WASHINGTON – Growing up Stephanie and Katie Stevens never had the chance to step on the court and play on the same basketball team. On Sunday, Nov. 27, the Stevens sisters will finally step on the court, at the same time, but will be on opposite team benches.
Stephanie Stevens, 29, the head coach of the Gallaudet University women's basketball team brings her Bison team to Elmira, N.Y., to face the Soaring Eagles of Elmira College in a NCAA Division III non-conference game at 2 p.m. On the Elmira College sideline is her younger sister, Katie Stevens, 23, who is entering her second season as an assistant coach.
"It will definitely feel a little weird looking over to the other bench and seeing my sister there," said Katie Stevens. "I have always been cheering her and her team on in the stands, but now it'll be a battle between our teams for 40 minutes. It's actually pretty exciting and I'm looking forward to our teams going head-to-head"
The elder sister, always one to take a "tough-love" approach with her siblings, is not engrossed on the upcoming family reunion.
"I will be focused on our team, so I must find another day to watch her (Katie) on the sidelines," said Stephanie Stevens. "This weekend I know our family will be keeping their eyes on the sidelines supporting us and our respective programs."
While that quote may not be all warm and fuzzy, Katie wouldn't want it any other way.
Katie looked up to her older sisters, Stephanie and Kristen, cheering them on from the stands in high school and later in college. There is a six-year gap between Stephanie and Katie and a four-year gap between Kristen and Katie. Plus, a younger brother, Mark, 18, completes the Stevens' sibling quartet, who grew up in Pickerington, Ohio.
"Stephanie and Kristen both had the luxury of getting the opportunity to play with one another in high school. It was always a dream of mine to be able to play with the both of them at the same time. Unfortunately, that never happened," said Katie Stevens. "But my entire high school career I used Stephanie's success to make goals for myself. She was a great inspiration and mentor."
Stephanie Stevens starred at Pickerington Central High School where she was named Ohio High School Basketball Coaches Association Division I Player of the Year and selected to the all-state first team during her senior season (2006). She was rated the 33rd best point guard in her class in the nation. Stephanie attended University of Cincinnati where she lettered four years on the Bearcats women's basketball team. She graduated in 2010 with a Bachelor of Science degree in Special Education with a focus on Sign Language Interpreting and Deaf Studies.
Stephanie Stevens served as a graduate assistant at Gallaudet University, the world's only university with programs and services specifically designed to accommodate deaf and hard of hearing students, during the 2010-11 season. She then worked as the coordinator of recruiting operations for the University of Maryland women's basketball program before returning to Kendall Green. Stephanie returned to Gallaudet in the summer of 2012 when she was named the new women's basketball head coach.
"Stephanie has always been a huge role model for me. She was an amazing basketball player, and an even better person. She taught me many things growing up, not only on the court, but off as well," said Katie Stevens. "Having six years between us, I remember just being in awe of her when I would be watching her play. At home, she would take a more "tough-love" approach, but I wouldn't have wanted it any other way."
Being the oldest sibling was a responsibility Stephanie took very seriously growing up.
"I was constantly aware of my behavior and actions as I knew my siblings were watching me," said Stephanie Stevens. "To this day, I am striving to be a better person because I know my siblings are waiting for the day I do wrong. Big sisters make all of the first mistakes. Well, in my case I was a perfectionist - so making mistakes was not okay with me."
Katie Stevens blazed her own path in college basketball by attending Columbus State Community College, where she was a two-time team captain, before transferring to Mars Hill College in North Carolina. She played two years of Division II women's basketball for the Lions and suited up in 53 games where she passed out 84 assists and made 44 steals. She graduated with a degree in biology. After graduation, Katie was ready to follow in Stephanie's footsteps and enter the coaching arena.
"I had asked myself if Katie would be interested in being our graduate assistant position [here at Gallaudet]. I knew she had a great mind for collegiate athletics, but I wanted Katie to feel like she earned her way on her own. I felt it was best for her not to pursue a gig with us, as I wanted her to gain experience of being uncomfortable," said Stephanie Stevens. "We learn the most about ourselves and the world when we are out of our comfort zone. In this case, Elmira was the perfect place because it was far enough away from our family that she had to figure things out herself. She is thriving there under Coach Shannon Howley."
Transitioning from a student-athlete to a coach has been an eye-opening experience for Katie but she can also picture the day the two Stevens sisters are on the same team for the first time in their lifetime.
"I could absolutely imagine myself coaching on the same team as my sister. I think it would be an amazing opportunity and I know that we could work really well together," said Katie Stevens. "On the other side of that, I would also love to go up against her as a head coach. We were always competitive growing up, so I definitely think it would be fun and exciting for us, and I know our family would enjoy that too."
Stephanie has definitely been a mentor to Katie, her de facto mentee, growing up in Ohio and now moving up in the collegiate women's basketball coaching ranks.
"Stephanie has absolutely been a huge influence for me, and continues to be a great mentor. She's a very intelligent woman and someone that I trust. If I ever have any questions, or just looking for words of wisdom, Stephanie is always there for me and more than willing and happy to help," said Katie Stevens.
While most parents and sisters might smile with pride, hug or shed a tear of joy and love after reading a quote like that. The elder Stevens sister, on the other hand, heads back to practice and continues to prepare her team for the beginning of the 2016-17 season. Hugs and chatting can wait until after Sunday's game.
"I am forever proud of my youngest sister, Katie," added Stephanie Stevens. "Now, let's leave it all on the court."
Spoken like a true big sister.