Photo by Chris Smith
“You prepare all your life to try to be a head coach and to learn as much as you possibly can, and this is one of those experiences that — I don’t care how much you study, learn, read or talk to people … This one, there’s just no preparing for it.” —Michael Shafer, head coach, University of Richmond women’s basketball
The UR women’s basketball program suffered a trauma last May, when two staff members — assistant head coach Ginny Doyle and director of operations Natalie Lewis — lost their lives in a hot-air balloon accident in Doswell.
Eight players who trained, practiced and played under the watchful and guiding eyes of the two women returned this year to the UR women’s roster, and the season’s tipoff this month signifies only a small step in their uneasy journey of healing.
“They weren’t just a coach and a director of basketball,” Shafer says of Doyle and Lewis. “They were friends. And that emotion, that emotional piece, is just so hard because it just peeks up anytime it wants, and you’ve got to deal with it.”
Richmond’s basketball gusto is largely focused on the men’s squads at UR and Virginia Commonwealth University. If ever there were a moment to rally behind a women’s team in town, though, this fall would be the time.
For that reason, we recognize this group of young women, Coach Shafer and the UR community around them as our Richmonders of the Month. In so doing, we hope to add truth to the words Shafer says he shared with his players: “We’re not alone. We’ve got people who are experiencing just what I’m experiencing, and we need to do this together. There’s strength in numbers.”