A Coach’s Message to The Community
Editor’s Note: Former Dartmouth women’s basketball coach Chris Wielgus wrote this letter to the VALLEY NEWS following her departure as Big Green coach last week.
To the Editor:
I would like to thank Dartmouth College and the wonderful people of the Upper Valley for giving me the ride of a lifetime!!
The ride began in 1976 with a group of raggedy clad women wearing their short shorts, high socks, and Chuck Taylors. I was inexplicably hired to coach them. In hindsight, I was supposed to monitor some coeds. But I didn’t know that. I thought I was supposed to coach, so I did.
Title IX changed everything. We were no longer in vans, but on buses. I stopped making sandwiches for our trips and we ate at restaurants. We had practice gear, uniforms and sneakers with a swoosh. There were assistant coaches, trainers and media people. In time we had a beautiful suite of offices. The perks of Title IX were tangible. But the power of Title IX was not in what we got, but what it gave. It gave us opportunity.
The women of Dartmouth grabbed that opportunity and never looked back. Generations of determined and dedicated women put up 17 banners, went to the NCAA’s seven times and the WNIT twice. This is the story of Dartmouth women’s basketball.
But there is more to this program than a story. There is magic. Magic you feel when you walk into Leede Arena or talk to an alumna. The magic starts every day with efforts of all the men and women who work in the athletic department. It is found in the people who clean the offices; who input data and who balance the spreadsheets. People who are never mentioned in a press release, but take pride in their ability to support Dartmouth and its students.
There is magic in the camaraderie among the Dartmouth coaches and their families. Dartmouth has so many great attributes, but coaching heaven is not one of them. I doubt many people outside the circle of coaches know how very difficult it is to coach here. Survival requires so much sacrifice and hard work. The rewards are tough to get. But we have each other’s back. A day does not pass without coaches checking in on coaches. My coaching colleagues sustained me through the good times and the bad. I treasure their friendship and admire their spirit. The people in the gym, coaches and co-workers take pride in our culture. It is culture of kindness, caring and incredible hard work. This is what makes us special. THIS IS DARTMOUTH.
We are reminded every day that athletics is a business. The bottom line is wins and losses. We get it and we live it. BUT it is business with a smile. The foundation of sports is fun. Don’t forget it. And don’t let anyone wring the inherent fun out of what we do. It is not necessary. Let’s keep things in perspective. We do not make life or death decisions. We make substitution decisions.
There is the magic of the people of the Upper Valley. You welcomed my family and my players into your community. You packed Leede Arena and made it the envy of the Ivy League. A championship means nothing if it is not shared. You shared your community with us and we shared our game with you. Together, we enriched each other. Please know the banners in Leede Arena belong to you as well to Dartmouth.
Finally, there is the Valley News. You are the window into our lives and our community. You must be free to report what you see. But keep the window clean and your minds open. Watch out for the distortion that comes from the negative, especially when covering amateur athletics.
In conclusion, I would like to say, “Thank you; thank you; thank you!!!” I have had a blast!!!! To quote Dr. Seuss, “Don’t cry because it is over, smile because it happened.”
Take care of my players. Protect the magic that is Dartmouth athletics.