Sideline Stories 2: Former UMHB point guard foregoes career in physical therapy, takes job on sidelines to prepare next generation of players
Esteban BustillosManaging Editor
Andrew GallegosStaff Photographer
Mallory McAdams didn’t think she was going to be a basketball coach.
After her playing days at the University of Mary Hardin-Baylor were over, McAdams spent several years trying to get a job as a physical therapist. Even though she worked at a physical therapy clinic, her goal was to work with patients who had just come out of surgery.
“I applied to literally every single hospital in Dallas and didn’t get a call back,” she said.
It was during this time she realized she wanted to get back into the game. She reached out to head coach Polly Thomason to let her know she was available to work in a coaching capacity.
Three years later, McAdams is still in the game as Thomason’s assistant.
Her road to the coaching position started when she picked up basketball as a child in Robinson, a small suburb of Waco. She played many sports as a child, but she enjoyed basketball the most.
“I just had a particular passion for it,” she said. “I loved the way the game was exciting. I felt natural in the game … I just loved basketball because it was intense competition from tip to buzzer.”
Basketball brought out her competitive side more than anything else, she said. McAdams especially loved the aggression and hyperactivity of the game.
Despite her love for these aspects of the game, she went into college playing an entirely different sport. She originally went to McClennan Community College to play golf on a scholarship.
“I clicked with (golf) as well,” McAdams said. “It came naturally to me. It was different because it taught me a lot about myself on learning on how to control my emotions and stuff like that. Mainly, my dad got me into it, and everybody was like, ‘Dang, you’re pretty good; you might want to keep doing this.’”
She stayed on the green during her first year at McClennan, but she said the game started to burn her out. Adding to this was McAdams’ desire to return to basketball. She said she knew in her gut that if she was putting in a substantial amount of time and effort for a game, she wanted it to be on the hardwood.
Unfortunately, McAdams had spent an entire year away from the game, making it much more difficult for her to be recognized by collegiate coaches. Luckily, Kim Kirkpatrick, a coach from a rival high school who had seen McAdams play in her prep days had recently gotten a job at the collegiate level.
McAdams contacted her high school coach to let him know she needed help getting back in the game, and he contacted Kirkpatrick, who extended an invitation for McAdams to play under her at UMHB.
Taking a year off didn’t help McAdams make a smooth transition to college basketball. She was used to playing every minute of every game that she played in, but she hardly got a minute of playing time in her rookie season, McAdams said.
“I barely saw the floor, and when I did it was not good,” she said. “I was just kind of scatter brained. I was trying to figure it all out, and I was angry because I was not doing good. I wasn’t doing what I thought I could do.”
McAdams contemplated quitting, but she said she pushed herself through because this was something she knew she had to do. The challenges put a chip on her shoulder to push herself to be better, she said.
The summer after her first year at UMHB she worked to improve her game. With the starting guard from her freshman year graduating, there was an obvious opportunity to take her spot, McAdams said. Her confidence level was much higher, something that helped her earn the starting point guard spot.
During her time as a starter at UMHB, McAdams helped the Crusaders to several monumental victories, including the school’s first ever ASC Western division championship. Along with that, the team was able to break Howard Payne’s home court winning streak, which had stood over a season.
After her playing days were over and she had earned her master’s degree in education, the opportunity for McAdams to coach popped up when the assistant coach’s spot opened at UTD. Head coach Polly Thomason, who coached against McAdams while she was at UMHB, said seeing her play encouraged her to bring her on.
“She was a great leader for her team,” Thomason said. “Inspirational, motivational, always played hard. Tough nose. Just one of those kids you wished you could have coached because she worked her tail off every game, every possession.”
Thomason said she was wanted to find someone who could match her work ethic and had a desire to help build the program, something she saw in McAdams.
As a member of Thomason’s coaching staff, McAdams is in charge of strength and conditioning for the team. She said her background in physical therapy helps with this aspect of the job. McAdams’ personality is another trait that’s assisted her at being productive on the job.
“(The players) will come to 6 a.m. practice and Christmas music is blaring, and that’s when it’s not Christmas time,” she said. “I’m very energetic; I try to be positive. I try to get them going whenever it’s not easy to get them going.”
Another aspect of the job that McAdams said she has realized is crucial is the personal support she offers the players. She described the role akin to being like a mom with coaches constantly checking up on players just to see if they’re doing OK or to see if there is anything they need.
McAdams said she still feels like she has a lot to learn about the profession and that she doesn’t feel comfortable entertaining thoughts of being a head coach just yet. Still, she feels like she is in a good position, especially because her goals and the goals of the program match up.
“My biggest goal is I want our girls to leave here and be like, ‘That was awesome!’ I want them to have a good experience,” she said. “I want them to leave here and cherish everything about the experience they had because that’s what it’s all about … That’s the number one part of our philosophy … and that’s what I try to do.”