“It’s what you learn after you know it all that counts.” —John Wooden
Life is very full these days for University of Virginia Women’s Basketball Coach Joanne Boyle. Boyle, 48, a respected veteran in the world of women’s basketball, made Charlottesville her home last year when she became the fourth coach in the history of the UVa’s women’s basketball program. The Hoos finished the season with an impressive 25 wins, the first time since the 1999-2000 season. Summer means time for camp, and girls as young as 5 years old can register for a session at the Joanne Boyle Basketball Camps. And to top it off, Boyle will welcome baby girl Ngoty, when the adoption that’s been in the works for several years finally becomes official.
Boyle has a lot on her plate, but she has been readied for this time in her life all along the way. Faith, family and friends, hard work, and service to others have helped shape her into the person she is today.
The Cavaliers finished the 2011-12 season with a 25-11 overall record, a 9-7 record in Atlantic Coast Conference play and made an appearance in the quarterfinals of the 2012 Women’s National Invitation Tournament (WNIT). Boyle is certainly pleased with her first year here, but she’s not one to rest on her laurels. She knows that there’s more work to be done to not only maintain that record, but to surpass it.
“The girls are excited to be on board; their enthusiasm carried it a long way,” Boyle said of her team and their winning first season. “A great group of girls! No tournament, but there’s next year. We have high expectations.”
Boyle’s role as Head Coach at UVa sure seems like a great fit, as well as a natural next step in her career.
Boyle grew up in the Pittsburgh area, one of five children, with her father and stay-at-home mother. She loved sports, but phenomenal coaches aren’t necessar ily phenomenal players, concedes Boyle.
“I was definitely a good athlete over all—not an exceptional basketball player.”
Boyle attended Duke University and was a letter-winner all four years. Her 75 steals during the 1984-85 season remained the highest single-season total until Alana Beard broke the record in 2000-01. She was also active in Campus Crusade for Christ, a worldwide campus ministry program.
“God was preparing me for a stronger walk,” said Boyle. “God was laying the groundwork.”
She graduated in 1985 with a degree in economics, and graduated from the University of North Carolina with a master’s of science degree in health policy and administration in 1989.
“Initially, I wanted to go into the Peace Corps,” said Boyle, “and use my master’s in healthcare. But I fell in love with the sport of basketball again while I was playing overseas.” Boyle had the opportunity to play professional basketball on division one teams in Germany and Luxembourg. During her three years in Europe, she won two league championships.
Boyle returned to Duke in 1993 as assistant coach. Before her arrival at Duke, the Blue Devils were in last place in the ACC. With just two seasons in, the team garnered more than 20 wins (22-9) for the first time in 10 years, and advanced to the second round of the NCAA Tournament.
During the 2001-02 season, Boyle faced a serious personal challenge, one that would ultimately cause her to re-ex amine her future goals. On Nov. 28, 2001, Boyle was standing at her locker after a run, when she suddenly felt intense pain in her head.
“I felt like I was being stabbed in the back of my head,” said Boyle. “I actually turned around to see who was behind me, but I was alone.”
Boyle managed to take an elevator to another floor, where she collapsed. She had suffered a type of brain aneurysm—an AVM, or arteriovenous malformation, the result of a capillary deficiency that causes an eruption of blood vessels. It pro duces stroke-like symptoms and bleeding inside the cerebellum. Many patients re quire surgery and a lengthy hospital stay. Boyle needed surgery, but she counts being at Duke as a great blessing. Known for being an excellent medical community, Boyle was surrounded by top physi cians and facilities. “I happened to be in a great place for something to go wrong,” said Boyle.
Her recovery was grueling. She had many physical challenges to overcome, but her athleticism and training certainly helped the process. She was allowed to spend part of the recovery time at home. Boyle knew there were meaningful days ahead, and she worked hard to make a full recovery.
“I’ve lived more in the last 10 years than in all the years in my life before that,” Boyle said of her AVM experience. “I felt that I was given a second chance. I felt I was being challenged by God to do more, to give back, to help where I can help.”
Boyle joined the staff at the University of Richmond in 2002 as head coach. During her three years at UR, she led the Spiders to a 67-29 record, winning at least 21 games each season. In her final year at Richmond, the Spiders finished 23-8 and advanced to the NCAA Cham pionships.
The next step for Boyle was accepting the head coach position at the University of California at Berkeley in 2005. For a free-spirited, experienced coach like Boyle, the California lifestyle was just the ticket. Her career flourished, as did many community service activities.
“I loved my time in California,” said Boyle. “It was a good fit for me. It’s very eclectic. I was stretched in many ways, out of my comfort zone. At first, it felt out of my element, but I fell in love with it.”
Boyle racked up a 137-64 record with the Golden Bears. She led California to postseason play all six years she directed the program, including four NCAA tournament appearances and two trips to the Women’s National Invitation Tournament. The Bears won the WNIT championship in 2010.
Boyle made helping others a priority during her six years at Cal. Boyle and the team worked at soup kitchens, visited schools, conducted basketball clinics and participated in other service projects. Providing opportunities for her players to not only learn the game but learn how to serve others has been a constant throughout Boyle’s career. “When you’re a young coach, you see things one way—you have to work to keep your job, your record. As you live life, you see things differently. You see that there’s an opportunity to do more.”
Sponsored by Cal, Boyle and the team took a trip to Africa in May 2008. One of her players was a young lady from Senegal; a service-oriented trip just made sense to Boyle.
“I just thought that Africa would be a good place for the team to go—so much that could be done there, and maybe not the first place they would have chosen.” They spent 12 days in Senegal and Tunisia, serving those in need by leading clinics, playing with school children and helping out at orphanages.
Although Boyle loved her life in Cali fornia, there were still challenges. She lost her father while at Cal, and her mother was across the country in North Caro lina. “I could have stayed at Cal,” said Boyle, “but I didn’t want to be complacent I wanted to push myself farther.” When the University of Virginia offered the head coach position to Boyle in 2011, she accepted.
Boyle was named head coach last spring, taking over the spot once dominated by Hall of Fame Coach Debbie Ryan.
She’s only been here a year, but Boyle is definitely making her mark on women’s basketball at UVa and the Central Virginia area, too.
“It’s just top notch here,” said Boyle. “Great facilities, supportive assistants, and a family atmosphere at UVa. They strive for balance here. It’s a very good school—I’ve been fortunate that I’ve al ways been able to serve at really academic schools. The doors have opened for me to be used to help these girls become better players and better people.”
Continuing the tradition of helping her players become better both on and off the court, Boyle makes sure they are involved in community service on a regular basis. They hold events for children and their families, take field trips out to local schools, sponsor clinics and participate in area activities.
One of the main ways Boyle, her staff and the team provide community support is through the Joanne Boyle Basketball Camps. According to the camp website, these sessions “have always had a major theme of intensity, improvement of your skills, and an emphasis on being positive.” From young children, who can register for Little ‘Hoos, to older, more experienced players, there is a session for all kids ages 5 to 18. The Director of Operations for women’s basketball, Sarah Holsinger, leads the camp. “The kids really have fun, and they love getting to play next to their favorite player. They learn a lot and make friends while improving their skills,” said Holsinger.
A Strong Faith
The issue of balance is paramount for women today, and Boyle is in there with the rest of us. She tries to incorporate ex ercise into her daily schedule, and enjoys running. She loves to read, too. It’s clear, however, that a key source of strength and peace for Boyle is her faith.
“My faith is so important to me—I’d talk about my faith all day long. I don’t want to be just a coach. I’m—we’re all, so much more than that.”
Part of attaining that sense of balance, as well as a deep desire to help kids, led Boyle to begin the adoption process back in 2009. Visiting the orphanages in Africa with her team in 2008 helped to cement her decision, and since then, Boyle has been working through the seemingly never-ending steps toward adoption. It’s something that she has wanted to do for a long time.
“I’ve always wanted to adopt, and thought that I would adopt, even as a teenager,” said Boyle.
Boyle will welcome Ngoty, a baby girl from Tambacounda, the largest city in eastern Senegal. She was born on Valen tine’s Day, and comes from a private home orphanage. Boyle’s family and friends will be on hand to help with the transition. And even though she’s been waiting a long time, it will be well worth the wait.
“It’s really exciting, and how cool is it that she’ll get to be around all of these great people, in such a great area?”
Next year, little Ngoty may even be able to accompany Boyle and the players when they travel to Africa for another team trip, with stops in Tanzania and Kenya.
“I wouldn’t take the team anywhere else,” said Boyle. “That’s where we can do a lot of good. It goes along with my message to the girls, which is basically, don’t be afraid of life! Don’t box yourself in. You will have experiences that are both good and bad, but leave the world a better place. Don’t abuse the gifts that you’ve been given. Be a servant by serving your team and others.”
Clearly, this sentiment reflects Boyle’s personal philosophy as well. She is a good model of leading by example, and we’re glad she’s here, on and off the court.
To learn more about UVa women’s basketball, including Boyle’s career highlights, visit www.virginiasports.com.