Niele Ivey talks coaching during pandemic, advocating for social justice

Notre Dame Women’s Basketball head coach Niele Ivey is working every day to lead her team through what she calls two pandemics: the coronavirus and fighting for
Published: Jul. 30, 2020 at 6:35 PM EDT
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SOUTH BEND, Ind. (WNDU) - A first year head coach is usually just worried about what's happening on the court.

But that's not the case in 2020.

Notre Dame Women’s Basketball head coach Niele Ivey is working every day to lead her team through what she calls two pandemics: the coronavirus and fighting for social justice.

You know I'm on the good side of this history. I'm recognizing that there needs to be change in America. You can only change with the community that you're in.

Notre Dame Women's Basketball Head Coach Niele Ivey wants to be a part of change, because for her, it's personal

“I have responsibility to keep the dialogue, continue the dialogue,” Ivey said. “I’m affected personally being an African American woman and raising a black son, a black man that is affected because of police brutality and the violence that has been going on for over 400 years really. Just to bring awareness and just making sure that I’m using my platform for good.”

In recent months, Ivey has been spoken out on social media over the deaths of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor.

She says the number one reason she took the head coaching job was to connect with the community.

Ivey is doing just that and has attended local peace marches wearing an “I Can’t Breathe” shirt.

“I’m inspired by the youth,” Ivey said. “I’m inspired by my team. I’m inspired by so many of the young people in the world that just feel like this is their time to try and step up and make change.”

With Ivey’s new leadership and the legacy of Muffet McGraw, the Notre Dame Women’s Basketball Team have become an outspoken supporter of social justice change.

“The women on my team, I’m just so proud of them for using their voice,” Ivey said. “I know sometimes, it can be uncomfortable and I feel like they have embraced that challenge and they have really spoken out.”

Summer workouts were canceled due to the pandemic, but this weekend Ivey finally gets her team back on campus.

“So many different procedures that we have to implement as to try to keep them safe as possible,” Ivey said. “We’re going to be social distancing still, wearing our mask, wearing our masks in workouts. The new norm, we’re trying to prepare them for the new norm of workouts. We want to be safe. We’re hoping that we can continue to stay safe so we can bring Notre Dame Women’s Basketball to the community so they can watch. That’s going to be our number one focus is safety.”

Safety not only in the gym, but off the court as well.

“It’s really hard just because of their age and the nature of them having so much freedom before,” Ivey said. “But I really hone in on, ‘hey you guys, we want to play, that is a sacrifice’ and I feel like my team is on board, they want to play.”

A sacrifice with the hopes of Notre Dame Women’s Basketball returning to their winning ways.

“It’s constant communication,” Ivey said. “It’s constant education. Consistency with reminding our team that if you want a season, we’ll have to be safe.”

The Irish are helping out the community right away when they get back on campus.

Ivey and her team are hosting a community rally at Howard Park on Saturday to give local kids backpacks, masks and hand sanitizer to get ready for the school year.

The rally runs from 11:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m.

Masks and physical distancing are required.

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