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The Clarion

The Student News Site of Bethel University

The Clarion

The Student News Site of Bethel University

The Clarion

From player to coach

Former Division I basketball player Rachel Ranke finds a new opportunity as Assistant Women’s Basketball Coach at Bethel University.
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Assistant Women’s Basketball Coach Rachel Ranke stands under a basketball hoop during practice while she rebounds for the players. “Coaching women, I feel like I can see myself in some of the girls,” Ranke said. “So it allows me to be more empathetic, more understanding and more relatable. And I think it’s important to have a coach like that.”

Rachel Ranke shows up to practice in pink Nike basketball shoes. Her hair is tied up in a high ponytail and her clipboard has the practice outlined, start to finish. Some nights, she’s coaching in the Robertson Center Gym until 10:30 p.m. and other nights she’s home by 7 p.m. One thing is certain: from the time Bethel’s women’s basketball players are doing their warm-up runs up and down the court to the time their water bottles are empty and their court shoes are removed, Ranke is tuned in. 

Throughout practice, she meets one-on-one with the players, giving them tailored tips to focus on during drills. The echoes of her clapping and her yells fill the high ceilings of the gym as the players run through their offensive and defensive plays. When they aren’t playing at their full potential, she pulls them aside and helps them refocus. 

When Ranke was in third grade, she dreamed about playing collegiate basketball. She did shooting and dribbling drills in her front yard and traveled around Minnesota with her club team. By eighth grade, she was recruited by Kansas State University. 

“I was in third grade when I decided I wanted to play Division I basketball. So to see it go through was a pivotal moment for my life,” Ranke said.

After graduating from Eastville High School in 2017 with a state championship title and a Division I offer, she traveled 556 miles south from her Burnsville, Minnesota home to Manhattan, Kansas. Five years later, Ranke left K-State as the third player in program history with 1,000 career points, 300 career rebounds, 200 or more three-point field goals made and 100 or more steals. 

Ranke made her debut in her first year as a Wildcat by earning a spot on the 2018 Big 12 All-Freshman Team. She progressed as a player each year, setting new personal records and earning her starting position as guard on the court. Her senior year at K-State was halted abruptly after suffering a back injury that required surgery. She sat out the entire season. The following year, she traded the purple jersey for a black and gold one, concluding her career at the University of Central Florida as a red-shirt senior. But even when her time on the court was over, she knew her time with basketball was not. 

That’s why I took the job. I wanted to be a vessel for these girls and help them in any way possible, whether it’s on or off the court.

— Rachel Ranke, Assistant Women’s Basketball Coach

During her time at school, Ranke coached for a men’s Amateur Athletic Union basketball team, where she found fulfillment in player development and honing individual skills. And although she loved it, she felt a calling toward working with young women. 

“Coaching women, I feel like I can see myself in some of the girls,” Ranke said. “So it allows me to be more empathetic, more understanding and more relatable. And I think it’s important to have a coach like that.”

Head Women’s Basketball Coach Jon Herbrechtsmeyer was one of the coaches of the AAU program Ranke grew up playing for. When he reached out and offered her the women’s assistant coaching position at Bethel, Ranke took the opportunity.

“I prayed on it and I was like, I think it’s my purpose to serve and teach the game of basketball,” Ranke said. “That’s why I took the job. I wanted to be a vessel for these girls and help them in any way possible, whether it’s on or off the court.”

She packed up her bags and her life for a DIII team that has won two MIAC championship titles in the past 37 years. She traveled those same 556 miles back home to Minnesota. But this time, she didn’t return as a player. She returned as the coach. 

– – – 

The women’s basketball team experienced some setbacks last season, like when Herbrechtsmeyer took a step back due to health concerns. The season concluded with a 13-13 record after losing to the University of Saint Benedict in the MIAC quarterfinals.

“That’s probably the lowest that it’s going to get and for them, I think it’s also an opportunity to rise up,” Ranke said. “They were faced with adversity and it was hard to overcome, but they got through it, even if it wasn’t the results they wanted.” 

The team is small, with six new players and six returners. They’re also young, with nine of the twelve players being of sophomore or freshman standing. Anna Garfield is the only returning senior. The team sees every day as a chance to learn and improve their skills on the court, but this season is about more than their athletic performance — it’s also about their chemistry in the locker room. 

“I feel like the culture I learned and the culture I’m trying to pass down is to constantly help others because ultimately that will help the team,” Garfield said. 

The process of adjusting from the speed of a high school game to the speed of a college game doesn’t just happen overnight. It takes time and practice. Usually, players have a year to watch and learn from the upperclassmen. But not this year. All 12 need to know the plays and the defenses if they want to see any results. 

“I feel like this year, the talent is definitely there and the coachability is definitely there. So it’s just a matter of if we can put in the work and execute it,” Garfield said. “But I seriously think we can do it.”

Ranke believes that they can do it too. And she’s been able to connect with the players because she was in their shoes only a year ago. 

“[Ranke] has embraced her role so well,” Garfield said. “I can tell it’s not just a job for her. She wants to be here. She wants to help us succeed.”

As a young woman, Ranke brings a new dynamic to the coaching staff. She understands the players on a closer level and pushes them hard in practice. Ranke says it’s because she sees their potential, and she wants to bring it out of them.

Senior Anna Garfield gets ready to pass the ball during a drill at practice. “I feel like this year, the talent is definitely there and the coachability is definitely there. So it’s just a matter of if we can put in the work and execute it,” Garfield said. “But I seriously think we can do it.” (kathry)

As a former player, she understands that shots don’t always go in, breaking a press defense is hard and running up and down the court wears your body down. She also understands that it’s important to be competitive and it’s natural to have a desire to win. But at the end of the day, basketball means nothing if the girls don’t enjoy working toward those goals.

“They are women of faith first. So just understanding that they’re valued as a person more than a basketball player, I think that’s the most important part,” Ranke said. 

Commit to the process. That’s the motto of the 2023-24 season. With such a young team, the biggest challenge will be staying in the process. And they will have 25 games together to figure out what kind of team they want to be. 

“We want to build a strong bond with each other because chemistry off the court leads to chemistry on the court,” Ranke said. “But also, we would like to be a playoff team as well. I think that’s the goal.”

Ranke has the chance to make these girls the best players they can be. And she has the chance to take this team to the playoffs and maybe even add another MIAC championship to the record books, something that hasn’t been done since 2020.

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About the Contributor
Taylor Hanson, Sports Editor
Taylor Hanson, 19, is a sophomore organizational communications major with a journalism minor. Taylor is involved at Bethel as a Shift leader and as the Director of Intramurals. She loves finding coffee shops tucked away in the cities, going to any athletic event or scootering around campus with her friends.  [email protected] | 720.425.5218

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    AuntieDec 20, 2023 at 6:41 am

    So excited for your team and your new assistant coach!!!
    I know Rachel has the heart and the best interest of players❤️
    Best Wishes for an Awesome Season!!!

    Reply