Being a coach at the University of Kentucky goes beyond winning games and conquering championship titles. UK's various sports teams are brought up by men and women who have committed their all into building the Big Blue Nation and shaping the best possible student athletes.
Kentucky’s athletics has a reputation decades-long for being a Division 1 sports program. UK’s new stunt team head coach, Blair Bergmann, holds high honor for being a member of the athletics department. “To be a Kentucky team, there’s a certain standard to be at, and that’s the best. No matter the sport, we all strive to have the greatest teams,” Bergmann said.
Coaches not only see their players develop from start to finish of their respective seasons, but they see the dedication that is put into aiming to win.
“Being at UK has given me the privilege to be a part of the best gymnastics conference in the country and having those challenges day in and day out and working against the top,” said Kentucky’s gymnastics assistant head coach, Chad Wiest. Wiest is entering his second year of being a coach at UK and is anticipating their upcoming season.
When he became part of the Big Blue Nation, Wiest had the opportunity to witness the difference Kentucky has from any other university.
“Coming to UK as a new coach was exciting. I was able to feel the environment and rush the girls had even at practice and the culture that has been created,” Wiest said. The fan base the University of Kentucky has built over the years hasn’t ceased to amaze him. “You don’t see that at every university or with every team, and it was something I couldn’t wait to be a part of.”
The reputation UK sports has doesn’t deter the coaches whatsoever. They have learned to embrace the challenges that are accompanied by their roles and expectations. Bergmann said, “Pressure’s a privilege. If people don’t expect the best from you, then they’re not expecting success.”
Kentucky has opened the door for all their sports teams to compete with the best of the best. When teams aim to prosper by building their strength, in playing against universities within their division, Wiest sees this as “iron sharpens iron.”
Coaching at UK has proven not to be all about aiming for perfection in performance, but molding young adults along the way. Kentucky alumna Dawn Walters is the head coach of the dance team. With her constant dedication to the members of the team, Walters has opened a new perspective of her career.
“Coaching is not a nine-to-five job. It’s not a profession where you can just come and go that allows you to leave your work life separate from your personal life. It’s a 24-hour commitment,” Walters said. Spending the amount of time with the dancers on her teams, she couldn’t help but develop a “motherly style of coaching.”
“I tell my kids all the time, this is a life venture, not just a dance experience. Lessons will happen that won’t have a thing to do with dance but affect your lives in the strangest of ways," Walters said.
Niya Butts, the associate head coach of the women’s basketball team, finds her life being altered by her players as much as she changes theirs. “If you’re allowing yourself to be fully invested as a coach in what’s happening on and off the court, it’s pretty much impossible to not be affected by the players around you,” Butts said.
Considering the amount of time and energy that has been dedicated to the players of the team and even possible recruits, Butts can’t help but be impacted as well. “I’m constantly experiencing personal growth and different outlooks on life by witnessing some of the challenges these players go through,” she said.
Regardless of the sport, every coach shares a universal experience. Kentucky's dance team head coach Dawn Walters confirmed, "[My team is] my rock just as much as I am theirs."