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New Ulen-Hiterdall boys' basketball coach offers woman's touch

Ulen-Hitterdal boys basketball coach Kelly Anderson directs her team during a recent practice for the Spartans. (Carrie Snyder/The Forum)

ULEN - Kelly Anderson's career as a head coach is three games old, and she's already got plenty of great stories.

But that goes with the territory. The Ulen-Hitterdal coach is one of the rare women coaching boys basketball.

"It's the same as coaching girls in that you're coaching the game of basketball - trying to teach them the fundamentals and the right way to play the game," Anderson said. "But you do go to games and people say, 'Hey, where is your coach?' "

It's different, and it appears people are still getting used to it. They're more than comfortable with it at Ulen-Hitterdal - but Anderson had a hand in that, too.

"When I first got up here, one student said basketball was 'a man's game,' " Anderson said. "So I played him one-on-one, even though I was five or six months pregnant at the time.

"Let's just say it hasn't been a problem since."

Anderson's coaching style demands attention, and failure to follow rules of drills can result in laps or push-ups.

"Oh, they listen to her. That's not a problem," said Bob Schultz, an assistant with the freshmen. "They know that she knows the game and that she's going to put in the effort.

"And they know that she's in charge. If they don't know, well, they'll be running."

After graduating from Hawley, Anderson played at Fergus Falls Community College for two years and then played two more at Valley City State.

Following her playing days, Anderson was an assistant with the women's program at Minnesota State Moorhead.

"I wasn't making that much, so I decided to get a real job," Anderson said with a laugh.

That brought her to Ulen-Hitterdal, where she was the seventh-grade boys coach two years ago - because "it was the only position they had open" - and an assistant with the boys varsity last year before taking over the head-coaching duties this season.

Having a woman coach a boys team may be rare, but Anderson said the administration came to her.

"They came to me, and it was really a non-issue that I was a woman," Anderson said.

She was already familiar with the younger players that were in the program, which really helped make the process easier.

"It helps because the kids know her now," Schultz said. "The seventh-graders she worked with are now ninth-graders, and they know what to expect."

People outside of Ulen-Hitterdal don't expect her to be the coach, either.

At one road game, an administrator asked her if "her cheerleaders" would like a room to change clothes in.

"I didn't say anything. I just said we didn't have cheerleaders," Anderson said. "That stuff has happened a few times, and I just let it go.

"When the game starts and they see me on the bench, they figure it out."

While the rest of the area was adjusting to Anderson, there was one adjustment to practices that Anderson had to make from her days of coaching girls at MSUM.

"The practices are a lot smellier," she said. "There are no vanilla and coconut undertones at this practice.

"But I'm sure that's all boys, and not just my boys."

Yes, this Ulen-Hitterdal team is Anderson's. People better get used to it.