Newly hired South Fremont head girls' basketball coach Ryan Campbell.

Newly hired South Fremont head girls’ basketball coach Ryan Campbell.

With Ryan Erickson taking the job as head girl’s basketball coach at Bonneville high school, South Fremont found themselves with an opening for the head coach position of their girls’ basketball team.

“(Erickson) came in and did a great job here,” said South Fremont athletic director Chris Tucker. “What’s been fun about Ryan is he’s helped us out with the boys and then with the girls. He’s been a big part of what we’ve been doing for the last six or seven years. We appreciate all the work that he’s done. He got our girls to state last year (‘18), which we really appreciate. It’s hard to see him go but we appreciate all that he has done. We’ve had some really good experiences with — it’s been a good thing.”

After a tougher year you might think it would be tough for the Cougars to find a suitable candidate to replace Erickson but they found themselves a winner.

Newly hired girls’ basketball coach Ryan Campbell spent the last seven years at Shelley High School where he coached their track and cross country teams to eight championships. Boys' XC ('13, '14), girls' XC ('14, '15, '16), boys' track ('16) and girls' track('16, '18) 

“He has a good background in coaching, not necessarily in basketball, but in coaching and that excited us that he can come in and kind of build that same excitement,” Tucker said. “It’s been a good thing so far. He’s been taking the girls to basketball camps. He’s been very involved. We’ve been very happy with him so far.”

Campbell started exploring the possibility of coming to South Fremont when he found out there was an open Math teaching position at the high school. When head track and boys’ basketball coach Ryon Pope heard Campbell was exploring the possibility of leaving Shelley and started recruiting him to come to the Cougars.

“When I decided to start looking at some other options, Ryon Pope heard wind of it,” Campbell said. “I’ve coached against him we’re friends. He’s the one that started contacting me probably four or five times one week trying to get me to come over here. This was before there was a basketball opening but he was trying to get over to come help with track. I told him well, I could teach math — they had an opening here — but I’d like to coach basketball.”

Weeks later, Erickson took the position at Bonneville and Campbell applied at South.

“(Pope) just kind of kept me abreast with the situation with the previous coach that he was looking elsewhere,” Campbell said. “Once he took that job, he kind of had me sold on coming over here. It was still a hard choice though. I’ve been at Shelley for a long time I love it there.”

In addition to coaching track and cross country, Campbell has coached girls’ and boys’ basketball for years with stints in American Falls and Challis.

When Campbell started coaching track and field at Shelley, he remembers how hard it was for him and his athletes to see rival teams on the podium above them that first year.

“We decided as a team that we were going to work hard,” Campbell said. “They didn’t know how hard that was going to be but they were working six days a week all year. We made them take a couple breaks here and there to kind of refresh their bodies and their minds.

Campbell hopes his success with athletes on the track will carry over to the basketball court.

“We had a lot of success (at Shelley),” Campbell said. “A lot of individual success. Nine kids going off to run in college. Seven division one runners over the last three to four years. It’s been good. The kids worked hard and it pays off for them. But, I’ve always loved basketball. I didn’t have that opportunity at Shelley and this was a good opportunity for me. I’m just building confidence with kids. Helping them to believe in themselves and then helping them understand the amount of work that it takes to be successful.”

Campbell believes many of the skills he learned as a head track and cross country coach will carry over to basketball.

“I think my experience is just developing athletes, teaching them how to work hard,” Campbell said. “The skills are a little bit different depending on the sport but I think coaching in general is just learning the sport and then you need to learn how to teach. You need to know how to inspire athletes and help them believe in themselves. That transfers over no matter what the sport. I feel like a good coach could probably coach any sport once they learn it.”

Campbell does believe there will be a little bit of a learning curve for him transitioning to head basketball coach.

“I feel like I have a lot to learn about basketball,” Campbell said. “I love basketball but my focus has been track and cross country. I’m putting in a lot of hours studying the game and learning. I brought on a really good assistant coach (Lisa Thueson) who’s going to be a lot of help.”

The first part of Campbell’s plan to develop his basketball players includes getting to know them.

“My desire is to build relationships with the girls or boys that I’m coaching,” Campbell said. “At first, leaving Shelley was really hard. There were a lot of tears on my end and some of the kids. But after just this first week of working with these girls, those relationships are starting to come.”

Campbell has already helped with a couple camps and scrimmages where he’s started to get to know his girls and younger athletes in the community. Caring about his athletes is a large part of his focus.

“You have to get to where kids trust you,” Campbell said. “That you care about them not just to help the team win but that I care about them. They need to know that. After that inspiring them to believe that they can do more than they think is possible then letting them know and guiding them through the process of doing the work it takes to be successful.”

Tucker feels Campbell is doing a great job of relating with the athletes.

“He gets along really good with kids,” Tucker said. “He can talk with them and he communicates well with them and I think the kids really like that. He kind of gets them excited and motivated and fired up. I’ve watched him already. He just kind of talks to the kids and he’s really encouraging them. Just his mannerisms and his personality around the kids, he does a good job with them. It’s been fun to see that the kids like him and gravitate toward him.”

Campbell believes hard work will be the biggest factor determining whether or not the Lady Cougars succeed.

“It’s kind of (about) inspiring girls to want to work that hard,” Campbell said. “X’s and O’s, I don’t know if that matters as much as just getting girls to believe in the system and to believe in working hard to kind of help a team be successful. Probably every coach feels like that. I want to build relationships, inspire and guide them through the process of working.”

Campbell inherits a program that went 11-12 last season but is only one season removed from making the state tournament. The team lost most of their rotational players to graduation but Tyleigh Hill, Kinley Keisler, Karlee Thueson and Malorie Tucker are all slated to return next season.

“I watched a lot of film (of South Fremont’s girls’ basketball team) just from last year,” Campbell said. “We didn’t have a lot of success at JV level yet. I think they can have it. The younger girls have had a lot of success. The thing I see throughout is they’re pretty feisty group. I think good defensively. They get down on the floor for loose balls all of them. I think just that grittiness is going to help us be a really good defensive team. The offensive end is just a work in progress. I think defense is what wins you games. I think that ability. I don’t know how much you can teach that. Girls just get down on the floor after a loose ball and we have that in our program. That’s what excites me most about coaching here.”

Campbell was also hired to teach mathematics at South Fremont High School. He, Ryon Pope and Chris Tucker all seem to think it’s likely he’ll help with track and field as well but nothing is set in stone yet.

“I’m excited for something new,” Campbell said. “The community’s been really supportive. Teachers, administration. I went to the Fisherman’s breakfast, which is a big thing here. Lots of parents are excited. The girls are excited. We have this little kids camp and I had all my high schoolers were coming to help out. I’m just excited I think energy is building. I’ve told them they have to be patient for the success part of it but it’ll come. I’m excited.”