Chris Gobrecht is in her 31st year as a head coach and sixth season as the head women’s basketball coach at Yale.
But she’s about to experience a Senior Night different from any of the previous 30. Her daughter, Mady, is a senior for the 2010-11 Bulldogs.
“I grew up thinking I was definitely not going to play for my mom,” said senior forward Mady Gobrecht. “I didn’t think I could play on one of her USC or Washington teams, especially because I was pretty scrawny back in the day.”
The Gobrecht family moved from Los Angeles to New Haven, Conn., following Mady’s sophomore year of high school. Mady had always wanted to play in the Ivy League and with her mother leaving Southern California and accepting the head coaching position at Yale, a family affair suddenly became a possibility.
“I approached her whole career as an athlete as just everything had to be her call,” Chris Gobrecht said. “I never made her go to the gym. I never made her play basketball. She went through the stage wanting to be a cheerleader and I barely tolerated that, it was really hard. It always had to be what she wanted to do. Naturally, she’s been around the sport her entire life and has been at the games or traveled with me or been around teams, so all this time she has been around the game and picking a lot of things up through osmosis. You can’t not [learn] being there day after day after day.”
Gobrecht hadn’t planned to have her daughter playing on her collegiate teams.
“When it came time to decide what she was going to do and where she was going to play, I did not think she would play for me,” Gobrecht said. “I even told her AAU coach ‘Be sure coaches know she’s not going to play for me.’ We were looking at it as let’s go see what’s out there and what’s a good fit for you.”
Neither of them thought Mady playing for Chris’ team was even in the realm of possibility, yet things fell into place quickly when Mady started seeing what options were out there. And the fit that made sense the most was the one closest to home.
“I didn’t know that much about Yale when we moved here,” Mady said. “Obviously, I knew Harvard and Princeton and I started to look at the schools and started to get recruited by northeast schools and I started visiting. When I was visiting, I realized that Yale was by far my favorite place in the northeast, especially within the Ivy League. [My mom] never pressured me. She never even asked me. She waited for me to come to her about it because she knew how much I really loved Yale. She was very excited about it. I never really imagined [playing for my mom] until we moved out here and I fell in love with Yale.”
And it was Yale, her mother believes, that was the deciding factor for Mady chosing a school to attend and play basketball.
“When it came right down to it she was comparing everything to Yale,” Chris said. “I do believe that she chose Yale. She didn’t necessarily say ‘I want to play for my mother,’ She wanted to go to Yale. I happened to be the coach there.
“I think there was a little bit of ‘Do I really want to play against my mom?’ I think that was something that she was having a hard time reconciling. It would have been one thing if she hadn’t played in the Ivy League but if your child has a chance to go to Yale, how can you not be excited about that. So I got all these good things that happened from that decision. My daughter having the chance to be at Yale and I got a 6-foot-2 forward who has a really nice all-around game.”
But they both got more than that.
“And then there was the part of ‘That’s my child and now I get to see her play basketball,’” Chris said. “If she had gone to someplace else, I would have never seen her play, so all of those things came to a head, but it was totally her decision. I even took her on a lot of unofficial visits and we went and she took some official visits and we looked a lot of places and I was thrilled, but I was probably as thrilled with the fact that I was getting a 6-2 forward as anything.”
The Bulldogs are still in the hunt for the Ivy League title and have the potential for postseason play. With a three-game road winning streak that included wins at Penn, Dartmouth and Harvard, Yale is 9-3 in Ivy League play while Princeton leads the standings at 10-1.
“It’s going to take a lot of things happening breaking our way for us to be able to win the Ivy League,” the coach said. “But we feel like we’re in the picture and that’s a good feeling.”
Both Gobrechts have spent as little time focusing on this weekend’s Senior Night activities as they can. Yale closes out its home schedule with a Friday contest against Columbia and Senior Night against Cornell on Saturday.
“It’s going to be pretty crazy,” Mady said. “I’m trying not to count down, but it’s impossible. I’ve been thinking ‘I only have three weeks left. I only have two weeks left.’ I’ve been traveling with my mom’s teams since I was old enough to do so. Then I wanted to make it on the team and I did and then it was a reality and now I’m graduating. I don’t think it will sink in at the moment but it’s going to be pretty wild.”
Her mother is doing her best to minimize the fact that her daughter will one of the two seniors honored on Saturday night.
“It’s something as it gets closer I’ve started to think about it,” coach Gobrecht admitted. “That particular day, I’ll approach it the same way I’ve approached this whole experience of coaching my daughter, which is subconsciously it’s always there. You know that in little ways it affects the way you see things and the way you feel and the emotions and everything, but consciously as a coach, you’re just doing your thing as a coach.
“As I feel [senior day] approaching, it’s bothering me and I’m trying to push it back down there again because I need to be a coach for my team. It definitely worries me a great deal that that night I’m going to have a really hard time and I don’t want to do that because for four years I’ve managed to put the team first. I hope so. I think so. That will be really hard because it’s been the most incredible thing to have that blessing of my daughter sharing this experience with me for four years.”