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Sunday, June 9, 2013

Highlands Healy Hoping to Bring Winning Tradition to Colorado



Contributed Photo. Highlands graduate Angela Healy (central) instructs the Greeley Central (Colorado) players during a game last year. Healy was recently named head coach at the school located 49 miles north of Denver.

By G. MICHAEL GRAHAM
Fort Thomas Matters Sports Reporter

Angela Healy is proud of where she came from.

But the 2004 Highlands graduate said she feels her calling is to be teaching and coaching where she is now in Greeley, Colorado, which is 49 miles north of Denver. Healy teaches sixth grade at Bella Romero School there.

Highlands has very few students with free and reduced lunches. One web site noted that percentage is 62 percent in the Greeley School District.

“When I decided to go to Northern Kentucky (University) for college, I kind of made a promise to myself that I would venture out eventually just for adventure,” Healy said. “Between my junior and senior year of basketball, I came to an Athletes in Action Ultimate training camp. They taught spiritual principles of being an athlete. It was my first time to Colorado. I fell in love with Colorado at that time.”

Her basketball coaching career recently took a big step. She was recently named the head girls basketball coach at Greeley Central High School. She’d been an assistant on staff the previous two years.

“Her knowledge of our program and our kids stood out,” said Mark Koopman, Greeley Central Assistant Principal and Activities Director. “She knows what we have coming up. She was a highly talented player in college.”

Greeley Central finished 6-17 last year, which was the team’s best record in five years. The Wildcats are in Class 4A – the second-largest of five classes in Colorado. Healy said that was the team’s best record in five years.

Greeley Central did not make the state playoffs. Healy said teams have to finish in the top six out of eight teams in their league to make the postseason. The Wildcats play in the Northern League.

“It’s difficult because I was raised in a culture where the expectations were of winning,” Healy said. “But I feel like that’s what I can bring to the program.”

Healy moved to Colorado in the fall of 2009 after graduating from NKU. She played soccer for the Norse in 2008 and did her student-teaching at an elementary school in Covington and overseas in South Africa.

She made some friends at the camp and they helped pave the way for her coaching career in Colorado as well. Prior to landing at Bella Romero, Healy served as a substitute teacher in the Greeley School district before teaching fifth grade for two years at Bella Romero then moving up to the sixth grade last year.

Healy served as an assistant basketball coach at Highlands during the 2008-09 year. Healy landed a job as a middle school, junior varsity head coach and varsity assistant coach at Bay Spring Christian in Greeley during the 2009-10 year before going to Greeley Central.

Healey won a lot during her high school and college years. The Norse won the NCAA Division II national championship her senior year in 2008.

Current Highlands girls basketball Head Coach Jaime Walz-Richey coached Healy for three years including the last two as head coach. Healy said Walz-Richey was one of the first people to know when she earned the job.

Highlands won the 9th Region in Healy’s freshman year and finished runner-up to Covington Holmes in Healy’s sophomore year. The Bluebirds lost to Boone County in the region quarterfinals her junior before losing to the Lady Rebels in the region semifinals her senior year.

“Angela played and coached with so much passion for the game,” Walz-Richey said. “She really enjoyed the game of basketball while she was playing and coaching. She was a very hard worker on and off the court that I think her players will see and will not want to disappoint her.”

The Wildcats had no seniors on last year’s team. One of the leading returning players is rising senior Kelsey Cousins. Cousins set the Greeley Central season free-throw percentage making about 73 percent of her attempts last year.

“Fortunately, the group of girls we have right now, especially our seniors, understand and they’re hungry for somebody to hold them accountable to putting in that time,” Healy said. “Like this summer, we’ve already had a great turnout. The seniors are going to leave a legacy.”

Healy said the big goal for this season is to make sure the girls are fundamentally sound on offense and defense. She said girls in Greeley do not play organized basketball until the eighth grade. Healy likes to play mostly a man-to-man defense with help side principles. Then offensively, Healy plans to run a Read and React offense taking some basic sets from NKU.

“I visualize our recreation leagues getting better from a lot younger ages,” Healy said. “We have to work on our fundamentals because a lot of girls come in and don’t know how to play basketball. We’re starting more from scratch than a typical team.”

Healy said she plans to motivate the girls with a reward system. She said the theme for the year is commit. The players need to earn a certain amount of points to be in the running for being a captain and they can also earn a shirt that says committed on the back.

“With my family, we all played sports and there were only two weeks of the year that we went on vacation because it was understood that you would be at everything in the summer,” Healy said. “We’re definitely not there yet. But it’s completely changed from when I first got there.”

Greeley has several high schools. Greeley Central can build off the fact it beat in-town rivals Greeley West and Northridge last year.

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