October 20, 2010 10:46:00 AM
Adam Minichino - [email protected]
STARKVILLE -- Mary Kathryn Govero learned about patience at an early age.
One of eight children, including five younger than her, Govero understood she always wasn''t going to be the center of attention.
Govero''s time with the Mississippi State women''s basketball team has broadened her perspective on what it means to be patient.
A key member of the program since her freshman season, Govero has learned from teammates how to mold her skills into the team dynamic and has flourished because she knows when to pick her spots and how to do the little things.
Now a senior, Govero is moving from student to teacher on two fronts.
On the court, she will be expected to shoulder a bigger burden as the Lady Bulldogs try to replace eight seniors from the most successful team in program history.
Off the court, Govero is moving toward the "real world" by working as a student teacher at Sudduth Elementary School in Starkville. Her time at the school is part of work she will need to complete to earn a degree that one day might allow her to teach physical education to kindergartners through 12th-graders.
Govero hasn''t decided if she will pursue a career as a teacher or as a college basketball coach. Either way, her first three years at MSU and her time as a student teacher have provided valuable lessons she hopes to impart to her teammates this season, and after she graduates from MSU.
"(Working at Sudduth) has taught me a lot about patience," said Govero, who works with as many as 100 kids at a time. "I didn''t know how much you had to break things down for them and give them exact direction. You can''t leave anything out, you can''t assume they know anything, and you have to tell them everything. It also has been fun because they are so enthusiastic about everything that it sometimes gets them in trouble."
Govero''s family background gave her a head start. She said her brothers and sister always were teaching things to each other. Her love for basketball went hand in hand with her love to teach, so she feels it is natural she has selected teaching or coaching as a career.
On the court, Govero has the demeanor you would want in a coach. She plays with focus and intensity, so it is difficult to tell her emotions. She also shares the basketball and understands the importance of playing her role -- whether it is as a defender, as a scorer, as a passer, or as a cheerleader.
Govero likely will have to play all of those roles -- and then some -- this season because MSU will feature five junior college transfers and four freshmen on a team that was picked Tuesday to finish 11th in the Southeastern Conference in preseason voting by the media.
Govero knows it will be a challenge to move on without All-SEC performers like Alexis Rack, Chanel Mokango, and Armelie Lumanu, but she hopes what she has learned will give her an advantage.
"It is going to require a lot of patience on everybody''s part and understanding that this year''s team is not last year''s team," Govero said. "That doesn''t change the fact we still have expectations for ourselves. We''re learning each other and we''re trying to adjust to playing to each other''s strengths.
"Being the senior on the team with the most experience, it will be important for me to be a teacher on the court and in the classroom. I am going to have to have patience with my teammates and, like you said, my role most likely will change in that I am going to be more of a go-to type of person."
MSU women''s basketball coach Sharon Fanning-Otis said Govero is one of four players on this year''s team who has indicated a desire to become a coach. She said Govero has been a blessing to her because she represents what it means to be a student-athlete.
"She is just that role model and that student-athlete and the person you want your child to be around and you want to be the example," Fanning-Otis said. "She has been a very independent student-athlete who has prepared to win."
Govero has played a key role in her first three seasons at MSU. She made an immediate impact as a freshman, earning All-Freshman team honors after playing in all 31 games (three starts) and averaging six points per game.
Her role has gradually increased the past two seasons. Last year, with a senior-laden squad, Govero started all 34 games, averaged 11.2 points per game, and played an integral role in helping the Lady Bulldogs (21-13) advance to the Sweet 16 of the NCAA tournament for the first time.
This season, Fanning-Otis hopes Govero, who has developed a reputation as a potent spot-up shooter, particularly from 3-point range, will take on a bigger role. In past years, Fanning-Otis said Govero has been willing to make the extra pass to get a teammate a better shot. Fanning-Otis wants Govero to remain unselfish but she wants her to find a balance so she is asserting herself as a threat as a shooter and off the dribble.
"I think a strength of this team will be the balance of the scoring," Fanning-Otis said. "I don''t think it is going to be just MKat scoring 20 a game. ... MKat needs to be a more vocal leader this year. She was still communicating and a big part of the chemistry of last year''s team, but I think this year she is definitely more in the role of a teacher."
Govero is honing those skills as a student teacher at Sudduth Elementary School in Starkville. Wendy Jolly, the former fast-pitch softball coach at Starkville High School, is working with Govero as her mentor. Now in her 15th year as a physical education teacher, Jolly said her role is to help provide the "best realistic experience" to help prepare Govero for her first teaching experience. She said it is essential for teachers to hold high expectations, to be creative and fun, to be patient, understanding, and kind, to be flexible, and to be motivated.
Jolly feels Govero''s background gives her a great perspective that she has seen her use at Sudduth.
"Mary Kathryn is quiet, but fiery when needed," Jolly said. "Mary Kathryn shows numerous traits of a good teacher. She is knowledgeable in her area. She is a great self-evaluator and can make changes when needed. Mary Kathryn is driven and likes a challenge. She does not give up. She is also passionate about teaching students to lead a healthy, active lifestyle and she shows she cares."
Govero hopes to convey that attitude to her teammates. She said communication is a key ingredient to being a great teacher and a great coach. She always has considered herself more of a lead-by-example player rather than one who gets in the face of a teammate to motivate them. Her time at Sudduth has enabled the vocal side of her personality to blossom, and she knows it will help her this season on the basketball court.
"I know with so many new people we are going to be looking for somebody to lead or to set the example for our team to be best it can be," Govero said. "I have to be the best I can be. I am going to push myself to be the best in every way. If I don''t have confidence in myself I don''t think they will have confidence in themselves."
Adam Minichino is the Sports Editor for The Commercial Dispatch.