Secret Lives of Faculty: Meet Courtney Nagle, assistant basketball coach

There’s so much more to Penn State Behrend’s faculty and staff members than what you see them doing on campus. In this occasional series, we take a look at some of the interesting, unconventional, and inspiring things that members of our Behrend community do in their free time. 

By Heather Cass
Publications Manager, Office of Strategic Communications, Penn State Behrend

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After just a few minutes of chatting with Dr. Courtney Nagle, associate professor of mathematics, one thing becomes clear: She’s a team player. As chair of the Secondary Education in Mathematics program, Nagle is also quick to share any credit for accomplishments with her colleagues.

Nagle can trace those team skills back not only to her schooling, but to a blacktopped basketball court behind her childhood home. It was there that Nagle and her older sister learned some of the most important lessons in life –resilience, teamwork, selflessness, and how to win and lose gracefully — from time spent on the court with their father, Terry Thompson.

For more than fifty years, Thompson has coached basketball in one form or another at the elementary school through college levels. In 1998, as the assistant coach of the girls’ basketball team at Girard High School, he helped lead his team, including his two daughters, to the state championship.

Today, he is still coaching – offering summer-long basketball skills camp on his backyard court for free to any area youth who want to attend. He has an assist from his basketball-loving daughter, Nagle, who enjoys teaching on the court as much as in the classroom.

Behrend Blog talked with Nagle to learn more about her “secret life” as a basketball coach.

What are some of your father’s career highlights as a basketball coach?

The largest number of years were spent coaching high school boys, including stints as the head varsity coach for Fairview and Girard as well as teams south of the Erie area. He was an assistant coach for the Girard girls’ basketball team during the years my sister and I played in the late 1990s. He even spent a few years as an assistant men’s basketball coach at Penn State Behrend in the early 1990s.

Was it hard being coached by your dad in high school?

At times, yes. He pushed me, and we spent a lot of extra time practicing. That wasn’t always easy. However, he was really good at leaving the games on the court. I often hear about parent coaches who rehash games and go over mistakes around the dinner table. We never did that. We left it all on the court.

He has a court in his backyard?

Yes. We moved to that house in Girard when I was 14, and that’s when they had the court put in. We grew up playing games on it. Kids in the community still use it regularly. It’s almost like a community playground.

Tell us about the Sunday clinics and how they got started.

The Girard community has always embraced basketball with many kids attending summer skills camps and summer-long clinics. Three years ago, when my son, Jack, and niece, Ainsley, were 5, my dad decided to start doing free clinics in his backyard. It was a way for him to get his grandchildren interested in playing basketball, but he also just enjoys working with young people on the fundamentals of the game. That is his favorite aspect of coaching.

Most of the kids who attend are from the surrounding community, including some of the children of my former teammates and classmates who still live in the Erie area. It’s fun to see the next generation start in the same way we did – playing on the same court we did.

After an hour of basketball drills and skills, my parents open their pool for an hour to anyone who wants to stay and swim. The kids love that part of the night!

What is your role on the court?

I’m in an assistant coach role. I do some of the drill demonstrations and work with the kids as we go through the various drills. I also help my dad get the word out about the clinics with social media posts and such.

What do you enjoy about the clinics?

I love watching kids learn the game and improve week after week. It’s such a fun and laid-back environment and the kids who attend are so excited to be there. We have a wide range of ages and abilities, but they all work together.

On a more personal note, seeing my older son learn from my dad on the same court I grew up playing on is pretty special. My 2-year-old, Benny, isn’t quite ready to play, but he joins in on the occasional drill.

My sister lives in Grove City, but usually drives up for the clinics, bringing her kids. My mom prepares the pool area and keeps the freezer stocked with popsicles for the kids to enjoy after playing.

Do you still play basketball yourself?

I hadn’t played much in the last ten years or so, but now that my son is starting to play, I am getting back into it. It’s mostly just family pick-up games. And, yes, my 79-year-old father still plays.

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