A Perfect Storm
Shelly Jarrard and Elaine Elliot
by Anita Boeira (MPC ’10)
Shelley Jarrard and Elaine Elliot* have been the dynamic duo behind the Westminster women’s basketball team. Together, they led the team to over 100 wins in four years, which included beating BYU—a division-one team. Though they experienced astonishing success, the biggest focus of their careers has been the student-athlete experience and the creation of a safe and respectful environment where their athletes felt comfortable to be their best.
Shelley and Elaine met nearly two decades ago, when Elaine was head coach for the University of Utah women’s basketball team. Elaine hired Shelley fresh out of Vanderbilt (where she played during college) to be her assistant coach. It was a perfect match from the start.
“Shelley was just really easy to work with. When she worked for me, she would do what needed to be done; there was no drama,” Elaine says.
After 11 years of working together at the U, Shelley moved to a different university, and Elaine retired. In 2011, an opportunity arose for the two to work together again: Westminster’s women’s basketball coach retired, and the college was looking for someone to fill the position.
“I shot Elaine a text when the job opened up. I said, ‘Hey, what do you think about me at Westminster?’ and she said, ‘Perfect fit. What do you think of me as your assistant?’” Shelley remembers. “Elaine is the best teacher I ever had.”
Shelley says Westminster was a great fit for her and Elaine’s coaching styles.
“We are very big on teaching,” Shelley says. “It’s like a classroom: we are teachers of the basketball game. Communication, trust, and building relationships with our players are really important to me. There’s a huge emphasis on that [at Westminster].”
Elaine says that, for her, Westminster was kind of a throwback to her own college experience. “The kids are here because they love the combination of playing and going to school,” she says. “It really is a complement to who they are as students.”
The 2014–2015 Season
When asked about why the past basketball season was such a great one, Shelley is quick to place the glory on her team and all they have accomplished together.
“The past four years have been pretty special because we’ve had great student-athletes and we’ve won a lot. I think that built into the excitement of this season. It wasn’t this season standing alone, but a continuation of success.”
Elaine agrees with Shelley: “There are special groups of people that come along sometimes. That doesn’t change the fact that every kid is special and every team is awesome, but this was one of those unique blends of individuals. They really grew over the past four years. It was a perfect storm.”
*Elaine Elliot left Westminster at the end of the 2014–2015 season to focus on one-on-one coaching with athletes.
About the Westminster Review
The Westminster Review is Westminster University’s bi-annual alumni magazine that is distributed to alumni and community members. Each issue aims to keep alumni updated on campus current events and highlights the accomplishments of current students, professors, and Westminster alum.