Allison Gardner wanted to be a head coach.
But when the opportunity came, she hesitated.
Gardner had her two daughters, both basketball players, to consider.
“It definitely gave me significant pause,” Gardner said Saturday after a shootaround in the Bend High gym, surrounded by her family. “I had to really think hard about what’s this going to do to my family dynamic because that’s the most important thing.”
After getting permission from daughters Sydney, a senior, and Peyton, a freshman, Gardner agreed to take the Bend High girls basketball reins from Todd Ervin, who had stepped down after a successful nine-year run with the Lava Bears.
“It came down to these two (Sydney and Peyton) saying, ‘Mom, I want you to do it. Mom, I think you’re going to do great.’”
Allison Gardner grew up in Walla Walla, Washington, where her father coached basketball at the community college.
“I learned everything I knew about playing basketball from him,” Gardner said. “It was a constant fifth quarter when I got home. We talked basketball a lot. Sometimes that was hard but I look back and I had a really high basketball IQ at a young age. Now that’s really helping me out.”
After high school, Allison played basketball at the University of Montana, where she met Trent Gardner, who shared her love for basketball.
As a freshman in high school in Great Falls, Montana, Trent Gardner coached a fifth-grade boys team. His mom and two grandmothers were both teachers.
“I’ve been around education a lot so I’ve always enjoyed coaching and seeing the growth of the young athlete,” he said.
But when picking a career, Trent Gardner decided to go a different route. He and a college roommate started a contracting company, and after looking all over the West from California to Montana, they decided on settling in Bend.
Trent and Allison, by then married with a toddler, Sydney, moved to Central Oregon in 2003.
Allison got a job teaching fifth grade at Elk Meadow Elementary in Bend. She had not planned on coaching. But when Sydney began playing in the Central Oregon Basketball Organization, Allison found herself volunteering.
For four years, she even served as the director of COBO’s Bend division.
When Peyton got to middle school, Trent coached her COBO teams.
Allison knew Ervin through his wife, Carolyn, an administrator at Elk Meadow.
Todd Ervin wanted to know if Allison would be interested in just meeting the Bend team and telling the players what it was like to play in college. That was five years ago.
“I think that was his hook,” said Allison Gardner, who agreed to become the Bend High junior varsity coach a year later.
The following year, Trent became the JV2 coach.
When Allison replaced Ervin at the varsity helm, Trent took over the JV program and also now serves as a varsity assistant.
Peyton, who typically plays a quarter for the JV team and is the backup point guard for the varsity squad, gets plenty of coaching from both parents.
“I’d say my dad is a little bit more vocal on the court,” Peyton said. “He wants to see you face to face and if you’re not looking at him he’s going to get your attention. My mom is a little bit more calm about things.”
Sydney, the senior, is more like her mother.
“There have been hard times because we’re a lot alike and we clash sometimes,” Sydney said. “In the big scheme of things, it’s been really fun.”
While Peyton and Sydney had never played together on the same basketball team, the sisters did play soccer together for the Lava Bears this past fall. Sydney has committed to play soccer at Eastern Oregon University.
“I was nervous about having the dynamic of having the sisters play together on the same court,” Allison said. “They already got it taken care of on the soccer field and I was so thankful for that. They worked through that sister dynamic already and now they play great together. They’re so fun to watch together.”
And Sydney has enjoyed playing alongside her younger sister as the Lava Bears have opened the season 1-2.
“It’s been fun because I know that she sees the court very well as a point guard,” Sydney said. “It’s nice when you’re ducking into windows and open spaces that she’ll get it to you and knows where you are and she always works hard.”
While Allison calls basketball the family’s glue, the Gardners have to make sure the game does not become too consuming. Sometimes that means taking a break from the sport to go hiking or put together a puzzle.
“We have to almost schedule breaks,” Allison said. “We have to completely take basketball off the radar every once in a while so that we keep that healthy balance. It’s important that we keep it just a game and all about fun. Our family relationships have to come first.”
It is a Lava Bears team policy to not discuss a game until 24 hours after it is over.
And that includes coaches with their own children.
“We have quick conversations with them as a team and then we stop talking about it,” Trent said. “That’s the delicate part of the process is to make sure we keep that separation of coach and parent.”
“We have to securely put our parent hat on and the coach hat can come on at practice,” Allison added.
Allison and Trent also encourage their players to not be afraid to screw up.
“Our family and our basketball team has to be a safe environment to make mistakes because if we’re not making mistakes we’re not going hard enough and we’re definitely not going to learn what we need to learn,” Allison said. “That’s been the biggest thing that we can preach to them.”
— Reporter: 541-383-0307, firstname.lastname@example.org