Director of basketball operations works hard to achieve goal of becoming head coach

By Mari Pothier|
Photo by Dyann Busse

Walking through the doors of the Flagler College gymnasium is Ryan Vander Wielen’s favorite part about his job.

He likes not having to live the corporate life stuck in a suit and tie, and enjoys getting to wear a t-shirt and basketball shorts to work.

With aspirations to become a head basketball coach at the college level, Vander Wielen is currently the director of basketball operations for both the men’s and women’s teams at Flagler College. He receives a small stipend for his position on the women’s team, but nothing for the men’s.

Having attended Flagler, Vander Wielen received this position through Erika Lang-Montgomery, the head coach of the women’s team.

“I know I wouldn’t be here without Erika to be honest with you,” Vander Wielen said.

Before taking the job as director of basketball operations, Vander Wielen had an internship at Go Personal Training where he helped Lang-Montgomery’s players with strength and conditioning.

“That led to me almost becoming like a coach to her and then from that point on she asked me if I could come back and be able to help her next year,” Vander Wielen said.

Working with both the men’s and women’s teams has allowed Vander Wielen to see a side a basketball he never saw before, the women’s side. He said there are many differences between the teams even though both play the same sport. When working with the women’s team, he has to be more assertive and talk more personally to them, whereas with the men’s team he has to find balance between being their leader and buddy.

“It’s kind of just the small things when it comes to women and men that I really see and I really enjoy, because you know I would have never been able to see it before,” Vander Wielen said.

As the director of basketball operations, Vander Wielen has many responsibilities including scheduling practices for the teams when they go on road trips, greeting visiting teams when they get off their buses and showing them to their locker room, organizing the food on road trips to ensure everyone eats and engaging in commentary during certain games.

“I’m also a practice dummy, is what I like to be called, because I practice with the women and men in case a kid has a sprained ankle or a lady had a sprained ankle,” Vander Wielen said. “I can kind of fill in because I know both offenses and I can work with them and they trust me very well.”

To pick up some extra money Vander Wielen also referees at the intramural basketball games. Because of the intense atmosphere, he said he does not enjoy this aspect of the sport.

“I do not want to be a ref, absolutely never again,” Vander Wielen said. “This will be my first and last time becoming a ref.”

Ante Gospic, a forward on the men’s team, said Vander Wielen is always there for the players on and off the court.

“Ryan is a really nice guy and he’s a really nice person and definitely a good coach and most important he’s a really great friend,” Gospic said.

Even though Vander Wielen only gets a small stipend for working with the women’s team and nothing for the men’s, he does not consider it a volunteer position. It is his full time job and he said it is providing him the necessary work experience he needs to achieve his goal of becoming a head coach.

Daily he spends about six or seven hours in the gym because he attends both teams’ practices. On road trips he works 12 hour days. In total, he said he believes he works around 60 to 70 hours a week.

Vander Wielen said if he could stay at Flagler the rest of his life he would, but his dream job would be coaching at the University of Wisconsin because his family is from there.

“I know my whole family would just be ecstatic if I got that position,” Vander Wielen said.

Head coach Bo Clark of the men’s team said Vander Wielen has been a great addition to his team and appreciates his outstanding work ethic.

“I would say he’s been very very loyal overall and it’s amazing that he’s doing both the men’s and women’s,” Clark said. “It’s hard enough being the director of basketball operations and just doing one sport, or one team I should say, but in his case he’s doing both and I really give him a lot of credit.”

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