New women's basketball coach juggles job and motherhood

By D. Lyn Hunter, Public Affairs


Caren Horstmeyer

Caren Horstmeyer begins her first season as the Bear's women's basketball coach this year. Patrick Merrill photo.

08 NOVEMBER 00 | At the height of recruiting season in July, new women's basketball coach Caren Horstmeyer was in the hospital about to deliver her first child.

But that didn't stop her efforts to bring top talent to Berkeley's program.

"During labor, I was on my cell phone talking to my assistants and prospective players," recalls Horstmeyer. "I finally had to turn the phone off so I could concentrate on having my baby."

Horstmeyer gave birth to a boy, becoming a rarity among those in her profession - a coach who also is a mother.

Horstmeyer, the winningest women's basketball coach in West Coast Conference history, was hired in April to replace Marianne Stanley.

Before coming to Berkeley, Horstmeyer, 38, spent nearly half of her life at Santa Clara University, where she was head coach for 12 years, assistant coach for one year and player for four.

"I was very happy at Santa Clara," said Horstmeyer. "I figured it would be my last coaching job."

Despite the commitment to her alma mater, she was persuaded by Athletic Director John Kasser to come to Berkeley.

"It had to be a perfect fit for me to even consider a change," she said. "The thought of having a baby, finding a new house and building a new basketball program at the same time was daunting."

But Horstmeyer was also excited by the challenge.

The new Haas Pavilion, the opportunity to compete nationally and the high level of support from Cal's athletic program convinced her that a move to Bear territory was the right choice.

Horstmeyer inherited a Cal team coming off its sixth straight losing season. But she has a reputation for turning things around: after losing her first two seasons at Santa Clara, she led the team to a 10-year winning streak.

With six seniors returning, Horstmeyer's Bears aren't lacking in experience, but whenever a new system is put into place, "everyone has to start from scratch."

Though moving into the highly competitive Pac-10 league, Horstmeyer doesn't plan on changing her coaching style, which emphasizes an aggressive defense and penetrating offense.

"My system has worked well so far," said Horstmeyer. "But I now have better athletes to deploy that system. I expect to see some success as a result."

As a coach, her goal is to develop a team with "good players, good students and good character" that "plays hard, smart and together."

Success in the classroom as well as on the courts, is also vital, she said, so a lot of academic support is provided for the players. She also encourages team members, who are role models for young women, to involve themselves with the community.

"My job is to develop the whole person," said Horstmeyer, "not just an athlete."

The game has changed quite a bit since Horstmeyer's playing days some 17 years ago, mostly in positive ways, she said.

"There are more scholarships for women basketball players, the athleticism has improved and game attendance has exploded," she said. "When I played, there would be maybe 100 to 200 people in the stands. Now there are thousands."

And thanks to the development of the WNBA, women have more options for playing after college. For Horstmeyer, going to Europe was the only choice available after graduation.

As a player, she often heard that men's basketball was far superior to women's. But this is no longer the case, said Horstmeyer.

"The level of women's play has definitely increased," she said. "The strength and endurance of today's women athletes is much greater. To those who say it isn't as good, I say 'come watch us play.' We've won over a lot fans, both men and women, over the years."

With the women's game, people can see how the sport was intended to be played, said Horstmeyer, "not just a bunch of slam-dunking."

Another change Horstmeyer foresees: women basketball players being recruited for professional teams while still in college. The practice is common for males - Cal has lost several talented players to the NBA - but is currently against the rules for women.

"I think eventually this will change," said Horstmeyer. "Some of the young recruits we talked to said they see college as a stepping stone to the WNBA."

When asked how she will juggle motherhood and coaching, Horstmeyer said that with a lot of help from her family, she'll "work it out somehow."

She plans to bring the baby with her when traveling to away games, with grandma in tow as nanny.

As often as possible, Horstmeyer brings her son to the office and to practices. "The players love him," she said. "They hold him and feed him and get all gushy."

Women's Basketball 2000-2001 Season

Admission for games is $8 for adults and $3 for children under 17, seniors and persons with disabilities. Tickets may be purchased by calling 800-GO-BEARS. Home games at Haas Pavilion include:

Nov. 12 Exhibition Game: RTU Clondica Riga 2 p.m.
Dec. 2-3 Oakland Tribune Classic 12:15 p.m./3 p.m.
Dec. 10 Santa Clara 2 p.m
Jan. 4 Arizona 7:30 p.m.
Jan. 6 Arizona State 2 p.m.
Jan. 20 Stanford noon
Jan. 25 Washington State 7:30 p.m.
Jan. 27 Washington 7:30 p.m.
Feb. 8 Oregon State 7:30 p.m.
Feb. 10 Oregon 7:30 p.m.
March 1 UCLA 7:30 p.m.
March 3 USC 1 p.m.


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