In late September, Robyne Bostick was named the Interim Head Coach of the Northern Arizona University women’s basketball program. She was very familiar with the program, having served the previous four seasons as an Assistant Coach. Her ties to the University run much deeper than her five years with the program, as her grandfather is the first African-American of the University and has a building on campus named after him. With 17 years of successful Division I experience as a coach and student-athlete and in signing a strong recruiting class despite her interim status, Bostick has helped the NAU program to exceed expectations during her five months on the job. The program has matched last season’s win total with two regular season games to be played and have been a tough matchup for opponents throughout the season, losing seven games by five points or less and 14 games by 11 points or less.
What inspired you to become a coach?
It really started with the great experience that I had playing in college. My coaches had such a big impact on my life that I wanted to stay involved in the game after I graduated. I worked as basketball camp counselor every summer while I was in college and fell in love with teaching the game. Not only do I enjoy the teaching aspect, but I have always been a student of the game and have been fortunate in my career to work for and learn from some really good head coaches. I want the players I coach to enjoy their experience as much as I did and build lasting relationships with their teammates and coaches.
How special is it to be coaching at a University that has special meaning to your family, with your grandfather’s name (Riles) on one of the buildings on campus?
With my grandfather being the first African-American graduate of NAU, the University is very important to my family’s history. He gave a lot of credit for his success to his time in Flagstaff and the education that he received at NAU, so I truly appreciate the opportunity that I have to represent his legacy. There are still a number of people in the community who knew him and it’s been very special for me to hear their stories about the positive impact that he had on them. One interesting and little known fact about the Riles Building is that it was the women’s gymnasium before being renovated into classrooms and offices in the early 80’s.
After being named the Interim Head Coach a week before the season began, what were important steps you took to bring the team together and get everyone on a new page?
The first thing that we needed to do was sit down as a staff and make sure that we were all communicating the same message to the team with regards to what we wanted to accomplish this season and what team standards we wanted to uphold. One of those messages was to “control the controllables” and not worry about the things over which we had no influence. We talked a lot about the X’s and O’s to find the system that would best fit our personnel and a system that the team would buy in to.
One of the core goals within our athletic department is to provide student-athletes with an exceptional experience culminating with graduation. With six seniors on the team, it was important for me to connect with them and discuss ways in which we could make the season a positive and successful one for them.
While it may not show in the win column, your team plays incredibly hard and have been very close in so many games this season. How have you kept your team motivated?
One thing that we haven’t had to question this year is our team’s effort. That effort is what has kept us in those close games. The close losses reinforce the importance of every single possession and that one missed box out or unforced turnover at any time during the game could be the difference maker. We’ve shown that when we play together and when we do the little things consistently that we will put ourselves in a position to win. That’s what we focus on every day in practice. This team feels like they’ve had a lot to prove all season, so we try to make things as competitive as we can in practice and they do a great job of motivating each other.
How has the experience as Interim Head Coach prepared you to lead the program well beyond this season?It has definitely been a big adjustment and more than just moving over a seat on the bench, but each day has been a great opportunity to learn and get better. The relationships with players and support staff are a little different as a Head Coach than as Assistant Coach, but it comes down to trust, communication, and treating people with respect.
Our staff has also maintained strong recruiting ties with high school and club coaches, and despite some uncertainty, we were able to sign a strong recruiting class during the early signing period.
The culture of the program is also changing, and we still have some work to do in that area, but this season has given us a good start. I think that we have exceeded the expectations that many people outside of our program had for us entering the season, and it would be a lot of fun to continue to build this program.
Written originally for CollegeInsider.com on March 2, 2017.