Charli Collier is used to watching the basketball bounce off the rim as she hustles for a rebound, but the junior center is seeing the game from a different perspective this fall as a youth coach.
Collier coaches at Competitive Edge, a basketball program that has teams with players ranging from elementary students to high schoolers. The program, founded by 2014 Texas women’s basketball alumna Ashley Roberts, exclusively employs female coaches who are playing or have played collegiate basketball. Roberts reached out to Collier about an opportunity to coach the fourth to fifth grade teams as a volunteer this fall.
“It was not a thing where she had to convince me,” Collier said. “She’s also a UT alum, and it’s always good when you have someone that can come coach who is a player right now and can help her girls.”
Collier, who is entering her junior season as the centerpiece for new head coach Vic Schaefer’s squad, said her status as a Texas basketball player is something that resonates with the kids and gives her an opportunity to be a positive influence in their lives.
“I just go and coach them on the weekends, attend their practices and just try to be a role model for them,” Collier said. “I know they look up to me, and their team went to a lot of our games last year, so they know who I am. It’s just good to go there and give them some insight on basketball.”
Impactful mentors are the most important aspect of Competitive Edge, Roberts said. As an all-girls program with all female coaches, the adults are constantly checking in with the girls to ensure they are giving their best effort on and off the court, Roberts said.
“Within the mentorship program, we are checking their grades,” Roberts said. “Every two weeks they have to send in their grades to the coaches. We are making sure their grades are up to par for playing with us. We send them recaps throughout the week of how they are playing and how school is going, things of that nature.”
Roberts believes Collier’s experience this fall will teach her valuable lessons that she can use to develop her overall game and mentality in college.
“I think (being a coach) helps see the game in a different lens,” Roberts said. “When you are playing, it’s very different from actually coaching. She’s coaching the younger group, so it is helping her with patience, which I think will correlate to her playing with her own teammates.”
Leading younger players is something that Collier will have to master this upcoming season. While she won’t be sharing the court with fifth graders, Collier will be surrounded by freshman teammates who are not as experienced as she is.
“We have a lot of young freshmen on the team, so it’s about being a leader on and off the court and making sure that everyone is doing what they are supposed to do,” Collier said to the Texan in September.
Collier said that the opportunity allows her to escape the normal stressors of being a big-time collegiate athlete and enjoy the pure excitement and passion that the younger kids have for the game.
“It’s really fun, and I enjoy it,” Collier said. “When you are that young, you just play basketball because it is fun. They like it and they enjoy it, and when they ask me questions and I answer them, they are really attentive. It’s a really fun deal for both me and the kids.”