When Christy Winters Scott took the girls basketball coaching job at South Lakes High School in 2005, she inherited an embattled squad that didn’t win a single game the previous season.
Just three years later, in 2008, her team produced 19 wins and she earned Liberty District Coach of the Year honors.
Much can be said for Winters Scott’s immediate impact on the court, but the former University of Maryland basketball star's blueprint for success heavily focuses on molding high-character players off the court.
“I feel that if you have a strong purpose in whatever you’re doing, you’re going to be successful at it,” said Winters Scott, who coached at George Mason and Georgetown before returning to her alma mater. “Purpose is power, and it’s not just for this moment, it’s for the rest of your life. That translates not just from the court to the classroom, but into society after you graduate. You’re going to have to use those same qualities.”
Winters Scott’s formula has served South Lakes well. Last year’s Seahawks boasted a cumulative GPA of 3.8, and the coach’s teams have carried a cumulative GPA of at least 3.7 in each of the past few seasons.
She also encourages her players to take active roles in student government and in mentoring programs in the community. Every Monday, members of the varsity team travel to Reston’s Southgate Community Center where they read to second and third-graders as part of the Readers Are Leaders program.
Winters Scott will enter her eighth year at the helm when South Lakes opens its 2012-13 season on Nov. 27 at home against Westfield. The Seahawks won 16 games last year before losing to Annandale in the Northern Region tournament quarterfinals.
With roster of seven juniors, two seniors and two sophomores, chances for another Northern Region tournament appearance look pretty good.
“I don’t like to use the word young,” Winters Scott said of this year's roster. “In terms of limitations, there aren’t any. This team is hungry. I know that they want to better than last year not just in terms of wins and losses, but in team chemistry, execution and passion.”
Winters Scott and the Seahawks forge ahead without team leader Emily Lopynski, who graduated last spring.
Lopynski’s role will be filled by senior Mary Severin (guard/forward). Severin finished last season as one of the team’s leading rebounders.
“Her leadership, athleticism and passion are evident every day,” Winters Scott said of the three-sport athlete. “She’s a vocal leader and demands respect, but not in a negative way. She’s very encouraging and patient with our two sophomores. I just see her being a real key and X-factor for us.”
Gabrielle Schultz (guard/forward) joins Severin as the team’s other senior. Schultz earned second-team All-Liberty District honors last season.
“She does things that aren’t necessarily on the stat sheet all the time,” said Winters Scott. “She’ll get the offensive rebound and take it back out. She’s the type of player who saves possessions for us.”
Juniors Caitlin Jensen (guard) and Abigail Rendle (center) will provide the offensive firepower for South Lakes. Both led the team in scoring last season, averaging 10 points per game. Jensen was named second-team All-Liberty District, while Rendle’s earned All-IAABO Invitational Christmas Tournament the past two years.
“Both are receiving a lot of attention from Division 1 coaches,” said Winters Scott of the duo. “They’re being recruited pretty heavily. It’s fun to see them go through the process. For them to be juniors, and to be receiving the attention that they are, that bodes well not just for their future, but for the future of our program.”
South Lakes enters the season well equipped to make a run at the Liberty District crown and has the talent to compete for the Northern Region title. For Winters Scott, she’ll continue to build and mold high-character players and equip them with more than just skills on the basketball court.
“There’s a correlation between being successful as an athlete, and the mindset you need to possess to be successful as a student and as a person in general,” she said.
“You want to have strong character and certain relentlessness about you in terms of wanting to understand and learn. I think it’s fantastic that they’ve gotten it at this young age. I coached in college for 10 years and it’s something that collegiate athletes didn’t even get until their second or third year of college.”