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UWRF coach is right where she wants to be

December 13, 2007

As a young girl growing up on the South side of Minneapolis, Cindy Hovet had a fairly concrete idea of what she wanted to be when she grew up.

“I always knew I wanted to be a basketball coach,” Hovet said.

For the last eight years, Hovet has been living that dream every time she steps on the floor as the head coach of the UW-River Falls women’s basketball team.

Hovet’s head coaching tenure at UWRF began in 2000 when she led the Falcons to a wining season (18-8) and in the process earned WIAC conference Coach of the Year honors.

Through her first seven years, Hovet has coached her share of winning and losing teams, compiling an overall record of 97 wins and 84 losses. This year’s team is off to a rough start with a 2-5 overall record including no wins in three WIAC conference games.

Despite the record, Hovet sees bright spots in her team.

“We have a lot of potential, but we need to do a better job on the details of the game if were going to win,” Hovet said. “Once we commit to the details, we’ll be good.”

Although winning games is the ultimate goal when it comes to collegiate athletics, Hovet’s job as head coach goes far beyond that. There is a process to building a program and a team, which begins with attracting the right players.

“Recruiting is the whole foundation of a college athletic team,” Hovet said. “[The assistant coaches and I] spend our summers watching basketball and finding kids.”

Hovet does the majority of her recruiting in and around the Twin Cities metro area. She is persistently working the phones and attends, at the very least, two games every week in search of players that fit her criteria.

“I want kids that are competitive and have a good feel for the game,” Hovet said. “Good fundamentals are important”.

Despite the long hours, Hovet recognizes the challenges she faces when it comes to recruiting athletes to play basketball at UWRF.

“Recruiting here is a definite uphill battle because of our facilities,” Hovet said.

For that reason, Hovet relies on her team to sell the program to the young players.

“The best recruiters are the current players,” Hovet said. “The biggest impression (the recruits) get is from them.”

While the players’ have there part in recruiting, perhaps the strongest selling point is Hovet herself. At least, she was the cherry on top, so-to-speak, when it came to sophomore guard Kelli Hilt’s decision.

“I felt that River Falls was a good fit for me because the coaching style was similar to what I was used to,” Hilt said. “Cindy and my old coach both were not just about basketball, but also teaching you life lessons.”

Hovet’s coaching style is a reflection of her personality, which she acknowledges is the opposite of the cheering type.

“I’m a firm believer you have to coach within your personality,” Hovet said. “I try to do what fits my personality and what fits our team.”

Although she is not viewed as the command-style drill sergeant type, Hovet expects her players to give their best effort at all times.

“(Hovet) is a hard coach to play for if you’re not willing to give it your all,” Hilt said. “If you don’t want to be pushed you won’t want to play for her, but if you want to be pushed she will teach you a lot.”

Over the years, Hovet said it’s possible she has mellowed a little bit. She also has come to the realization that you have to let the players play and feel ownership of the program and their decisions. That however can be challenging at times.

“It’s getting harder and harder getting kids to listen and commit to the success of the team,” Hovet said. “Everybody is interested in their own playing time.”

Still, Hovet strives in practice to teach her players fundamental basketball and prepare them for upcoming games.

“(Hovet) expects us to come ready to every practice and game and if you are not performing to your best she will let you know,” freshman forward Sarah Schoeneck said. “She gives you all the tools to become the best player you can be and it’s up to the player if they want to use them.”

Whatever Hovet is teaching seems to paying off for some players who have seen drastic improvements in their basketball skills and knowledge of the game.

“[Hovet] has taught me more than I ever thought I could learn in my life,” Hilt said. “I have become 10 times the player I was in high school … now I am more disciplined and more of a team player.”

Besides seeing her players make strides on the basketball court, Hovet relishes the opportunity to aid in the personal development of her players.

“Sometimes, I don’t think kids understand how much control they have over their own success,” Hovet said. “I like seeing [players] mature and start to really commit to reaching their potential.”

Before she was head coach

Hovet’s love for basketball started in the third grade when she first started playing.

She played point guard, a position known for requiring great basketball awareness and often viewed as the coach on the floor.

After elementary school, Hovet went on to attend Theodore Roosevelt High School where she excelled on the women’s basketball team.

While at Roosevelt, Hovet played for Frank Hentges, a coach that would have a lasting impact on her life.

“He told me all the time that I was a coach on the floor,” Hovet said. “He solidified [the idea] that I definitely wanted to be a basketball coach.”

Hovet’s playing career continued after high school at the UW-Stout, where she stared on the court as the team’s shooting guard.

A three-time all-WWIAC selection and the 1994 WWIAC Player of the Year, she still holds UW-Stout records for career three-pointers with 82, single-game points with 39, single-game steals with 11, and shares the mark for most career games played with 107, according to UW-Stout’s Web site. Hovet also ranks second in career points on Stout’s all-time scoring list and had her number 21 Blue Devils jersey retired in 1998.

After her playing career Hovet served as an assistant at both UW-Stout and UWRF. During her time as an assistant at UWRF, she also served as the head coach of the tennis team.