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Saturday, Apr. 30, 2016

For Berry, 200th win a valued milestone

Tuesday, January 18, 2005

Janet Berry has never wanted a career in anything but teaching and coaching.

A natural-borne and fiery competitor, she remembers the local paper interviewing its carriers for a story when she was hauling the Burlington Hawk Eye door to door as a ten-year-old.

"I just said that's what I wanted to do," she said. "And I've never wavered since."

Indeed. Berry, the Buena Vista University women's basketball coach since 1992, recorded the 200th win of her career Friday night when BVU trounced Dubuque.

"It really did mean a lot to me," Berry told the Pilot Tribune Sunday night, "even though that whole day was stressful and I was glad when it was over. It put me in a nostalgic mood and I thought a lot about all the great players and people I've coached here over the years."

Nostalgic, yes, but not enough to calm the competitive fires burning within. Her team came back Saturday night with a clutch win over Simpson in a classic Iowa Conference matchup.

That win gave Berry a 201-124 career record at BVU. During her tenure, her teams have won four Iowa Conference championships (1995, 1996, 1997 and 2004) and it will be an upset if the Beavers don't win another IIAC title this season.

Berry has guided four of her teams to Division III national tournaments and has been named Iowa Conference Coach of the Year four times as well. A fifth is probably on the way in 2004-2005.

"I've never made a basket or a play all that time, but my role has been gathering a group of players, having the women know their roles and hopefully building good team chemistry," she said.

For Berry, it's her competitiveness that keeps her going, even though she admits there have been some tough losses along the way.

"You have to have some resiliency as a coach and I think I've had that," she said. "Most of all, I hate to lose and love winning. When I don't feel that way anymore, I'll know it will be time to stop coaching."

Berry might have gained her competitiveness from her family. She grew up with four other siblings and the whole family was involved in sports.

She didn't play basketball at Burlington during the six-on-six era, even though she had the athletic ability to do so.

"At that time, the Burlington program wasn't very good and I really didn't want to be part of it," she said. "So I turned my efforts to other interests."

She was a member of a state champion golf team in high school, where she was also a standout softball player.

After graduation, it was off to Iowa State, where her father went to college as well as all four of her siblings. After earning her bachelor's degree and competing in intramural sports at ISU, she coached junior high basketball at Fort Madison Aquinas for a year.

Later, she served as head volleyball and girls basketball coach at West Point-Marquette.

"One of my coaches there told me he thought I'd make a good college coach," Berry remembered. "I had never thought that might have been possible or that I'd have a chance at that."

Nevertheless, being a college coach became one of her goals, and while gaining her Master's Degree at Mankato State in Minnesota, she was a graduate assistant basketball coach there.

When BVU's John Naughton retired after 16 years as women's basketball coach, Berry finally realized her dream.

She said she didn't foresee coaching at BVU for such a long time, but met Storm Lake native Steve Berry and they eventually married and now have two children.

She is an active volunteer in the community, a deacon at her church and was recently elected to the Iowa Women's Golf Association Board.

Following Friday night's win, she and her husband went out to dinner to celebrate.

"We rarely do that because we have two young children at home," she said. "But Friday night, people were coming up to me and congratulating me on the win. This is a wonderful community and it's nice to be a part of it. This is my home now; I'm a Storm Laker."

That means she keeps an eye on many of the small school prep players in the area. She says even though she came from a 4A high school, she prefers recruiting small-school athletes.

"The kids from small schools are involved in everything, including other sports and things like band and choir," Berry said.

"I've found that they are often more well-rounded people. They come here knowing how to manage their time. And sports is such an important part of small communities. I think that's valuable to have that kind of student-athlete."

That recruiting philosophy has led to a lot of highlights over her coaching career at BVU. She said, however, two moments stand out.

One of them was last year's national tournament victory over Carleton at Siebens Field House in Storm Lake.

"I'll always remember that game," she said. "It was just an electric atmosphere with a big crowd that was really into the game."

She also remembers her first Iowa Conference title back in 1995.

"I was sitting in my office and heard that Luther had been upset by one point, which gave us the conference championship," she said. "We sort of backed into it, but I remember it probably because it was my first one."

There have been four IIAC titles since then, and given Berry's competitiveness and desire to win, there will be more coming.

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