Woman breaking barriers as men’s head basketball coach

OWENSBORO, Ky. (WEHT) – Sarah Gayler lives and breathes basketball. Since she first began playing in middle school, she hasn’t put the ball down since.

“I’m addicted to the game,” Gayler said. “I would say the love of coaching came, but it’s really a love of basketball.”

Sarah played for years, with two full-ride scholarships at the University of Arkansas – Fort Smith and the University of New Orleans. She said she realized she wanted to coach men when she thought back on advice she received years before. A man walked up to her playing basketball in a park and “he was like you want to be the best? And I was like, absolutely. And he said, well, you must watch the best and you must play with the best.”

Sarah’s professional background is extensive and impressive, working with several professional teams before being named the Men’s Head Coach and athletic director at Brescia University last season.

“The fact that she’s the first woman coach at the NAIA level in the men’s programs, I think it’s just an honor to be a part of something that big and that special,” said Elijah Pughsley, a transfer student from Western Carolina.

Sarah said the guys welcomed her with no hesitation. They were a part of her interview process and told the Dean they wanted her to be the coach. They said some people may have reservations about playing for a female head coach, but this team saw it as an opportunity for a learning experience.

“Honestly my opinion – I feel like it went great,” said Ricky Shuford, Brescia men’s basketball guard. “When she came in, she definitely held everybody responsible to their duties.”

“We’re going to have some disagreements here and there or maybe some arguments, but it’s all for the betterment of the team. I know we have the same mindset and the same goal and that’s to win,” added Pughsley.

And even in a short amount of time, she’s making a difference off the court as well. Pughsley said he lost his mother at an early age and she has been like a mother figure and like a big sister to him. Her players said they believe women belong in leadership roles in sports.

“Whoever wants to go into the field that they want to go in no matter what the gender is – you can do is put your mind to it and just believe,” added Shuford.

And she says she would tell her younger self the same.

“I wouldn’t I wouldn’t change anything,” Gayler said. “There’s lots of things that were really tough. Again, woman coaching men, I mean, it’s not it’s not really out there, you know, especially back then. But I would just give myself a pat on the back and just say keep fighting, like it’s gonna be okay, you’re gonna get there. Wherever you end up, like in the future from now. So whenever it’s where I’m supposed to be, because that’s one where God wants me to go working, you know, just keep working and keep going.”

Brescia men’s basketball will be hosting an unsigned senior/prospect showcase coming up on June 12th and a basketball summer camp on June 13th

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