Archives For Doug Woodard

It’s JUST a Game

March 1, 2018 — 2 Comments

It’s JUST a game of dribbling, passing, shooting, boxing out, rebounding, fouling, pressing, losing, and winning.

It’s JUST a handful of months out of the calendar year devoted to lifting, conditioning, ball handling, and pushing oneself to achieve more than the day before.

It’s JUST a day here and a night there spanning several weeks gathered together with coaches and teammates sharing meals and laughs.

It’s JUST watching film, checking tweets and snaps, and scouting your competition.

It’s JUST putting yourself out there in front of fans who will both celebrate your successes and ruthlessly judge your every move, decision, and game stat.

It’s JUST a span of three days out of 365 total throughout the year.

It’s JUST something you can’t really describe until you experience it.

Here we are, baby. State basketball is right around the corner.

2018 bracket

c/o @OmahaHSHoops

I’ve written before about the Bellevue West Thunderbirds advancing to the big show. I’ve interviewed their head coach, Doug Woodard, who also happens to be my father-in-law.

Yes, in the grand scheme of life and with everything happening in our world, it’s easy to question how young adults playing a game can mean so much to so many.

Yet the older I get, the more I appreciate the unbridled joy of it all.

TBirds 2018

The 2018 Bellevue West TBirds celebrate their District Championship.

It is a privilege to be able to witness young people working towards and achieving a common goal together. Away from screens, virtual gaming, and online judgment.

This is not only their experience. It is shared by young fans looking up to them with wide eyes of admiration. It is shared by a community that rallies behind them in their chase for the ultimate title.

Nico 2018

Junior Nico Felici cutting down the net while young fans watch.

This is the time of year that you never truly know what can happen, which is equal parts exciting and terrifying.

This is the time of year that you see young athletes’ dreams within reach. When you cheer ferociously for your own team. When you nod your head in admiration for the talent they play against.

This is the time of year when older generations – myself included – live extra vicariously through their offspring.


Myself, my oldest, and my husband post-District win.

Only eight teams remain in Nebraska’s NSAA Class A competition and, in one week from today, that group will begin the journey of survival on the hardwood.

Good luck to Millard South, Omaha Central, Bellevue West, Kearney, Lincoln Pius X, Creighton Prep, Lincoln East, and Omaha Bryan.

Written by Heidi Woodard


Sharing Wisdom Series3

If you’d like to read the first two installments of this series, you can find those here and here.

doug woodard

Doug Woodard with members of the 2013-2014 Nebraska State Champion Bellevue West Thunderbird boys basketball team; File photo c/o Omaha World-Herald


I’ve looked up to this next coach as a personal role model for well over half my life. He is not only one of the top high school basketball coaches in Nebraska, he’s also my father-in-law and my former World History teacher. The fact that he got me interested at all in World History speaks volumes for his innate ability to motivate kids.

Doug Woodard has coached high school varsity boys basketball for over 25 years and is entering his 18th at Class A Bellevue West High School in Bellevue, Nebraska. Doug has had five separate teams win State Championship titles under his leadership (1996, 2000, 2004, 2005, 2014), as well as coached three State Runner-Up teams.

He’s been named Coach of the Year 10 times by different media and organizations. Doug has also administered and directed the Omaha Sports Academy Crusader summer basketball program, which has seen more than 200 student-athletes acquire college scholarships.

I’ve personally seen the amount of time and dedication that Doug puts into coaching young men and can say with utmost confidence that he is as interested (perhaps even more interested) in guiding them off the court as he is when they’re on the court. In addition to coaching the Thunderbird basketball team, he also serves as Dean of Students at Bellevue West High School, has spoken at coaching clinics and basketball programs throughout the Midwest, and has presented at corporate training sessions for Union Pacific, ConAgra Foods, and Hudl.

Although I was particularly interested in hearing his answer to the question, Seriously, how did you put up with Ryan (my husband) for the first 18 years of his life?, my actual questions and his corresponding responses appear below.

Q1: You’ve been coaching high-level varsity boys basketball for over 25 years. How do you think your communication style has evolved over the years with your student-athletes?

Doug’s Response: There are two major areas where I feel it has been necessary to alter my approach: The first is in using more of a collaborative style attempting to give the reasons why certain things are done (required). The days of simply saying do this and don’t question are over. It is critical to achieve “buy-in” that today’s athletes see a reason or justifiable rationale for the techniques or systems being used.

The second is to communicate in shorter segments due to societal trends that have helped shorten the attention span of this generation. Video needs to be shown in abbreviated sections for instance, as watching an entire game is not conducive to good learning or retention. The tension is to try to adjust one’s techniques without compromising in areas that you feel are core principles and therefore not dependent on societal or cultural transition.

Q2: Who would you consider to be a coaching mentor and why?

Doug’s Response: My old high school coach, John Johnette, is one who I see as a mentor.  One of the reasons is that I feel Coach Johnette was way ahead of his time. He wanted us to shoot in 8-12 seconds and this was during the 1970’s!

He used techniques and strategies that lived outside the norm and was never afraid of innovation. He also used as his core philosophy to be true to one’s self. He thought if you coached true to your beliefs and philosophy that, at the end of the day, you could take great satisfaction in a job well done…regardless of the result. I remember after we lost in the semi-finals of the state tournament, he told us that the result of the game is never what is important…it is what happens subsequent to that result that will determine if it was a net positive or negative in one’s life.

In this way, a loss in districts could be viewed as a “better” result long-term than winning a state championship if one uses that loss in a positive sense as opposed to one who, as a result of the state championship, makes negative or destructive decisions.

Q3: What are the major lessons learned in basketball that can be carried over into a young man’s life well after his competitive playing days are done?

Doug’s Response: There are so many, but to highlight a couple: The importance of being part of something larger than one’s self and the corresponding need to sacrifice…at times…what is in your personal best interests for the good of the team. Ironically, this selfless approach will, in the long run, bring greater personal success and accomplishment.

A related lesson is that each member of the team has a role and that every role is important to the overall success of the team/organization. This is one reason why so many successful leaders in business have come from the athletic realm. The obvious traits of discipline and work ethic are things that will carry one far in whatever career or endeavor they choose.

Successful basketball teams are built on trust – trust among teammates as well as trust between players and coaches. A culture of trust is one that is critical to long-term success, be it in business, education, or any other vocation in life.

The Sharing Wisdom: A Series of Coaching Perspectives is written by Heidi Woodard.

On a semi-steamy day back in July 1999, I said “I do” to not only my husband, Ryan, but also to a lifetime of basketball.

You see, for those who don’t know, my husband is the son of a legendary basketball coach in and around the Midwest, Doug Woodard. My father-in-law has coached for an eternity. I’m sure there’s an actual number of years I could plug in there, but the past 17 years have been at Bellevue West High School leading the defending Class A State Championship Thunderbirds team.

doug woodard

Doug Woodard and the Bellevue West Thunderbirds. Photo c/o Omaha World-Herald

Before Bellevue West, he dedicated his time and talent to Omaha Roncalli Catholic High School. It was at Roncalli where he coached both of his sons and where my husband and I met in one of those weird classrooms that brought together a perfection-seeking honor roll girl with a slightly cocky boy who rarely opened a book outside of the classroom. It was at that same high school where Ryan and I played our best years of basketball, not knowing back then that we’d one day have three kids of our own learning how to play a game they love.

Before Roncalli, Doug coached student athletes at Bellevue Christian High School. And he still hears from those same kids even now, over two decades later, which is equally amazing and inspiring to me.

And I’d imagine that, before Bellevue Christian, Doug was thinking of ways to transition from playing a sport at which he excelled to coaching his own kids and other people’s kids on the proper ways to pass, dribble, box out, rebound, and shoot (in my husband’s case, ESPECIALLY shoot).

My sister-in-laws both played summer basketball for their dad and then went on to compete at my collegiate alma mater, Creighton University. Considering they have basketball in their blood, I am still amazed that the Woodard clan accepted me – a collegiate softball player – into their hard court crew.

The Woodard cheering section at the 2014 Nebraska High School Boys State Basketball Tournament.

The Woodard cheering section at the 2014 Nebraska High School Boys State Basketball Tournament. What? Doesn’t everyone wear matching shirts in March?

Ryan has now coached our oldest son and his teammates, the Junior TBirds, for the past six years and will both mentor them and learn from them in their final season – as eighth graders – next year. I think I’ve had nearly all of those boys in my kitchen and driveway at some point. I’ve watched them transition from simply learning how to dribble the ball to orchestrating moves that I know I personally would not be able to defend.

Last night, Ryan sent out his end of season thank you email to all of the players’ parents. He told them he will be discussing their son’s player evaluations one-on-one with each boy this weekend. He will guide these young men on what he considers to be their strengths as well as areas they can improve upon over the summer.

These players have one more year to work on their game before moving on to high school, a leap that history has proven some boys will make and others may not. I want to cup each of their faces in my hands, look at them straight in their eyes, and say “Enjoy every moment because they are some of the most fun and fastest fleeting you will ever experience in your lives.”

Ryan doesn’t hear it nearly enough, but I feel really lucky to be married to him. When it comes to the influence that both he and his father have on young men’s lives both on and off the court, I feel like the apple does not fall too far from the tree. I can confidently say that I married into a good bushel.

One downside of having basketball in the blood? Our own children will never have perfect school attendance…at least not on those years when grandpa’s team makes it to the state tournament!

Here’s wishing all of the state qualifiers good luck this year down in Lincoln.

Boys Class A State Tournament Bracket

state basketball class A

Boys All Classes Tournament Brackets

In terms of high school memories, I'd imagine it doesn't get much better than this. Photo c/o Lincoln Journal Star

In terms of high school memories, I’d imagine it doesn’t get much better than this. Just ask the 2014 State Champs Bellevue West Thunderbirds. Photo c/o Lincoln Journal Star

Written by Heidi Woodard