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IDAHO FALLS – When you love a sport as much as Britney Christensen, walking away from it can be hard.
Christensen, the head coach of the Idaho Falls High School’s girls basketball team, recently announced that after six seasons, she would resign, effective immediately, to spend more time with her family.
“I’ve loved my time as head coach,” Christensen said. “But it’s a lot of time away from my family … and my boys – one is 10 and the other seven – are at an age for them to go out and do (extracurricular) stuff and I should be there. I just feel a pull to go do that.”
It’s a bittersweet decision though, since girls basketball has been central in Christensen’s life since she was a student at Skyline High School. Christensen’s drive to coach dates back to that high school team and coach Tammy Sorensen.
“Tammy helped me understand that just because I wasn’t going to play college basketball didn’t mean I couldn’t coach,” Christensen said. “She taught me being a teacher of basketball is more about personality and (seeing the sport as) an art form.”
The Skyline alumni started mentoring girls early on, helping Sorensen teach younger girls the in-and-outs of the game. Sorensen remembers Christensen excelled at mentoring fellow students.
“Her passion for the game always stuck out to me,” Sorensen said. “She loved the game and was always good with the younger kids. I always thought coaching was a natural fit for her.”
Christensen’s passion comes from the way basketball is played. She calls the game “a physical demonstration of chess.”
“That’s what draws me to the game – there are lots of angles. You are always trying to counter whatever move they just made so you can score or defend,” she said. “It’s a difficult game and it’s physically challenging, but the better you can work together, the greater the outcome.”
Christensen’s coaching career began after she earned a math degree and landed a teaching job at Mountain View High School in Orem, Utah. There, she worked as assistant coach of the girls basketball team for eight years, training more than 200 girls.
She returned home to take a job at Idaho Falls High School in 2007. She wasn’t expecting to coach again, but when the opportunity presented itself, she jumped at it.
“I’d just had a second son, so coaching made no sense, but in my heart I knew that’s what I needed to do and wanted to do,” she said.
Since 2009, Christensen has coached some 200 additional players.
As a coach, she’s fostered lasting relationships and kept in touch with many former players. One of those players is Erin Thorn, a Mountain View graduate. She went on to play professionally in the WNBA from 2003 to 2013.
“I had one of the best coaching staffs in high school and she was a big part of that,” Thorn said. “We always had fun, but Britney also knew when to get serious and was always in my corner. She was coach, but she was also my friend.”
Christensen has not ruled out coaching again in the future, but said it won’t be anytime soon. She plans to continue teaching math at Idaho Falls High School.
“There are so many things I’m going to miss, especially the friends and camaraderie with players and other coaches,” Christensen said. “I’m so grateful for the time I spent here … this wasn’t an as easy decision, but this is the right decision for my family.”
East Idaho Reporter Nate Sunderland can be reached at [email protected].