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Creating Positive Sports Experiences

November 18, 2019 - 3 minute read

Alecia alongside kids playing basketball

Alecia Ivery played on one of the top high school basketball teams in Illinois, but had a bad experience with the environment her coach set that she quit the team. Now, with the help of Concordia Irvine’s Master's in Coaching and Athletics Administration (MCAA) program, she is connecting kids to the joy of sports as both a coach and a leader in an organization called Girls in the Game (GIG).

“The MCAA program gave me the professional development I was looking for,” Ivery says. “I love what I do in the world of youth sports.”

But Ivery had to rebound from an unpleasant sporting experience in high school. As a defensive player, her ability to block lanes, get loose balls and snatch rebounds from taller players earned her playing time.

“We were winning and were ranked among the top 25 teams in Illinois, but I stopped my senior year because of the anxiety-ridden environment” Ivery says.

Year-round competition and travel also took a toll. 

“I was so tired of competing and emotionally drained that I didn’t have a chance to enjoy basketball and do it for fun,” she says.

A sports-based youth development program called Girls in the Game restored her love for basketball.

Girls in the Game allowed me to get back into the fun, and I also discovered my love for coaching,” Ivery says. “I knew I wanted to do it differently than what I have seen from my high school coach.

After earning her bachelor’s degree, she worked full-time with GIG. Today she runs their summer camp and trains over forty after-school coaches to lead sports, health and leadership programs for girls in Chicago-area schools.

In 2015, Ivery began considering a career in athletics administration. An open house in the Chicago area introduced her to Concordia University Irvine's MCAA program.

“I liked how you could do both coaching and administrative classes,” she says. “I wanted to see what I could learn in both areas. I also wanted to be forced to think about my coaching philosophy and vision. It was really helpful to sit down and consider, what do I really value? Who am I as a coach? What do I want girls to get from me?”

She completed the MCAA program in a year and a half and says she “retained and learned more from the online approach than I had in classrooms.”

Ivery flew to Irvine for graduation and “felt part of this big community. Even the people I hadn’t had classes with, you’re chatting with them and sharing the experience.”

Alecia Ivery coaching

Back in Chicago, Ivery put her thesis study to work as the part-time coach for a local school team and a separate travel team. She discovered it wasn’t easy to create a positive and winning environment.

“My thesis at the end of the MCAA program was called ‘The Best of Both Worlds,’” she says. “I’m in the recreation world and the competitive world. Juggling the two and keeping my coaching vision is harder as I get into the competitive world.”

In her first year, the school team went 0-11. Some coaches wanted her to be more strict and yell at the girls to get better results. She refused.

The driving force for my coaching is to create positive sports experiences for youth so they want to continue playing,” she says. “

In youth sports, everyone plays for different reasons and you can’t have a blanket coaching approach. I make sure the girls are having a good time but also learning healthy competition and how to be okay with losing, and how to win and lose gracefully.

In her third year as coach, the school team won a playoff game, affirming Ivery’s “best of both worlds” approach.

In early 2019, Ivery won a national Double-Goal Coach award from the Positive Coaching Alliance. The award recognizes coaches who teach competition and life skills within sports. She was one of fifty nationwide winners.

“You always wonder, am I really doing good stuff?” Ivery says. “That award validated it for me, for sure. It was like, people are seeing it.”

Additional Awards & Accomplishments

  • In 2017, Ivery was profiled on The Undefeated sports website for her work. The Undefeated is owned by ESPN and bills itself as “the premier platform for exploring the intersections of race, sports and culture.”
  • Ivery received Concordia University Irvine’s MCAA Award of Excellence at the 2019 California Coaches Conference.
  • In Fall 2019, Ivery was profiled by the Chicago Sun-Times newspaper as part of their “Hardest-Working Voices in Sports”series.
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