Q&A with Assistant Coach Wendy Palmer
Virginia All-American Wendy Palmer returned to her alma mater in June as an assistant coach. She spent two seasons at both Kentucky (2007-08, 2008-09) and VCU (2005-06, 2006-07) prior to her return to Charlottesville. Palmer recently checked in with VirginiaSports.com to talk about being back on Grounds, her passion for history and what advice she would pass on to future student-athletes.
Question: How does the team look so far?
Palmer: I think we are settling in now after starting classes and also right away with workouts. Especially for the first years who are learning what college is all about. They are working really hard so I am pleased with that.
Question: How does it feel to be back at Virginia?
Palmer: It feels great. I think everybody wants to go back to their alma mater and contribute in any way they can. Being a coach here is a blessing. I want to take everything I have learned from this university and show that to the girls and I want everybody to experience it. Attending this school was one of the best choices I’ve made in my life – not just to play basketball but also to get an education. UVa is very close to my heart.
Question: What has it been like to play under Debbie Ryan and now coach with her?
Palmer: It hasn’t been a hard transition because I’ve had so many coaches between now and my student-athlete years. I think it would have been a lot harder had I graduated and moved right into this position, but I have had so many different coaches in that time period that I have grown a lot. It actually feels like a natural progression to work on the other side with her.
I want the same things for Debbie as a coach that I wanted as a player, and that is to win a championship, for her to cut down the net. I also wanted it for my teammates and for myself but now even more so want it now for her. She is a pioneer in this game. She was the first lady to ever talk about Title IX to me and I remember it like it was yesterday. She’s a pioneer and more than anything I just want her to go out on top. She means more to this game than I think people even realize. If it wasn’t for all her players and all her coaches, we wouldn’t be here.
Question: How is the staff meshing together?
Palmer: It has been really good. We all have different strengths and weaknesses. Debbie has done a great job compiling this staff because we mesh well together. We have each other’s backs and we pick up the slack for each other. It’s really good because we’re looking out for Debbie as well. I definitely enjoy being on this staff – it is one of the best staffs I have ever been a part of.
Question: What made you want to get into coaching?
Palmer: I actually never wanted to coach, I wanted to be a college history professor. I always dreamed of going back and working in history. I was so passionate about it and making that decision was one of the hardest things about being a student-athlete.
The basketball thing started when I was playing professionally and one day when I was walking out of practice and [VCU coach] Beth Cunningham told me to call her. It is hard to believe I am in my fifth year of coaching. But just like I said I had a passion for history, I have a passion for coaching and helping young ladies mature into young women because I know what it is like to be that age and to struggle with things like being that tall and finding your own identity. I think these girls need to get out there and join the paintball club if they want to, whatever it is you want to do because they need that balance and it helps them figure out who they are. If you build these bonds with these girls now over the next four years you deposit in their lives and they never forget that. I have a chance to directly affect tomorrow’s future one girl at a time through basketball.
Question: How do you feel about returning to the ACC, a premier conference for basketball?
Palmer: The ACC is home, it’s what I know and it is a great feeling. Coming home to the ACC is so much better because I am coming to Virginia. It feels so good to wake up every morning and know that I’m at the University of Virginia. When I’m out recruiting I can tell the girls it is great because I lived it. I can say, ‘you should come to the University of Virginia but you are going to get a quality education, play basketball and build bonds that last the rest of your life.’ I believe that whole-heartedly so it feels great to be able to talk about UVa and have that experience.
Question: What is your favorite moment or memory of playing here?
Palmer: There isn’t any one particular thing. When I think about Virginia and my time here as a student-athlete I think about the experience. I learned so much more than just basketball. I learned to become a young lady. Sometimes I was challenged in life but now that I’m older I’m thankful for how Coach Ryan challenged all of our players and instilled in them that determination and dedication; those are the things I carry with me in life. I have my degree hanging in my office and I am so proud of that; graduating from The University of Virginia is one of my proudest accomplishments.
Question: What is your favorite moment or memory of playing professionally?
Palmer: I’m a country girl and I was able to live in seven or eight different countries with different cultures and languages. Sometimes I even learned a couple. It took me about two or three years until I could embrace being out of the country and these opportunities and that is why I was going to go back. I am just thankful for my teammates, the experience, where basketball has taken me. The experience is just worth so much more than any amount of money or accolades.
Question: What are some of your other interests outside of basketball?
Palmer: I have two old cars: a ’76 Caprice Classic, and a ’79 Convertible Bug. Those are my two babies. I love old cars. I always wanted a convertible bug. I also like riding motorcycles and I love dogs.
Question: What kind of advice would you give to student-athletes?
Palmer: Embrace the journey. Education is going to take you much further than anything in athletics ever will. Focus on your education, figure out who you are and don’t allow society to dictate. Find out who you are, explore and go all out for it then if you don’t achieve it, it won’t be because you didn’t try. I think a lot of times fear holds us back and you cannot let fear dictate your life.