a major turnaround last season. They went 17-8 and reached the district final for the first time since 1986. Nagel recognizes the favorable situation she is in and said she thinks the Bruins have tremendous potential. However, she says they cannot look ahead.
“We take one game at a time,” Nagel said. “I know when our first game is, and I know when our second game is and really to be honest this year, that’s all I know.”