Oct. 29, 2021 — When the Mapleton girls basketball team starts practice, there will be a new face leading the squad for the 2021-22 school year. Vanessa Clemons is taking over as head coach of the team.
Though this is her first time coaching a high school varsity team, Clemons comes to Mapleton with over 8 years coaching experience. She was the head coach of the freshman team while also assisting the varsity coach at her alma mater, Moon Valley High School in Phoenix, Ariz., for just one year before being promoted to junior varsity coach. She led that JV team to an undefeated season one of her two seasons and also maintained her assistant coaching position for a varsity team that reached the second round of the Arizona state playoffs.
Prior to her time at Moon Valley High, she led a middle school squad to back-to-back championship runner-up finishes and also has assisted in facilitating and running basketball skills camps.
A Phoenix native, Clemons is a graduate of Northern Arizona University. Her first two years of college she played basketball for Glendale Community College.
Clemons has two children, a daughter who is 4 and a son who is 2. After getting out of the Navy in 2020 and seeing what life was like at various locales all over the U.S., she and her family decided Eugene and Lane County were just the place for them.
“We spent seven hours in Eugene in March and immediately fell in love with the sense of community and small town feel,” said Clemons. “The little bit of time I have spent in the Mapleton/Florence area I have felt the same sense of community that I get from Eugene. I can understand why so many folks call it home.”
Clemons had hoped to return to coaching after a hiatus while serving her country. A mentor alerted her to the opening in Mapleton and the rest is history.
A coach that Clemons admires is Dawn Staley, basketball hall of famer and current coach of South Carolina University. Staley’s intense style is something Clemons would like to emulate but understands that requires leading by example.
“My coaching and leadership styles are based on trust,” she said. “I believe that if your players trust you, they will run through a brick wall for you. I also believe that a player should expect the same dedication from their coach.”
Clemons also thrives to make sure everyone on the team sees improvement. She believes if everyone works to improve individually, inevitably, the team will succeed too.
“My goal for this season is for every single player to get better and for all of us to come together as one collective unit,” she said. “One team, one direction.”
Besides teamwork and toughness, Clemons hopes to teach her players the skills to play smart basketball.
“I like to run a lot of different offense and defensive sets. I look to help improve not just my player’s skills, but also their basketball IQ.” she said.
There are also times in a basketball game when everything comes down to one play. That moment is when a coach can show what kind of coach they are. Clemons looks forward to those moments too.
“I love to coach from the seat of my pants and draw up a game-winning play,” she said.
When Clemons isn’t coaching, you will most likely find her with her two children touring grass-covered areas and playgrounds across her new city. As a result, besides lay-ups, defense and boxing out, she is also an expert on the jungle gyms, swing sets and merry-go-rounds throughout the Eugene metro area.
“I enjoy playing outside with my family; in fact, we’ve probably been to every park in Eugene in our short time here,” said Clemons. “My family and I also enjoy hiking and exploring the outdoors.”
Besides basketball, Clemons loves all sports. She will also be well equipped to help her team “let it go” after a tough loss, as she knows every song on the “Frozen” and “Frozen II” soundtracks.
Clemons will make her varsity coaching debut when the Mapleton Sailors tip off their season at home against C.S. Lewis Academy on Dec. 1 at 5:30 p.m.