The Newman University women’s basketball team gets the benefit of having not one, but two basketball coaches for the 2021-22 season. And it’s an especially dynamic duo.
Lifelong passions for basketball
Drew Johnson previously served as head women’s basketball coach at Bethel College, where he led the team to its first-ever NAIA National Tournament appearance. In his time there, he also helped the team break numerous program records. Before taking the helm at Bethel, Johnson coached high school basketball for nine years and on the AAU circuit with the Ohlde Elite, a program he co-founded.
Nicole Ohlde-Johnson also spent the past four seasons at Bethel College as the assistant women’s basketball coach. Before that, she was an assistant girls’ basketball coach at Clay Center Community High School.
She herself is a former WNBA star, playing for the Minnesota Lynx, Phoenix Mercury and Tulsa Shock. Kansas State University, where she played college ball, even retired her number. There, she was a two-time first-team All-American and earned accolades as the university’s all-time leader in points, rebounds and blocked shots.
A family-filled atmosphere
The Johnson couple maneuvers marriage, coaching a collegiate basketball team and parenting their young son, Dax, all at the same time.
Nicole appreciates the family-friendly environment at Newman and watching Dax visit with the women’s basketball team is one of the Johnsons’ favorite things to see.
“He hangs out in the offices with us, he’ll come to practice and the players love him,” Nicole said. “He loves getting pictures with them, too. It’s just really wonderful and exciting to see him surrounded by a bunch of really good people.”
Getting to know the players has been Nicole’s favorite aspect of coaching at Newman.
“I get to interact with them on a day-to-day basis when they come up to the office or are walking down the hallway. It’s been really, really special to me — not just on the basketball court, but also off the court.”
Any day can come with its challenges, but, Nicole said, “having people who uplift you and have your back” is one of the best assets to reenter the game of basketball — or life in general — with vigor.
“We talk a lot about weights and practice and how sometimes they’re going to be hard,” Drew said. “Is that challenge something you shy away from or dislike, or is it something that you’re excited about because you know you’re going to grow?”
Drew reminds his players that attitude is a choice, and it’s up to us to choose how we approach our day-to-day lives.
“Knowing that 99% of the time attitude is choice doesn’t mean that bad things won’t happen to us in our lives,” Drew said. “There are things that we have to work through, but you can choose to be positive in every possible situation.”
Ready to play
Since arriving at Newman, the Johnsons have recruited 10 new players and blended them with six returning Lady Jets.
With their first Newman basketball season beginning next month, the Johnsons are eager to see the team compete. The main goal, Drew said, is making sure the team is working to improve every day.
“We want to make sure that we’re growing, so our approach will always be not to worry about the wins and the losses,” Drew said. “We’re going to try to focus on how we can improve every day.”
There will be tough days and there will be days that leave the team feeling stronger than ever. The Johnson duo’s philosophy is regardless of how the practice or game went, how can the team improve from there?
“If we do that until the end of the year, I think we’ll be able to look back and go, ‘This was a really successful season,’” Drew said.
The women’s basketball team will open its season on Nov. 13 with a home game against the Wayne State Wildcats.
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