Written by Audrey Kough, Campus Sportswriter
Coach Jina DeRubbo poses for a portrait in her office. (Courtesy Regan Carlson)
MAR. 3 – On Feb. 11, the women’s basketball team geared up to head down the road to face Waynesburg University. This was not just a regular PAC game for the team, because if they won this would give their head coach Jina DeRubbo her 500th career win. To no surprise the Presidents won that day with a score of 74-50, helping Coach DeRubbo reach the milestone of 500 wins.
How did Coach DeRubbo get to this point in her life and career? I had the pleasure of sitting down with Coach DeRubbo and hearing about her journey. DeRubbo is from a small rural town in Ohio, right along the Ohio River. Back when she was younger there was not a basketball team for females, and so she would attend practices alongside her brother. However, her father wanted to see her play and so he created a basketball team for her, and the entire community was in on it. DeRubbo shares, “This [memory] is a nostalgic thing for me because my father has recently passed... it has been a full circle thing.”
DeRubbo had a productive high school career and then she attended college at Concord University in southern West Virginia. She says she had a good playing career in college and was inducted into their athletic Hall of Fame in 2002. She did not go into coaching right after her own basketball career came to an end. After graduating college, DeRubbo went to graduate school and she earned her master's degree in cardiac rehabilitation. She did work in a hospital for a while, but she did not enjoy being behind a desk all day; that's when she realized she missed playing basketball and took a job as a basketball coach at Marrietta College. DeRubbo says that this experience is what inspired her to become a basketball coach: being away from the sport and realizing that she missed it.
When I asked DeRubbo what brought her to coach at W&J, she said that she started at Bethany College and taught there for seven years. But at Bethany she was not just a basketball coach. She was also a full-time professor teaching in the P.E. department and coaching Women’s Tennis. DeRubbo had won four PAC Championships while at Bethany, but she ultimately decided to come to W&J.
“This [memory] is a nostalgic thing for me because my father has recently passed... it has been a full circle thing.” ~ Coach DeRubbo
DeRubbo says, “I had a good thing going and I loved it there, I got married and had my first kid while coaching there, so it holds a special place for me.” DeRubbo says she realized she could not continue to do all the activities she was doing at Bethany; it was too much. When she researched W&J, she saw what great academics and fantastic athletics the school had, and she ultimately decided to make the switch.
I asked DeRubbo “How do you attempt to form good coach and athlete relationships?” She says, “First and foremost I think that is the most important thing in coaching. We spend a lot of time on those relationships and building those with our entire staff, and we make it a priority. Simply talking to kids, treating them like individuals. Players perform much better when they feel comfortable.”
Next, DeRubbo gives an insight as to how she develops coaching strategies and then executes them. She says, “I feel like the X’s and O’s of coaching is the easy part. I still talk to other coaches or watch other teams' practice. If you stop learning in this job, I feel like you get stuck. This is how we strive to be better, continuously learning from other coaches.” Then, Coach DeRubbo continues explaining the execution of her coaching strategies saying, “In practice we implement a lot of competition on our team, because at the end of the year they are winners and losers.”
DeRubbo also shares information about the recruiting process for her team which helps to keep the W&J women’s basketball team at the high level that they have established. She says, “Recruiting has gotten easier and easier.” Because the team has a winning culture, good players in high school want to come and be a part of that type of environment.”
DeRubbo also emphasizes how team chemistry and culture play a big role in the recruiting process. She states, “If you watch our team play, you can see that they love it and they love each other. A recruit coming to a game or going to lunch with our players can be at instant ease.”
Senior Maddi Gutierrez attests to this from an athlete's perspective. Gutierrez said, “I have known Coach DeRubbo since I was seven years old, so I have always known that she is an incredibly kind and caring person. She’s so trustworthy and someone that I know will always support me.”
One of the last topics I discussed with Coach DeRubbo was the Waynesburg game. She discusses the emotions throughout the day by saying, “If I am being honest, I do not really think about it.” DeRubbo shares she was not completely aware of how close she was to her 500th win until being interviewed by Randy Gore (owner of the PAC) who let her know that this milestone was on the horizon.
DeRubbo goes on to say “It is great that it happened, but for me the greatest part of doing it is that all my old players reached out. It was so nice to hear from alumni and the people you have built relationships with, and they were so much a part of it.”
“I have known Coach DeRubbo since I was seven years old, so I have always known that she is an incredibly kind and caring person. She’s so trustworthy and someone that I know will always support me.” - Gutierrez'23
The coaching world is predominately run by males. I asked Coach DeRubbo what it was like being a female coach in her career and if she has ever faced any gender imbalances. She responded, “I have. A long time ago, when I was at Bethany, there was a situation that I was treated differently because I was a female. But it got taken care of. I haven’t had that here. I have always been respected here. I know Vicki Staton, who started almost all women’s sports here. She fought that battle, and she fought it well. That kind of paved the way for the female coaches that are here now.”
DeRubbo gave a powerful closing statement on the topic on women in coaching positions. She says, “There needs to be a lot more women in coaching. I am passionate about getting young females into coaching.”
“There needs to be a lot more women in coaching. I am passionate about getting young females into coaching.” ~ Coach DeRubbo
Finally, DeRubbo shares the team's plans for next season. She explains, “Nothing has been harder than losing in the conference tournament. But nothing fuels work like failure. Failure isn’t always a bad thing. But this group can take it and become better from it.”
It’s clear that this message is being translated to Coach DeRubbo’s players. Gutierrez ‘23 goes on to explain the kind of person DeRubbo is on the court, “As a coach she is hardworking and determined. She really pushes the team to show up and put our best foot forward for every game and practice!”