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Learning's a Labor of Love for Washington

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UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. -- When she was eight years old, Lady Lions head coach Coquese Washington thought she was destined to spend her days making a living in the library, but luckily for Penn State she was still too young for the librarian society.

Washington-Coquese (2).jpeg"I absolutely did," Washington said, "I wanted to be a librarian. I wanted to work in the library so that I could just be there all day and read the books. I think I was seven or eight [years old] and I asked them if I could work at the library. They told me 'you have to grow up little girl, at eight years old you can't work in the library'."

She called herself a book worm, which by definition means a person devoted to reading or studying. That description would encapsulate much of the Flint, Mich. native's life, starting with her admittance of reading the book "Roots" eight times prior to entering high school. She owns two degrees from Notre Dame, a bachelor's degree in history and a Juris Doctorate from the Notre Dame Law School. Even in her adult life, Washington admits that her favorite stores to shop in are book stores.

"That's just my personality," said Washington. "I am a thinker, so I have to take everything in. That's just me."

Next time you are watching the Lady Lions just take a glance at her on the sidelines. The 5-foot-6 Washington might just be watching the game with one arm folded across her midsection and her other hand on her chin. That's the thinker's pose. A calming influence that looks at the game with the eye of an educator, Washington tries to hold an even keel emotionally because the season is long and each game is 40 minutes.

"The thing we always want to do is not get too emotional about things," said Washington. "It's a long season and there is usually always time left in games. There are a lot of teachable moments in every game and if we can learn from those moments maybe we won't [repeat them in other games]. What our staff tries to do is help our players grow and become better decision makers."

Those teachable moments that Washington talks about seem to come nearly every time one of her players comes off the court. If you have watched any of the Lady Lions games that have been televised on the Big Ten Network this season you will have seen many shots of Washington putting her arm around one of her players and calming delivering a lesson.

A librarian? I think Washington could have been a successful in the cut-throat world of business or in the courtroom.

Oh, wait; she covered those bases, too. During her professional basketball career, Washington helped organize the WNBA Players Association, serving as the first president of the WNBAPA, and was a driving force behind the organizations successful negotiation of the league's first collective bargaining agreement. She serves on a variety of basketball related committees, including the Kay Yow Cancer Fund, NCAA Women's Basketball Issues and WBCA Executive Committees.

With all of that going on, you would think that Washington would be moving around the Bryce Jordan Center with the pace that her team shows on the court, but that's not the case.

It's hard to think that someone with the temperament of Washington leads one of the nation's top scoring offenses. It's not that her basketball IQ doesn't lend itself to that, because the former point guard loved to get out and run the court, but her demeanor offers the impression of a more conservative game.

However, her team averages over 70 points per game and that shows those teachable moments are being communicated well and that her players, like herself, are unrelenting in their journey for education. Her pupils know that she is an easy going person, but they also know that she is going to share her opinion, good or bad.

"Coach is very laid back," said senior Alex Bentley, "she is a very calm person. She is going to tell you what you are doing well and what you need to work on. She is going to keep on you about things and if she is not, you probably have a problem.  I love her feedback and I love her coaching style. She likes us to push the pace and wants us to get up and down the floor."

Her calm appearance doesn't mean that there aren't emotions coursing through her veins. She might channel her inner Bobby Knight at some point in her career, but it won't be a chair that Washington flings across the court.

"More like throwing a pen," Washington said. "I don't want to hurt anyone, so it would be more like a pen throw."


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