Not just a basketball mom

At Play

Boys coach Vanessa Cox doesn't get as many surprised looks as she used to

January 17, 2007|By Jeff Seidel | Jeff Seidel,Special to The Sun

It was an early-season battle for first place in the county Loyola 10-11 C league Saturday, when the Maryland City Mustangs pulled ahead of the Buc's Black team in the second half for a 23-16 victory.

From the sidelines, Vanessa Cox offered encouragement to the boys who showed hustle and cheered players who scored baskets.

Cox, of Russett, is more than a supportive mother. She's one of the few female coaches in the 309-team league for boys ages 8 to 17, according to the Department of Recreation and Parks.

In her eighth year of coaching, she has led the Mustangs to a 4-0 record. She has previously coached boys and girls swimming, baseball and soccer.

"I think because I've been part of the program for so long that it's not a surprise any more," said Cox of her gender. Her son, Hunter, plays on the Mustangs.

The topic comes up only rarely, she said, such as when other coaches give her funny looks or assume she's a parent helping out the coach. Cox doesn't get upset, she said, because "I think that changes my attitude towards the game."

"I see when the other coaches come out, I have to make sure sometimes that they realize that I'm for the kids," Cox said. "I guess what I'm trying to do is show that I'm not just a figure out there."

Cox has been involved with sports since childhood. She played basketball in high school in Minnesota and earned a college swimming scholarship from Minnesota State University Mankato.

A security network engineer for the Department of Defense, she takes her weekend duty as a coach seriously.

"When you get the opportunity to help develop children in any way, shape or form and keep them active and involved, it makes them a better person later in life," Cox said. "I hope I can reach one child and change them from going out into the street and breaking windows or breaking into places."

Cox wants each kid on the team to understand the importance of getting the most out of his abilities. In basketball, it doesn't mean each boy will be playing with LeBron James in the NBA, but she wants her players to work their hardest.

You're only as good as the effort you give, Cox said.

Cox treats her team the way any other coach does. She worries about what kind of defense to use, how to put the right players in good positions that could help the Mustangs win.

After the Bucs' loss on Saturday, coach Tom Baker said of the Mustangs, "They're a good team. They work the ball well, and they're well-coached."

Parent Jocelyn Brannan said there's no question how much the children on the Mustangs respect their coach.

"Never have I seen any of the boys ignore her commands or advice," Brannan said. "I don't believe my son, Zach, has even noticed that his coach is any different from most of the coaches out there."

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