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Heath Hotzler, Published December 11 2009

A woman's touch: May-Port-CG has acclimated to Judisch's coaching style

MAYVILLE, N.D. - Practice begins with 18 boys on the baseline of the May-Port-CG High School gymnasium.

There are no basketballs in sight. It will remain that way for about 20 minutes.

The first week of drills with Katie Judisch will consist largely of conditioning and fundamentals.

“Let’s go!” yells Judisch, in her first year as the Patriots’ boys basketball coach, as players run from one end of the gym to the other. “Get after it!”

The players are obedient, repeating each of their coach’s commands before performing them like enlisted men to their drill sergeant.

“High knees,” Judisch says in a commanding, calm and authoritative voice.

“High knees,” the boys reply in monotone unison.

And so it goes.

Judisch has complete control of this bunch.

“She’s strong,” May-Port CG senior forward Zachary Scallon said. “Nobody that I have heard has doubted her at all. I really like it so far. It’s just hard work everywhere you go. There is no walking and put all your effort in it at all times.”

Judisch is one of only a handful of women to ever be hired as a prep head varsity boys basketball coach in North Dakota. Mandy Schelling, who coached the boys at Powers Lake earlier this decade, is one of the last to hold a similar job.

Judisch, the former head girls coach at Hope-Page, admits that her personality is probably better suited for boys teams.

She’s loud, opinionated and aggressive. And she’s proud of it.

“I told the kids that I am very loud,” said Judisch, who, as Katie Richards, played on three national championship teams at the University of North Dakota from 1996-2000. “I am not yelling at them. I’m just excited about the game. …

I want them to enjoy every minute they have on the court because they are not going to be able to come back to it.”

The Patriots knew exactly what they were getting in Judisch.

She began her coaching career at May-Port-CG as an assistant coach on the junior varsity four years ago.

The mother of four introduced herself by playing in a pickup game with the team. Players say she earned their respect with a dominant performance.

Judisch was also an assistant to longtime Patriots boys varsity coach Dave Nelson until she took a leave of absence from coaching and teaching last year to care for her youngest son, who was born with a collapsed lung. Nelson led May-Port-CG to Class B state titles in 2002 and 2003. The Patriots finished second in 2006.

“She demands respect,” senior forward Eric Fugleberg said. “We know that if she doesn’t get respect, we will run. We know to listen to her the first time, and do it right the first time, and we will be fine. She is just a good coach who loves the game.”

Judisch said she never thought about coaching a boys varsity team until she realized she wanted to return to coaching, and the job at May-Port-CG opened earlier this year.

She thought nothing of applying, and doesn’t show an ounce of discomfort when addressing the rarity of her position with the team.

“The biggest thing is these kids,” Judisch said. “Like I told the parents, it’s not about wins and losses to start out the season. It’s about getting everyone to work together as a team. … I just hope we can believe in each other’s abilities.”

The Patriots already believe in Judisch.

“I thought it was awesome,” senior guard Jacob Papenfuss said of the decision to hire Judisch. “She is a really good coach and she knows what she is talking about because she’s done it before. She wants us to be perfect. She just wants the best for us. I think she will help us become better.”