STANFORD, Calif. (AP) — Scuffling her feet in her flip flops and cozy Stanford Basketball park, Tara VanDerveer reminds her of one rule when it comes to swimming: If she’s going to get wet, she must stay in the water for at least 45 minutes. minutes to make it worthwhile.
The Hall of Famer coach took the two-minute walk from the Maples Pavilion to the pool on Wednesday afternoon before a late game against Cal Poly and reached her goal.
Regular swimming is another thing she squeezes into her busy days three times a week to be mentally and physically fit as she enters her 37th season on the farm and 44th overall as a head coach among women.
“Short course or long course?” Vanderveer asks aloud as he approaches the 25m pool before quickly deciding it will be a good day for the 50m pool with no other swimmers in sight.
Put on a cap and goggles and she’s in.
At 69, she is the top women’s basketball coach with 1,162 career wins. VanDerveer mixes his activities to stay in top shape. She swims well, keeping a constant freestyle pace throughout the journey. No breaks until she’s done.
She swam alongside Olympians Cathy Ledecky and Simone Manuel, marveling at how they seemed to easily and efficiently reach the other end and turn as she puffed through the water.
Sometimes VanDerveer circles around thinking about every player on his roster. At other times, she may think of the month of the year, or reflect on past seasons.
“I’m a little bit Zen,” she said. “I’m just thinking about something completely different.”
VanDerveer’s successful career has transcended the coaching era. First, she confronted the late Pat Summit. Then Geno Auriemma from UConn. Now it’s Don Staley of South Carolina (3-0), who will visit the Maples Pavilion on Sunday as the No. 1 team in the country to take on runner-up Cardinal VanDerveer (5-0) in a last-ditch NCAA title bout. .
Stanford beat Staley’s Gamecocks 66–65 in the 2021 National Semi-Finals.
Staley played for VanDerveer on the 1996 Olympic gold-winning team in Atlanta. When South Carolina visited Stanford in 2010, at the start of Staley’s coaching career in South Carolina, she brought VanDerveer into the away locker room to offer some encouragement and wisdom.
“When you live your truth and your passion, it is timeless. It is always relevant because it is organic. It’s not a fad, it’s not a fleeting moment,” Staley said of VanDerveer. “It’s beautiful how she approaches life, how she approaches the game, and so she can communicate – I don’t even think she’s human, people have a way of relating to her.”
VanDerveer has adapted over the decades. She’s still having fun. She has always thanked Summitt for helping her get where she is today.
“I think it’s great to play with a really good team. You learn about yourself early,” VanDerveer said after the swim. “We learn a lot about ourselves. I call it win-win. Whatever happens, it’s good. It’s fun to play against really good teams. Dawn did a great job with her team. I think in women’s basketball people really play each other.”
Eileen Roche, a longtime basketball program manager, calls ahead of the trip to set up a bath time for her and VanDerveer so they can complete their multi-kilometer workouts even while out of town.
Previously, VanDerveer was looking for a piano to use on the road. Now she is looking for pools.
“She’s amazing,” Roche said, “she’s great.”
VanDerveer is also an accomplished Peloton cyclist. One of her former players, Charmin Smith, now coaches in California at nearby Berkeley and follows VanDerveer’s travels, expecting nothing less than greatness from her former coach in everything she does.
“This is unfair to Tara, but it doesn’t even surprise me anymore, I just expect it from her,” Smith said. “She is perfect when it comes to this game and our sport, especially women’s basketball. She’s just really good at what she does. I’m just expecting it now, I’m not surprised.
VanDerveer’s path might have changed today had she not abandoned her early interest in playing the flute. She gave it up as a teenager due to the anxiety she had before every class with her respected teacher.
Instead, Vanderveer turned to the piano.
“I was always happy to go to piano lessons, even if I didn’t practice,” VanDerveer said. “So I think that for myself I try to be more like my piano teacher and not like my flute teacher. But none of those teachers had games at stake, and they didn’t feel the pressure that I had to perform at some level.”
After her swim this week, it was time to head back to the training ground for a shootout. She thanks the water polo coaches as she exits, then hurries back to the arena’s locker room for a quick shower before entering the court with her hair not yet completely dry.
“I love my shower, I think I deserve it,” she said.
And VanDerveer is still in awe of Stanford and all its splendor, he was lucky to work every day in such a special place.
“You know, there is nothing to lose,” she said before leaving the pool, “you already had a good day. It’s great. Isn’t it just beautiful? Okay, let’s get ready for the game.”
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