NEAC Coaches Corner: Gallaudet University

NEAC Coaches Corner: Gallaudet University

GANSEVOORT, N.Y. – Throughout the spring, the North Eastern Athletic Conference (NEAC) will highlight a coach and student-athlete from each of our member institutions in a brief Q & A. Today’s Coaches Corner puts the spotlight on Gallaudet University women’s basketball head coach Stephanie Stevens and student-athlete Emelia Beldon.

Coach Stephanie Stevens just completed her sixth season at Gallaudet University as the head coach of the women’s basketball program. Since taking over the team in July 2012, Stevens has posted 67-89 record and led the Bison to four appearances in the NEAC tournament. After an off-year in 2016-17, Stevens guided her squad to a remarkable turnaround this past season as the Bison compiled a 13-14 overall record. Gallaudet earned the No. 2 seed in the South Division with an 8-4 mark in divisional play and advanced to the NEAC Semifinals.

Emelia Beldon (Frederick, Md.) is a rookie guard for the Bison and is coming off a year in which she appeared in 27 games and scored 221 points. Beldon averaged 8.2 points and 3.4 rebounds per game in a solid first season. She led all NEAC players with 153 assists and ranked 11th in the league with 54 steals. Beldon’s exceptional play was recognized by her institution when she was named the January 2018 Female Bison of the Month.

Head Coach Stephanie Stevens

What inspired you to become a collegiate coach?

As young as seven years old I can remember using a dry erase board at home drawing up plays with my friend. I was so fortunate to have such wonderful, dynamic coaching throughout my playing career. It was them who inspired me to give back and coach life skills through the game of basketball.

What is your favorite memory or moment at Gallaudet University?

I would say the “Ah-ha” moments for the student athlete are my most memorable. It’s the struggle that has gotten us to where we are today. For example, it is always expected to see the freshmen struggle with the speed of the game during the first few minutes of their very first game. To watch them get beat, but then overcome by adjusting with their teammates is a beautiful thing to see. The speed is completely different in college compared to what they’re used to in high school. Coaches can talk about the speed and how it is different, but the freshman must experience it first-hand to really comprehend the difference.

Another kind of memory I hold dear is to see the intellectual, emotional, and physical growth in each student-athlete. For a four-year student-athlete, their peak of “Ah-ha” moment typically occurs during their sophomore season. This gives them the self-confidence needed to realize that every little thing they have done has gotten them to exceed the high expectations of coaches and teammates. In turn, it gives them the motivation to push themselves and their teammates. Without that self-confidence, student-athlete struggle understanding where they are now and where they can be in a given season and/or career.

As a coach, how do you help your Division III student-athletes balance all aspects of college life?

We wear many hats in this field. We are their coach, mentor, guardian, counselor, disciplinarian, positive enforcer, etc. Our coaching staff genuinely believes in self-balance. When I was a collegiate student-athlete, my schedule was much more demanding than how we operate our basketball program here at the Gallaudet. In turn, I want our student-athletes to understand academics are the priority. An athlete must be disciplined in the classroom just as they would be on the basketball court. In addition, our student-athletes are encouraged to explore our nation’s capital. We have so many opportunities here in Washington, D.C. and I want our student-athlete to take advantage of their time in the city. When they are not doing their homework or skill development, I hope that they use their time to educate themselves and their peers by getting out of their comfort zone.

Most importantly, I want them to learn about themselves. When they do choose not to make the most appropriate decisions in how they manage their time, it is important that they accept the consequences – such as an extra hour of study tables – and are empowered to make decisions that will positively impact themselves and their teammates. There are also many community outreach opportunities for our student-athletes at Gallaudet during the academic year. I encourage all our student-athletes to choose outreach opportunities that they’re interested in. We need to be willing to give back to our community and beyond.

All in all, I want our student-athletes to develop and utilize life skills before they graduate and finish their playing career at Gallaudet. Each of them know that our ultimate goal is to strive for a better Gallaudet Women’s Basketball program than when they arrived.

Outside of wins, losses and stats, what do you want everyone to know about your student-athletes?

All of our student-athletes come from unique backgrounds and belief systems. We always try to unite everyone during preseason so that when we begin the long hours of training, development and practice, our team knows they can count on one another no matter where they are from. We work very hard in preparing our student-athletes for struggles they will face in the future and we encourage them to bravely face such struggles with an understanding that it will only make them stronger. We build relationships and get to know these women. We want our women to fail and make mistakes so that we can raise them up to succeed. We salute strong women. We champion deaf, female leaders.

Emelia Beldon

Describe the impact your coach had on your decision to attend your institution and/or on your development as a student-athlete.

Coach Stephanie is a wonderful recruiter. She came to me first after one of my games my senior year and talked to me about the game and how she thought I played. She even gave me feedback and she wasn’t my coach! Then she started texting me after games I played well even if we lost. To have someone that regularly checks up on you and congratulates you is someone that is interested in you and I felt that. I felt the interest she had in me so I wanted to give back and play for the program at Gallaudet University. It has been such a great season and I would not want to attend anywhere else! 

Do you have a favorite memory or moment with your coach that you would like to share?

My favorite memories with Coach Stephanie would have to be all of the times she joined in on our little jokes or used terms we use with each other to other players. She would say them literally in the middle of nowhere when we least expect it and the whole team would crack up so hard. Sometimes that backfires on Coach Stephanie because then she would have to take another five minutes to get our attention again. There’s never a dull moment with all of us.

What advice would you give to future student-athletes who may be considering playing for your team/coach?

Coach Stephanie might seem tough and our team might not look as athletic as we are, but trust me when I say this, this team and coaches are irreplaceable! We have a wonderful, motivated, whole-heartedly committed team that is also full of laughter and love. We all come in as a team but we all leave as one tight family bonded by basketball and love! Do consider the program here at Gallaudet University. It would honestly be a phenomenal experience you can’t really get anywhere else!

To learn more about Gallaudet University and Bison athletics, visit gallaudetathletics.com.

*Information compiled by Sam Atkinson, Gallaudet University Associate Athletic Director for Communications

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The North Eastern Athletic Conference (NEAC) has fourteen NCAA Division III member institutions which include: Bryn Athyn College, Cazenovia College, College of St. Elizabeth, Gallaudet University, Keuka College, Lancaster Bible College, Pennsylvania College of Technology, Pennsylvania State University – Abington, Pennsylvania State University – Berks, SUNY Cobleskill, SUNY Morrisville State College, SUNY Polytechnic Institute, Wells College, and Wilson College.  Associate members are: Cedar Crest College (W Swimming), D’Youville College (M Volleyball), Hilbert College (M&W Lacrosse), Medaille College (M&W Lacrosse, M Volleyball), Pennsylvania State University – Altoona (M Volleyball), and Rutgers University – Camden (M Golf). The NEAC has partnered with the North Atlantic Conference in the sports of field hockey and men’s tennis. For more information, please visit: www.neacsports.com.