Promoted to head coach, former Laker standout Kate Childs hopes to re-connect the struggling program to its illustrious past
From 1980 to 2007, Lake Oswego‘s girls basketball team won at least 20 games in a season 17 times.
It hasn’t happened since. In fact, the Lakers have had 11 consecutive losing seasons under six different coaches.
The program is in dire need of stability, and the Lakers are hopeful that it will come in the form of Kate Childs, a varsity assistant the last two seasons who was promoted to head coach in June.
Childs, 29, knows all about Lake Oswego’s tradition. She was a sophomore on the last 20-win team in 2007 and was a senior all-league guard on the last team to finish with a winning record.
“I think I do bring some of that loyalty and pride,” said Childs, the school’s female athlete of the year as a senior in 2009. “Things change over time, but some things haven’t changed. The alma mater song is the same. They sing it on the bus as we come up the hill after every away game, and gosh, I sing it very loud. Lake Oswego is a special place.”
Childs played four seasons at Maryville University, an NCAA Division II program in St. Louis. She spent one season as a graduate assistant at Maryville before assisting for four seasons at Pattonville (Mo.) High School, where she taught math and engineering.
She moved back to Oregon in 2018 and landed a teaching job at Lakeridge. At that time, she also applied for the head coaching vacancy at Lake Oswego, and ended up as an assistant to Jake Anders.
Now she gets a chance as head coach of the Lakers, who went 4-21 and 3-21 the last two seasons.
“I’m so thankful for what Lake Oswego provided me, and so to be kind of on the other side, and feeling like I could help these girls in some way, is really special and fulfilling,” Childs said. “To be able to do it at your alma mater, you have that extra connection with the players.”
Unfortunately, due to the COVID-19 crisis, Childs’ contact with her players has been limited to small group practices in the gym during the summer and outdoor conditioning in the fall.
“Not the ideal way to start,” Childs said. “But I’m here, and I’m here to stay, as long as the administration will have me. That’s my plan, just to be as present and positive as I can. That’s something I tried to start pushing in the past two years, even as the assistant coach, being at youth games, putting on youth games, just having that personal relationship with players grades 4-12, so they know that I’m invested in them.”
Turnout is trending upward. The program had only two teams in 2018-19 but improved to 22 players last season, enough to add some JV2 games. Childs said that 15-18 players have consistently attended offseason workouts, roughly double of the past two years. The freshman class is strong.
Lake Oswego graduated one player and had one starter (Emma Jeanson) transfer to Lakeridge, but the other starters – juniors Kate Anders, Lily Carlson and Maia Jurney and sophomore Harper Sutherland – are eligible to return.
Childs credited Jake Anders for building a foundation for success the last two seasons. She is looking to build on that and put her own twist on the program.
“I got to play at the college level, and learned so much about Xs and Os and fundamentals,” she said. “I’m eager to share everything that I’ve learned so far.”
Back in the day, Lake Oswego was a revered program under coach Gary Lavender, who went 514-180 in 27 seasons (1977-2004) with the Lakers. In recent years, though, the team has lost high-end talent to other schools, an issue that Childs believes can be resolved naturally.
“I’m not super concerned about that,” she said. “Having good players … I want that to be a byproduct of of me building those personal relationships with girls from the youth level. If they know me and trust me, they will be more likely to stay.”
Childs grew up in Lake Oswego but said that she considered transferring to St. Mary’s Academy or Riverdale as an eighth-grader.
“But I just felt like, ‘No, I’m a Laker, and I want to graduate a Laker,’ so that point of pride was what led me to stay,” she said. “I do want to build a program to such that girls feel like they can get what they need or desire from a high school program from us.”
Spencer Griffin, also 2009 Lake Oswego graduate who was the JV coach last season, will be the varsity assistant. He is the brother of former Lake Oswego standout Sarah Griffin, who played at the University of Portland and was Sunset‘s head coach for five seasons (2013-18).
“I tried to talk to her about coaching with us this year,” Childs said of Sarah Griffin. “Hopefully, I’ll be able to convince her in future years to get involved.”
The long offseason got longer for basketball teams this week when the OSAA revised its calendar, pushing the start of practice from Dec. 28 to May 10. Childs is looking at the change in a positive light.
“It gives us a chance at actually having a season. More time to prepare,” she said. “I’m hoping that maybe with it being the last season, players that wouldn’t normally play, because they’re preparing for a spring sport, would want to play.”