Heisey Featured as Women in Sport Panelist
Julie Heisey is now the head coach at Seattle Pacific after playing at Northwest Nazarene as an undergraduate.
Julie Heisey is now the head coach at Seattle Pacific after playing at Northwest Nazarene as an undergraduate.

Wednesday, May 14, 2014
by Evan O'Kelly, Media Relations Assistant

Thirteenth in a series

Previous Panelist Profiles
Lynda Goodrich, WWU (Jan. 24)
Kimberly Ford, NCAA (Jan. 31)
Chelsea Herman, Seattle University (Feb. 14)
Erin O'Connell, SPU (Feb. 28)
Katie Simons, SMU (March 20)
Tammy Dunn, SCSC (March 28)
Ariko Iso, OSU (April 4)
Cori Metzgar-Deacon, WOU (April 11)
Julie Mitchell, WBB Referee (April 18)
Diane Flick, WWU (April 25)
Kim Wenger, NWC (May 2)
Hannah Olson & Angie McKinnell, UW (May 12)

PORTLAND, Ore. – Before the Great Northwest Athletic Conference had been established, Julie Heisey was already familiarizing herself with many of the universities that would eventually comprise the NCAA Division II conference.

Starring as a basketball player at Northwest Nazarene University in the late 1980’s, Heisey continued her athletic career while building what would become a strong foundation for sustained coaching success.

Today, Heisey serves as the head women’s basketball coach at Seattle Pacific University and competes against her alma mater during the GNAC regular season. On Saturday, Heisey will share her experience and perspective at the Women in Sports Career Seminar, hosted by the GNAC at the Washington Convention and Trade Center in Seattle. 

Heisey grew up in Nampa, Idaho, attending Nampa Christian High School where she competed in track, volleyball and basketball. 

“My parents were both immigrants from the Netherlands and we lived on a farm,” Heisey recalled about her childhood. “To them, going to college and playing a sport was a totally new concept.”

Not only did Heisey continue her basketball playing career through college, she excelled as one of the top players in NNU history. Heisey led NNU’s women’s team in rebounds for three seasons between 1986-89, but she recalled that she didn’t always have the confidence that she could compete at the collegiate level. 

“I had some great coaches in junior high that took me under their wing,” Heisey said. “I didn’t think I was very good, but they kept telling me that I would play in college and spent a lot of time with me.”

The extra effort paid off as Heisey realized not only that she could succeed as a player, but also that coaching presented an intriguing option to pursue as a career.

After graduating from NNU, Heisey spent three years coaching junior high volleyball and basketball, before moving to Oklahoma in 1992.

“I was a graduate assistant at Southern Nazarene University, and we made it to the NAIA Final Four three years in a row,” Heisey remembered. “Nobody was Division 2 at that time, and we had a lot of really good kids competing for us.”

The players Heisey had the opportunity to work with at SNU were of championship caliber, as she had a hand in a trio of NAIA championship titles. “In 1994 we went 34-0 to win the title and in 1995 and ’96 we won on last-second shots,” Heisey recalled of the remarkable championship stretch. “It was quite amazing.”

Heisey was fortunate to avoid injury during her playing career, but considers losing players to injury as a coach to be one of the biggest challenges she has to face. 

“I have definitely faced more adversity as a coach than I did as a player,” Heisey said. “Seeing players get hurt is always tough and you always feel for them.”

One obstacle Heisey did have to face prior to entering college was making the right decision, with factors such as location and financial aid coming into play. 

“So many kids today get a full scholarship, but at the time when I was playing nobody did,” Heisey remembered. “I had to decide where I wanted to play, and some schools offered me a bit more than NNU, but I ended up accepting their offer. We had nine kids in our family and it was a big deal to go to college and get at least a part of it paid for.”

As Heisey’s coaching career continued successfully at Trevecca Nazarene in Nashville, Tenn., she kept her options open for a potential future move.

“At one point, I thought about getting back closer to home, but we were having some success at Trevecca,” said Heisey. “I wasn’t really looking very seriously, but I got an email from the associate AD at SPU asking if I was willing or interested in applying for the head women’s job. It all happened pretty fast, but in the end I decided that it would be a good thing for my family and it ended up working out.”

Now Heisey has completed seven seasons at SPU, leading the Falcons into the NCAA playoffs six times. The seasoned veteran recalled several players who will be permanently engrained into her memory, including her most recent graduate, Katie Benson

“Katie is one of the best players I have ever coached,” Heisey said regarding the All-American graduating senior. “She came into college as a versatile player and with a very competitive spirit. There are not a lot of Katie Bensons out there, I am going to miss her.” 

It’s players like Benson that make coaching a special job for Heisey, and she explained that coaching has as much to do with education as it does with on-court skills.

“My best coaches have been teachers, and I am so thankful that I was an elementary and junior high teacher,” said Heisey. “Sometimes kids play in college and go straight into coaching without a true appreciation of what it takes to be successful.” 

Beyond being a successful coach, Heisey noted that building a positive overall college experience for the players in her program is one of the biggest focuses of her job.

“There is a lot of decision making involved and it is all about being creative, breaking things down, and finding a way to help these kids be successful,” Heisey said. “I am certainly glad that I have had those experiences to draw on.”

When Heisey serves on a coaching panel this weekend at the Women in Sports Career Seminar, she hopes to relay this message of critical thinking to attendees.

“No job is too small, especially for getting into something like coaching,” said Heisey. “I have really done it all, from washing uniforms to dealing with parents to teaching kids to be mature and disciplined.”

In terms of getting started, Heisey stressed the idea that plenty of opportunities exist to pursue a variety of different paths related to collegiate athletics.

“There is definitely more than one way to get into college athletics,” Heisey said. “From basketball camps to volunteering, it’s really about getting a variety of experiences and finding a passion for something you love.”

For more information on the Women in Sports Career Seminar, visit the "related links" section of this article. To register for the event, click here.