Wednesday, January 27, 2021

20 for 2020: Number 19—Conversations with Coach Niele Ivey

When I give a talk, the host asks me to submit a biography. This is that two minute speech that informs the audience who the speaker is and why they are qualified (hopefully!) to speak. In addition to the standard information, I always try to include in my bio something personal and something unexpected. In recent years, I have made mention of my favorite sports teams: San Francisco Giants, Notre Dame football, professional golf, etc, my ongoing goal: to lower my golf handicap and my personal dream: to have Erin Andrews' job. Perhaps I should reference fellow ND grad Hannah Storm, too. I love SportsCenter. Regardless, a brief stint in their line of work serves as Number 19 on my 2020.

Hmm...maybe I should add Autumn Johnson to that list of names...

On September 30, 2020 ND Women Connect kicked off our “A Conversation with..." virtual series speaking with the Karen & Kevin Keyes Family Head Women’s Basketball Coach, Niele Ivey '00. I had the distinct pleasure of interviewing the woman leading Irish hoops.

As written on YouTube, "In a lively Zoom interview, over 60 alumni, students and friends had a chance to hear first-hand about Coach Ivey’s experience as a student-athlete for the Irish, her close relationship with Muffet McGraw, and her excitement to be back on campus leading the Women’s Basketball team. Anne Stricherz ‘96, NDWC Pacific Northwest Regional Director and Service and Spirituality Chair, worked with the Alumni Association and Coach Ivey’s staff to bring this idea to fruition. NDWC Board members Donna Leary Smith ‘81, Lauren Mack ‘98 and Sheila Delaney ‘99 asked Coach questions submitted by attendees."

Coach Ivey was fantastic. She was tremendously generous with her time and gracious in her support of ND Women Connect. All attendees gained a deeper appreciation for the work of this woman, who has earned a championship ring as a player and as a coach for the Irish I strongly encourage you to watch some, if not all of it here.

Though I did not consult Andrews or Storm for specific pointers, I have studied their example enough to have a sense of what makes for a good interview. If you have ideas, please share them with me. In the meantime, here are two principles from which I stood. 

First, a good interviewer must have knowledge of and respect for the subject.
I had read quite a bit about Coach Ivey, as a player, an assistant coach, when she went to the NBA and even more when she was hired as the fourth coach of the women's program. To read more about her life in preparation for our time together was a treat; it confirmed what I already thought to be true. Some people do not live ordinary lives, they live extraordinary ones. Ivey is an extraordinary woman. That is evidenced by minute 3?!!!

Coach in prayer—Basilica of the Sacred Heart

Second, a good interviewer knows they must set the stage and get out of the way.
Good questions, yield better answers. I worked hard to frame the dialogue so that Coach could and would speak with specifics, new stories and a smile. In that way, we succeeded. I hope she learned more about us and about herself. I'll let you be the judge of that from what you see.

I have struggled to write about this event because it was, like Ivey, extraordinary. I believe it captures the time we are in—though disconnected because of a pandemic—connected in new and meaningful ways.

The success of this event was not possible without assists from many friends. Sara, who put us in touch. Karen, the leader who made sure all details was in lock step. Donna, who I could check in with and support at any time. And of course, Coach Ivey.

Though I don't know that I will be moving to Bristol, CT anytime soon (ESPN headquarters!), this event led me to connect with Haley Scott DeMaria again and share our mutual interest in creating a podcast. Faith Fondue was born from the "Conversations with..." series.  Here's to more of them! Happy to facilitate.

Photo Credits
Coach in Prayer
Autumn Johnson

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