Ana Wurtz finished her third season as assistant coach at Winona State University in Winona, Minnesota. Wurtz helped guide the Warriors to an impressive 30-4 record and an appearance in the Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference Tournament semifinals this past season. The Warriors continued their postseason run in the NCAA Central Region Tournament making it all the way to the semifinals.
Tell us a little about your background?
I am originally from Fond du Lac, Wisconsin. My dad has been a high school boys’ basketball coach for the past 30 years in Wisconsin. I have grown up in the gym with him, sat and watched countless basketball videos, watched him prepare for teams, went with him on scouting trips and grew to not only love playing the game, but developed a passion for lifelong learning in regards to coaching the game.
My playing career took me to Winona State where I graduated with a degree in psychology. Upon graduation, I had planned to attend a doctoral program in psychology until I was given the opportunity to join the Winona State staff as a graduate assistant. When I realized that I had a chance to remain devoted to the game of basketball and continue to pursue this passion as a career, there was no turning back.
What do you like to do in your free time?
I make a lot of trips home to see my family. It’s about a three-hour drive home one way, but I will get there once or twice a week to play some cards or just spend time with my grandparents, parents, siblings, and the rest of the family! However, where I find my family most of the time is in a gym somewhere!
When did you know you wanted to be a coach?
I always knew I wanted to be a coach. I saw myself coaching at some level, either high school or AAU. I knew I’d never be able to completely step away from the game, but it didn’t occur to me until after college that I could make a living coaching the sport I love. When I first got into coaching at the college level, I’m not sure I realized how incredible this opportunity to impact the lives of young female student-athletes every day would be. I’ve also learned quickly the huge impact that they have had on my life as well! Best decision I’ve ever made!
Do you have any pregame rituals?
Maybe this will get better as I have more years in the profession, but I never feel as though I’m prepared enough. I spend much of the hours leading up to the game watching more scouting film, whether it’s personnel, play calls or late-game tendencies. I doubt I’ve ever found any mind-blowing information on this day, but it helps me relax and feel more confident going into the game, so it seems worth it!
What is/are the most challenging part(s) of your role?
Balance of Life. While my job is something that I truly love, it’s very difficult to leave the office/gym and stop thinking about the next game, recruiting, the student-athletes … similar to most jobs I’m sure, the job never feels complete. I struggle with the constant battle of feeling as though I’ve never done enough. Even when I am able to find time away, it’s hard to get rid of that feeling that I could always be doing more to improve the experience of our current student-athletes, win the next game, or land that top recruit.
How do you work through these challenges?
I think the best thing to do is to continue to surround myself with great people. I’m surrounded by a lot of amazing people at work and outside of work who support me and understand what the life of a college coach entails. I am also fortunate to coach a group of student-athletes who make it so enjoyable to go to work every day and make the challenge well worth it! I’ve also learned that it’s important to step back every now and then and celebrate the successes and be more confident in the work that I have been able to get done.
Briefly state your coaching philosophy; What values are important to you that you try to instill in your student-athletes?
My core values include:
- Selflessness: no individual is greater than the team. Whether this is on the court in making the extra pass, taking a charge, or off the court in the decisions that players make, the most enjoyable teams to be part of are those that are willing to sacrifice their own interests for those of the team!
- Commitment: insatiable desire and internalized motives to succeed. It’s my goal to help cultivate this internalized desire to succeed to a level where players are not forced, but want to spend the extra time needed, to take their game to another level.
- Toughness: Every season I reread the Jay Bilas article—while I appreciate every definition he provided for what “toughness” means, the one that I value most is that tough players “take criticism the right way.” Players must be “open to getting better and expect to be challenged.”
- I would also like to add “passion." The players who get the most out of their abilities are those who truly LOVE the game and appreciate the opportunity they have been given to play. I don’t believe that’s something that can really be taught. In my role as recruiting coordinator, I feel it’s my job to find players who have this. If players don’t have the passion for competing for championships, then it’s going to be a struggle to instill or further enhance the core values I mentioned earlier.
What is your favorite memory in your current coaching role thus far?
I’ve had a lot of great memories, but one that stands out this year is our team trip to California to kick off our season. It was a great opportunity for the team to get to know each other on a whole different level off the basketball court. My favorite part of it, however, was coming home with three wins against teams that all would later compete in the NCAA tournament. Obviously, winning is fun, but what was really great was finally seeing the girls understand and believe that they had an opportunity to do something really special this season! As coaches, we are constantly trying to instill confidence and belief in their abilities As we departed back home to kick off our regular season, we knew this trip was well worth it!
What does it mean to you to be recognized as a WBCA “Thirty Under 30” honoree?
I am humbled to be recognized as a WBCA “Thirty Under 30” honoree. I feel incredibly blessed to have the opportunity to impact the lives of young females every day! I’ve had experience working under two exceptional coaches who have not only taught me so much about the game and how to lead a team, but also strengthened my desire to continue on this career path. They have provided me with the skills and confidence I need to be successful, and I’m thankful that my hard work and dedication to the student-athletes have been recognized.
The WBCA recognizes annually the WBCA's Thirty Under 30 recipients. This recognition was created to honor thirty of the up-and-coming women's basketball coaches age 30 and under in the sport at all levels of the game. For more information on the award, click here.