Basketball Coach Stephanie Desmarais stands, or rather asserts herself, on the sidelines of a hazy, blazing basketball court, filled with echoes of an audience. However, she is the one to catch the crowd’s eye. High heels, professional dress, hair done up. While most coaches would prefer to lounge in attire such as shorts and tennis shoes, Desmarais cannot go without her traditional game-day look.
“I love casual clothes, I love boots, I love shopping, I love shoes,” Desmarais said. “But then when I coach, I dress all the way up. I wear high heels and dresses, so I like dressing up.”
Desmarais prefers not to wear casual clothes like jeans and tennis shoes. Her style sets her apart from other coaches who usually wear the stereotype of ‘coach gear’.
“Some coaches coach in coach gear, like sweats, or not sweats, but coach pants and collared shirts. Even females. That’s what they do, that’s their style. It makes them feel good about themselves,” Desmarais said. “I would totally feel under-confident if I were dressed like that when I coached. I feel power when I put on my heels.”
For Desmarais, dressing up is a distraction from the nervousness before games, and it helps with her confidence.
“So, it makes me not think about that, not think about basketball and not think about all the x’s and o’s, because I have a tendency to obsess about it,” Desmarais said. “So now I’m thinking about ‘ooh this is cute, okay what jewelry should I wear with it, ooh how should I do my hair, oh I want to wear these shoes, hm what can I wear’, you know what I mean?”
According to Desmarais, students would describe her as “chill”, but her athletes would describe her as “scary on the court”. She describes herself as carefree, social, passionate, and energetic.
“Yeah, I guess [the way I dress] does [match my personality], because I have a side of me that can be kind of like chill and laid back, but then intense, which is funny because I think in the coaching world, people see me as very rigid – intense and focused all the time,” Desmarais said. “If you know me personally, I’m the exact opposite. If I’m not playing basketball, I’m kind of aloof at times.”
However intense she may be on the court, Desmarais feels completely fulfilled and content with her job as a coach.
“Listen, I’m living the dream. Living the dream. I love it. Don’t let anybody tell you anything different. I absolutely love my job. I don’t feel like I have a job. It’s fun. It’s fun all the time,” Desmarais said. “You know how that is, like the old [saying], ‘if you’re doing what you love, it doesn’t feel like work’, and so what is it like being a coach? Very fulfilling.”
Desmarais has been a coach for 15 years.
“I was previously in social work and in the mental health field. My degree is in psychology, and so I always know how to work with kids,” Desmarais said. “I was just ready to pick up basketball again after college, so for about 15 years I did social work and eventually I found my way back to basketball.”
Coaching has provided Desmarais with a different perspective on life.
“It’s like one of the things I love about it is the fact that you don’t get complacent with life, because we’re dealing with young kids, or young people. And you have to be flexible and willing to change and move with the times,” Desmarais said. “What worked maybe ten years ago, may not work now, so I’m constantly learning. Not just learning about the game of basketball, but just learning about people and learning new things and stuff. I love that.”
Outside of school, Desmarais is a committed mother and wife.
“It’s tough, but you know, listen I love to shop. Love my babies. I have three children and have been married for 26 years, and my youngest son goes here. He’s autistic and his name’s Devin and so I love just spending time with him. And he loves to eat and watch movies, and so we do a lot of that,” Desmarais said. “I love just watching movies and just hanging with the fam.”
Desmarais is also fluent in American Sign Language.
“Well, I didn’t know sign language, but it had always been one of those secret, hidden dreams. So, it’s beautiful to have that come back to me, and they were offering to teach us sign language for free, and then we had to go and submerge ourselves in deaf culture with the kids from the Colorado School for the Deaf and Blind,” Desmarais said. “So, the kids taught me how to sign. I never went to class. I never went to any type of formal training. We had kind of a tutor that would come work with us every now and then, but the kids taught me a lot and then just being in that culture and that environment.”