Coaches Q&A – Caren Horstmeyer

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Coaches Q&A – Caren Horstmeyer

carenIf it is true that success breeds success, then one should look no further for a prime example of this notion than the career of CAREN HORSTMEYER.

“I am one of those people who believe it is possible to transfer the habits of success one learns in one walk of life into another. I have seen too many examples of this concept to think otherwise,” she says.

A Marin County, California, native, Ms. Horstmeyer is a graduate of Redwood High School and holds bachelors and masters degrees from Santa Clara University. A standout athlete in high school in four sports, she earned a full athletic scholarship to attend Santa Clara, where basketball was her avocation, and in her four years as a varsity player was named team MVP three times and all-conference twice. She concluded her playing career, as a professional, with two years in Greece.

Anyone who saw her play at Redwood understands she is among the greatest athletes, female or male, to ever participate in Marin County, and she was inducted
into the County’s sports Hall of Fame in 2000.

Her first career conversion came when she turned her skills as a player into those of a coach. “Whether you are a player or a coach, the name of the game at the college and professional levels is preparation. I knew how to prepare as a player and I found I could teach my players how to prepare. One of my favorite quotations has been ‘everybody wants to be successful. Few want to prepare to be successful.’”

Such thinking propelled Ms. Horstmeyer through 11 seasons as head women’s coach at Santa Clara, where her teams won four conference titles and made three NCAA post-season appearances, and where she earned NCAA regional coach of the year honors three times.

She also served on the 1996 Olympic Selection Committee for women’s basketball.

In 2000 she moved to Berkeley to become head women’s coach on the Cal campus through 2005, and earned Pacific Ten Conference Coach of the Year honors in 2004.

Her second career conversion came in when she joined Frank Howard Allen Realtors in Marin County.

“You learn a lot about yourself, and others, from competing day in and day out as I did for all those years. You realize what it takes to prepare on a daily basis, and you build that into your work plan. You have setbacks and you adjust. It’s much easier said than done, but I feel competing has given a significant competitive advantage to offer my clients.”

How did you get your start in coaching?

I kind of fell into it. After successes as a player in high school and at Santa Clara, I played in Greece and was invited to coach a lower division there. Though I enjoyed the assignment, I didn’t get fully engaged until returning to Santa Clara to assistant
coach with my own former coach. At that point I knew it was something I wanted to do.

Who were your mentors and influencers?

My parents were always supportive and active athletes themselves and they got me going. Later on, I attended a camp at Sir Francis Drake High School operated by their boys’ great coach, Pete Hayward. He worked with me on individual skills and invited me to play with boys and I did not back down. He liked my work ethic.

After the year coaching at Santa Clara, I was invited by Mary Hile and Bill Nepfel to be their assistant at University of San Francisco for the women, which allowed me to coach and get my Masters degree. At the end of that year, the head women’s job opened at Santa Clara and I was hired.

Knowing what you know now, what would you have done differently?

So many things. First would be to get more experience before I took a head coaching position. The fast track has its disadvantages. I was not able to take the time to speak with other veteran coaches about what it takes to compete and sustain success, to master the intricacies of technical basketball. I would have delegated activities such as marketing and budgets. I would have recruited fewer players harder. I would have spent more time with the players on my time to learn about them as individuals. The list is endless.

What has changed most about the profession?

A “win now” philosophy has taken over for many reasons, mostly economic. It does not allow young coaches to develop. John Wooden was a good coach as a younger man, but did win his first national title until 16 years after he was hired. That would not happen today. Recruiting is a much more demanding part of the job now. What has been sacrificed is teaching.caren2

What lessons did you take from coaching that you now apply in your working and personal lives?

This is another long list. Certainly the concept of preparation is critical to success in any walk of life. The lost art of teamwork is also something that is part of the life of nearly every successful person. Even someone in a professional service, such as real estate, is part of a team in virtually every transaction. Sometimes I am a team leader and other times a partner, and being able to recognize and adapt to fluid situations is very much like playing and coaching the kind of organized chaos that takes place in basketball.

What current coaches do you most respect and admire?

There are two and everybody in women’s college basketball knows who they are: Tara VanDerveer at Stanford and Geno Auriemma at University of Connecticut. Tara has had her teams playing at the highest levels for many years without sacrificing the extremely high academic standards at her school. There are not many coaches, men’s or women’s, who could match that record. Geno is a coach who is reminds me of a chef. He takes whatever ingredients he has, mixes them together so that the group reaches its highest possible potential, and his teams enjoy the rewards. His players always play the game with a high level of confidence and they seem to truly enjoy the journey.


Coach Q & A is a partnership between G-board and Skip Corsini.  Skip Corsini is a freelance writer, teacher and consultant based in the San Francisco Bay Area who has coached basketball at the interscholastic level since 1980. Learn more about Skip on and He can be reached at [email protected].

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