Why I Do This

Ruth Sinn

I remember it like it was yesterday.

In grade school, I walked into that gymnasium with so much enthusiasm and excitement.

But I left in tears when I didn’t make the team.

I got cut.

The irony is I’m referring to cheerleading, not basketball.

When I got cut from making the cheerleading team, as fate would have it, I was introduced to girls’ basketball.

I went on to play in high school and at the college level for St. Thomas. Shortly thereafter, I got into the coaching profession that’s lasted for nearly 40 years.

From in-house basketball, traveling , AAU, high school, USA Basketball, Division III, and now Division I at St. Thomas, I’ve coached at every level you can imagine for both boys and girls teams.

I’m in my 18th season as the head coach at St. Thomas now, and there are many reasons besides my love for the game why I continue to pace the sidelines year after year.

For starters, it’s how the game’s transformed and improved – specifically the women’s game in relation to Title IX – that dates back to my playing days.

But even more than that, it’s the relationships I’ve developed with my players throughout all my years of coaching.

It brings me such immense pride to see these players grow both on and off the court. It’s the greatest joy and most fulfilling reward I have from the coaching profession.

Another door opens

So many people have helped me along the way in my career in basketball, but it starts with my mom.

At the time, not making the cheerleading team was the end of the world for me.

I was beside myself.

But my mom was such an upbeat person. Instead of letting me mope around and feel sorry for myself, she decided we needed to take action to turn this into a positive situation.

She contacted the principal at St. Pete’s Grade School and asked, why we didn’t have a girls’ basketball team when there were other girls’ teams in the surrounding area?

Mom didn’t stop there, either.

She went to various community members and found someone to coach our team.

This was my introduction to basketball, and it never would’ve happened without my mom igniting change and lighting a spark that led me to find my passion in life.

When one door closed, another door opened.

It brings me such immense pride to see these players grow both on and off the court. It’s the greatest joy and most fulfilling reward I have from the coaching profession.

Early opportunities

I played at St. Thomas in the early ’80s.

This wasn’t too many years after Title IX came into effect, but I was extremely fortunate that St. Thomas was a big advocate for women’s sports.

I knew it wasn’t like that everywhere.

The athletic department, Frank Mach and JoAnn Andregg, did an unbelievable job in providing women athletes with opportunities to succeed. Whether it was practice times, game times, et cetera — we tapped into those resources.

To know St. Thomas was ahead of the curve – and truly cared about women’s athletics when not every school around the country did – meant everything in the world to me.

I also had a unique opportunity in that I wasn’t limited to just being a basketball player. When time permitted, my head coach, Tom Kosel, allowed me to coach my former grade school team.

And truthfully, this really did open my eyes to the coaching profession.

I knew this was where I belonged.

I loved being around the game, but something I loved even more was showing young girls how we can use basketball for character development and becoming stronger people.

Finding ourselves through this great game.

Being a teacher and a coach was a natural fit for me. I’m beyond grateful to my coach for providing me the opportunity to get an early start on what’s been a lifelong dream that’s spanned nearly four decades.

Winning off the court

Out of all the various levels of basketball I’ve coached, the one constant I’ve found is establishing relationships with my players.

It transcends time, gender, and age.

Whether it’s with USA Basketball and some of the best players in the country, or fifth-grade AAU, it’s about challenging them to grow as human beings.

The self-discovery process of young people learning who they are and the impact they can make on this world is what it’s all about for me.

This is why I love coaching and athletics as much as I do.

Statistics have proven that sports help young people build character, overcome adversity, graduate, obtain successful careers, and so much more.

And truthfully, that’s the win in all of this.

It’s not about cutting down nets, raising trophies, or seeing the confetti fall. Sports are about helping athletes find themselves through this self-discovery process.

That’s why Title IX is essential, and continues to be more so than ever, because it gives young girls the opportunity to grow and develop through athletics.

As Title IX has continued to evolve, we see the impact sports have had on these young girls who develop into strong, successful women. They graduate and give back to their communities for years to come.

I love competing and winning as much as the next coach, but if my players grow and develop as individuals throughout the course of a season, that means the world to me.

A career of gratitude

In my 40 years of coaching, I remain blessed to have had so many people make a difference in my life. I’ve coached some incredible players who are even better people. They’ve gone on to become wonderful women that add immeasurable value to their communities.

I’ve traveled the road and seen all parts of the country and world with the best coaches I could ask for.

Not to mention, I have a husband who’s my number one fan and was able to be present and home for my children when I couldn’t be.

My dreams are his dreams, and I never could have thrived this many years in the coaching profession without him.

I have an endless level of gratitude to my former and current players, coaches, and my husband, but I’d be remiss not to owe everything in my basketball career to the person who sparked it.

My mom passed away recently, but that doesn’t stop me from thanking her every single day for the influence she had on my life and career.

She helped me realize that not making the cheerleading team was the best thing that could’ve ever happened to me, as it introduced me to a sport that changed my life.

It’s something I’ll never forget, and I look forward to continuing to use basketball to inspire and touch as many lives as I possibly can.