Edgewood College Athletics Commu
Coach Huff is creating pride and team identity for the Eagles.
Athletic administrators at Edgewood College warned Chaia Huff. But she took the job anyway — becoming the 13th head coach in the 38-year history of the Edgewood College women’s basketball program last September.
“I knew it would be a challenge,” says Huff, whose first name is pronounced KY-ah. “But I didn’t know it was this dire.”
How dire? The Eagles wrapped up their first season under Huff on Feb. 18 with an 0-25 record. They were outscored by an average of 25.2 points per game, and no players averaged double-digit points. The lowest moment came on Dec. 10 at Benedictine University in Lisle, Illinois, when Edgewood was (in Huff’s words) “annihilated and embarrassed,” losing by 53 points, 96-43.
That’s a record of futility no coach wants on his or her resume, but Huff figures things could have been worse. At least this team didn’t struggle with academic or behavior issues, as some of Huff’s previous teams did.
“There’s something about pouring your blood, sweat and tears into something with people you care about, even if you don’t have success,” she says. “These girls worked very hard for me during a very hard year. And every coach in our league, after they beat us, told us our players just don’t quit.”
Nine of the 12 women on Edgewood’s 2016-17 roster were freshmen, and most of them played basketball because it was something to do — not because they had a passion for the game.
“There’s not a real sense of culture here,” Huff says. “There’s no pride or team identity, and it’s pretty rare for a kid to play basketball all four years. I want to change that.”
Huff, 35 and the single mother of a 7-year-old daughter and a 4-year-old son, has a history of building team culture as head coach at Grace University in Omaha, Nebraska, and at her alma mater, Moody Bible Institute in Chicago.
She embraced the challenge at Edgewood, and as the long and trying season wound down, she noticed a shift in attitude when the Eagles hosted Benedictine on Feb. 11. A team proud to wear the Edgewood uniform took the court that night at the Todd Wehr Edgedome and played one of its most competitive games of the season, losing by only 11 points (56-45) — one of the narrowest margins all season. “At that moment, something changed,” Huff says. “These kids learned to love being a part of Edgewood women’s basketball.”
There’s a long way to go, though. On the recruiting trail, Huff is as transparent as she is upbeat. During the season, she invited recruits to visit the campus and watch a game, and then admitted, “You’re going to see why I need you.”
At least three players already have committed to Edgewood for next season — two from the Chicago area and one from California — and the coach is optimistic about finally winning some games.
“We’re not going to be 0-25 forever,” Huff said. “I have every confidence we can turn this around.”