“I really enjoy the challenge of finding the right combination of people to match up against those five on the other side,” said Brian Carlson. “I love finding the best way to get five people to work together on the court. They’re more than just players, they’re like family, and I love each one of them in a different way.”
Two years ago, Carlson joined Union’s staff as the part-time basketball coach for the women’s Warriors team in addition to his day job as a digital media manager for Christian Record Services. In his own experience as a previous student athlete, working on a team is important to building community.
“I played basketball on the varsity team for four years as a student here and made some great memories and friends,” Carlson explained. Becoming a Union Warrior after playing high school basketball for three years both challenged Carlson and enriched his life. “People picked and played defense harder and didn’t call as many fouls as in high school. It was a much more aggressive and physical version of the game,” he said. The men’s and women’s teams would travel together, sometimes as long as five hours. The long times they spent together travelling and working as teams fostered friendships among the players.
Now Carlson sees that same fellowship developing with the basketball players he coaches now. “The more I’ve been involved with different levels of coaching, the more I see that the individual relationships with the players are more important than when you get the X’s and O’s right,” Carlson said. “Some of them have come from the same school, so they’re reigniting friendships they had in years past. They’re working together building these relationships and memories with people that you don’t get sitting in a classroom.”
As a coach, Carlson is very excited about the Fit for the Future campaign and the new facilities it will bring. His team has struggled with getting in Union’s Thunderdome for practice, as they share the single gym with three other teams and any health classes taking place during the day. “As a coach, I want to create opportunities for current students to make memories that will carry on for years to come,” he said. “Having more availability to use the full court or full gym would be very helpful to me as far as planning practice and for kids making it work into their schedule better.”
“If athletics is a big deal to you, which it was to me, being able to see something new and nice and accessible would be a big draw. If you’re trying to encourage someone to come to Union College, the nicer the facilities are, the more excited they will be,” Carlson said. But gaining the interest of prospective students isn’t the only reason new facilities would be beneficial.
“As a coach building a team, your players have to be physically fit to play basketball. We’re looking for people who can perform their best playing a sport,” Carlson explained. “The players need to be in shape and have lots of opportunities to lift weights and have a place to run inside in the winter. Those are the things that are going to be very helpful as a coach, and they’ll be helpful for winning basketball games.” Carlson also notes that greater access to maintain fitness would benefit students’ mental health. “Physical activity and mental health have a close tie together. I want the mental health of all to be taken seriously, to be respected and supported.”
By Maria Kercher, senior communication major