When Jaime Kruppa Fisher’s personal high school basketball season ends is a mystery, even if her Lambert girls team keeps advancing in the postseason next month.
Such is the life of a pregnant coach, one whose Feb. 18 due date falls on the opening weekend of the state playoffs. At some point, the Longhorns may have to keep playing without the South Gwinnett grad.
“As someone who is incredibly organized and who likes to be in control, it’s not a fun situation,” a laughing Fisher said this week. “You just have to figure out for planning purposes. I’ve played different scenarios in my head over and over again. Is it better if (the baby) comes early? Is it better if it’s later? At this point, whatever. When it happens, it happens. I have great assistants.”
The pregnancy season has been tough at times, but mostly enjoyable because she knows the reward on the way is her first child, son Michael Joseph. The hectic schedule gets a little crazier now when basketball season overlaps with baseball season. Her husband Lee, a Parkview grad, is a baseball coach at Lambert.
That Fisher’s season may end early hasn’t come as a surprise to Lambert’s players, who were surprised with the news early in the pregnancy.
“At first, of course, (the players) were very excited,” said Fisher, in her fourth year at Lambert and third as head coach. “The way we told them, we had a little player meeting, our beginning of the year meeting about preseason workouts. I had a hang-man (puzzle) up on the board and they guessed letters. It said ‘Baby Fisher is coming in February.’ They were so excited, very excited. Then they realized, ‘Hey, February? We’re still in season in February?’ It’s been an adjustment for everybody.
“I just feel like everybody’s been great, very supportive. The girls have done a good job dealing with it. I’ve had some forgetful moments where I may call someone the wrong name or forget in the middle of a sentence where I’m going with it. But they laugh it off and don’t hold it against me.”
Lambert’s success on the basketball court has only added to Fisher’s joy.
The Longhorns are 16-2, with their only losses coming to Brookwood in tournaments. Fisher earned her 100th career win as a head coach — she also was head coach at South Gwinnett for four seasons after assisting her high school coach, Mike Allison, for eight — last Friday when Lambert defeated rival South Forsyth.
Though she prefers not to miss the closing stages of her team’s season, Fisher feels good about leaving it to assistants Carolyn Whitney, Andy Olejack and Chris Nesbitt. Whitney, a former standout player and also assistant coach at Wesleyan, will be the interim head coach in Fisher’s absence.
“(Whitney’s) very capable of being able to take over when I have to step away,” Fisher said. “She’s done a great job. This is our second year working together and obviously I knew her as a player because I was an assistant at South when we played (Wesleyan) in the Deep South (Classic) all those times. I know the career she had at Wesleyan and Georgia Southern and as an assistant with Jan (Azar). She learned a lot from Coach Azar over there and has done a great job as an assistant.”
If she’s physically able, Fisher hopes she can return for any potential region tournament (if the baby comes early) or state playoff games. If not, she will have to rely on frequent updates from FaceTime via her parents — her father still keeps the official scorebook and her mother keeps game statistics.
From there, she can shift the focus from being a first-time pregnant coach to being a new mother, another unique challenge ahead to balance with coaching duties.
“We’re definitely thrilled about (being parents),” Fisher said. “As long as he doesn’t come during a game.”
Will Hammock can be reached via email at email@example.com. His column appears on Thursdays.