Coach maps route from birth to bench in eight days
Kendra Faustin is scheduled to bring her second son into the world Feb. 27. Eight days later, the Niagara women’s basketball coach plans to be on the floor with her team at the MAAC tournament in Springfield, Mass.
And the 33-year-old says she has slowed down since her first son, Callard, arrived 15 months ago.
“Before I was like ‘This is how everything will work and everything has its place,” she said. “Now I’m like, ‘This is God’s way of telling me I could slow down and I can’t control everything. That probably was really good for me, to have to slow down, because I just tried to go, go, go.”
At 28, Faustin landed the top job at Niagara after spending three years as an assistant at Canisius and two years as an assistant at Division II Hillsdale College in Michigan. The Hartland, Mich., native, who grew up with two basketball-coaching parents, always knew her future would be on the bench.
But it wasn’t until she was planted firmly on that seat that some important lessons were learned.
“I wanted to do it all. It had to be perfect,” she said. “That’s not conducive to me doing a good job at my job, my staff doing a good job at their job or our players doing a good job in their role. The biggest thing I’ve learned is how to focus on the bigger picture.”
And to take things like on-your-way-out-the-door dirty diapers, spaghetti spills and messy living rooms in stride.
“In a big picture, what’s important in life?” asked Faustin, now in her sixth season as head coach. “[My son] Cal doesn’t care if we win or lose. He just cares that he gets to see me after the games. I don’t get to be a jerk after games regardless of the outcome because he’s just fired up to see me.”
Nothing fires up Faustin like trying to strike the elusive balance between her two favorite things -- her program and her family.
“There are days I feel like I’m a terrible mother and a great coach and days I feel like a great mom and a terrible coach,” she said. “There are a few days where I’m like, ‘I am awesome, I am superwoman.’”
Since arriving at Niagara in 2007, Faustin has put an emphasis on recruiting better athletes to the campus that rests just miles from Niagara Falls.
And despite some up-and-down results during her first five seasons -- including a 1-29 mark in her fourth year -- Faustin is confident the program is going in the right direction in large part due to that shift in philosophy.
“We had some bad early seasons, which you could live with,” she said. “[2010-11] was a harder pill to swallow because it wasn’t in the plan.”
Pointing to players like current juniors Chanel Johnson, Kayla Stroman and Shy Britton, Faustin says the Purple Eagles have indeed become much more athletic.
Niagara went 13-19 (9-9) a year ago and finished tied for fourth in the conference. The Purple Eagles made a semifinal appearance in the MAAC tournament, where they fell in overtime to eventual champ Marist. This year, Niagara was picked to finish second in the MAAC and is currently 7-8 (2-2) with a showdown against Marist (9-6, 4-0) less than a week away.
Faustin plans to stay with the team through the Feb. 24 home game against Manhattan, but then miss the final two regular-season games to give birth to her son before returning for the March 7-11 MAAC tournament.
“I won’t be able to do much,” she said. “I’ll just be around just for support for our players and our staff.”
Faustin says she has complete confidence everyone will be fine. They’ve already been through it during her six-week absence after Cal was born. There has been a much greater emphasis on communication leading into this brief separation.
But don’t think all the extra work her staff is putting in is lost on Faustin.
“They’ll do whatever so that I can do everything,” she said. “It’s really important to me that I can return the favor some day by picking up the slack when they have their families and when they have something important in their personal lives.”
And she’s made just one other vow for after the MAAC tournament.
“I had to promise Kayla that I would not have a baby her senior year.”