Interview with WIHS Lady Chief Coaches
On Saturday March 6th, The Wyoming Indian Lady Chiefs won the 2021 Wyoming 2A state basketball championship. The 44-29 win against the Rocky Mountain Grizzlies solidified the Lady Chiefs' 3rd straight state basketball championship.
Sandie Friday, Jaden Ferris, and Angela Astorga were named to the 2021 2A All-State list. Angela Astorga, Jaden Ferris, Jolynn Fighting Bear, Sandie Friday, and Chaunte Redman were named to the 2021 2A Southwest All-Conference list. Sandie Friday was named the conference player of the year.
What does this 3peat mean?
This one is different from the first two because we almost didn’t have a season. It was looking like we weren’t going to. The parents requested that we play and our players spoke up. In November I was unsure if we’d play because of all the deaths taking place in our community. The Wyoming High School Athletics Association gave us a deadline and told us we had to start playing games and on January 21st the Inter-Tribal Councils lifted the stay put and we started practice the next day. We needed games so we were trying to pick up games on our schedules and our AD was able to schedule a few games for us. We decided to be safe and wear our masks. We wore our masks in practice and games. We tested our kids every week and we did temperature checks before every practice.
How did you prepare to wear masks?
It had to start with practice. It was a struggle from the beginning but the girls were willing to try and come back and win another championship. I struggled too. I used a microphone during practice because they couldn’t hear me through the mask. The biggest challenge was conditioning. I was lucky to have 7 seniors who knew my systems so it was a matter of getting in shape. I had to modify all of my workouts because most of their spring sports had been canceled and because of virtual school they didn't do much activity or social interaction. I told them that they would get used to the masks and they’ll get better at playing with them. My seniors made it their mission to protect themselves and our elders.
How did your team prepare in the weeks leading up to state?
I kept telling them, we’re going to have to do the best we can with what we have. I was really upset that some teams didn’t want to play us. To me, playing games was gonna get us more ready then practice. I was frustrated when teams cancelled their games with us. Like I said, we conditioned a lot and did a lot of skill work. We normally practice two hours but we had to scale it back to an hour and twenty minutes. Like I said, having all that senior experience paid off.
What did you tell your team before the state championship game?
We went over our game plan like every other game. I said you guys have been in the state championship more times than Rocky Mountain has. They’re the ones trying to take it away from you guys and you guys know what to do. It was a powerful moment—one of our seniors said a prayer for us and it really hit me in the heart. That prayer really moved me.This group of girls were very mature through this entire year.
What do you want your players to learn outside of basketball?
Our girls have been so good during this pandemic. When this pandemic started they stayed in touch through social media and other things. They advocated wearing masks and being safe. They did everything they could to show they were prepared for a season. They encouraged each other to get their schools work done. I’m honored to have a couple girls part of the honors society. They know and understand that basketball can take them somewhere else and give them experience. I want them to get their education and go explore places and never forget where they came from. I tell them basketball can be a tool to further their education and take them places.
I would like to thank everyone that supported us. I know it was controversial from the beginning when our kids and parents were signing petitions to the school boards. I’m thankful that people were able to see what we were trying to accomplish. I want to thank the Councils for helping out and Winder River Cares for being a part of that. Our school board did a great job helping our students and supporting them.
What year did you start coaching at WIHS?
I started in the 2018-2019 season.
What has the experience been like coaching for your alma mater?
It’s been great. Felt as if I was just back home. Chief Nation is a great positive environment to be apart of.
What challenges did your team face during the COVID restrictions this year?
We had to face every team with 2 months less of practice and less in game experience. We had to commit to the tribes, our school and community that because this opportunity was given, we would be the safest we possibly could..on and off the court.
Tell me about the experience of winning a 3peat championship
It’s been surreal. Our teams had to fight for each one. From the beginning of the game all the way down to the last second for our first. From defeating a team who we had lost to in the beginning of the season for our second. And from learning how to adjust to COVID and not having as much time as we would’ve liked, to prepare for our third. Definitely appreciative and very grateful to be apart of the experience.
What have you learned during your time as a young coach?
A good life takeaway from this whole coaching experience is learning that in order to achieve any success you have to be able to take all the blame when things go wrong and the last to take credit when things go right.