Training a new generation of effective leaders often involves mentoring through a shared passion. It involves someone with a strong skill set who is willing to help someone else feel the spark. We begin our occasional series "Pass the Torch" on the basketball court.
"If she wasn't competing, she was real interested in what the others were doing."
Assistant Athletic Director Steve Erwin coached Nichols-Hogle in track at Woodstock High School, but she is still known in the halls today for her achievements in basketball.
"The girls know of her, her pictures are up here, her stats are known, her history is pretty well-known," Erwin added. "There's a big picture up there because she was the three-point state champ when she was a senior."
That was in 2006. After she graduated from Woodstock High School, Nichols-Hogle was recruited to the University of Dubuque. Then she played semi-pro briefly before realizing it was time to pass the torch on the court.
Ready For The Whistle
"I kept telling our coach 'we should be running right now, we should be running this play, put us on the line, we aren't working hard,'" Nichols-Hogle said. "That's when it hit me I really wanted to get into coaching; hang the shoelaces up and grab a whistle."
She coached two years in nearby Hebron before making her way back to her old school. But the path wasn't easy. A few years ago, her husband got sick.
"He had a kidney transplant, and I ended up being able to be the donor," Nichols-Hogle said.
Soon after, she had a son. The day after he was born, Nichols-Hogle found out she got the job leading the Blue Streaks of Woodstock, making her one of only a few female head coaches in the state for girls basketball.
"I knew that the community had my back and I knew they wanted me here," Nichols-Hogle said. "I think that's one of the biggest things that a coach hopes for is that they have the community's respect, but also support."
"I definitely have that at Woodstock. I am sure a little bit has to do with my being an alum and having a positive career when I played here, but I think a lot of that also has to do with just how I have been able to show coaching is truly my passion," she continued. "It's my family's passion, it's what we are here for, and we truly care and love the girls."
Team captain Selena Juarez is now working toward a college career. She says Nichols-Hogle coaches players based on their individual strengths.
"She went here, she did all of this stuff," Juarez said. "It's kind of weird being coached by her, but at the same time, I feel privileged because she's done all of these accomplishments. Looking around and seeing all she has done kind of makes me want to do something like that, and be like her."
Selena's mother Lori says the new coach is a good fit.
"Yeah, I think that helps if a coach actually played the game because they really know the sport. Being from here, she wants to do well," said Lori Juarez.
Leading By Example
Nichols-Hogle credits her coaching style to her many mentors over the years.
"...taking coaches that I really respect, and highly respect, all the way down from my middle school years, and taking their type of style and philosophy and just combining it together all the way from the x's and o's to how I treat and handle the girls in practice and off-court," Nichols-Hogle said.
Senior Colleen Brown says she isn't sure she will continue playing at the college level, but she plans to continue playing the sport as a hobby since it has always been a part of her life.
"In practices she is very upbeat, she's always positive," Brown said of her coach. "If we are doing activities, she's always makes us cheer each other on just to keep that positive energy in practice. Out of practice, she will contact us if we are sick [and ask] 'how are you doing?' So always on that personal level connecting with us."
Nichols-Hogle knows that all too well.
"Coaching for me isn't just about the x's and o's and yelling at girls every day and trying to get them to do something maybe they don't think they can do. It's more about family and lifestyle and just having a core group of people around you and surrounding you of people that love you."
Do you know someone who is "Passing the Torch" to the next generation? Please help us share that story by emailing WNIJ Managing Editor Victor Yehling at firstname.lastname@example.org. Just put "Passing the Torch" in the subject line.