Women’s basketball athletes at UCCS turn playing days into coaching careers in Colorado Springs

By: Kevin Carmody
November 30, 2017

Pine Creek head coach Janean Jubic talks to point guard Jade Odom during the second quarter against Doherty Thursday, Feb. 2, 2017, at Pine Creek High School. (The Gazette, Christian Murdock)

Pine Creek head coach Janean Jubic talks to point guard Jade Odom during the second quarter against Doherty Thursday, Feb. 2, 2017, at Pine Creek High School. (The Gazette, Christian Murdock)

With one observation, Valor Christian girls’ basketball coach Jessika Caldwell figured it was only a matter of time before one of her former players at the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs, the former Payden Ackerman, would have a team to call her own.

“I remember seeing her two years ago when we played them (Sand Creek) in the state championship game,” Caldwell said. “She was on the sidelines there as an assistant or volunteer at that time. You can watch kids and say ‘Yep, that’s where they’re supposed to be.’ I saw the way the athletes interacted with her. She had an incredible, sweet disposition but also had a gift of teaching. When you see these things start to come out, it makes me a proud coach.”

On Monday, Payden (Ackerman) Goldberg will make her high school coaching debut for Sand Creek as her Scorpions meet Coronado, becoming the third member of that Caldwell-coached team of 2008-09 – the trio also played for Steve Kirkham the next season – to ultimately earn a head coaching spot at a 4A or 5A program in Colorado Springs.

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Ashley Miller, who played alongside Goldberg from 2008-12, recently started her fourth season leading the Rampart girls’ squad. In the summer of 2016, Janean Jubic, who earned her degree from UCCS in 2010, was named girls’ basketball coach at Pine Creek and started her second season Thursday.

As teammates and now opposing coaches, none took a direct path to the sidelines.

Perhaps it was meant to be for Goldberg, whose sister, Ashleigh, has served as assistant women’s basketball coach at the Colorado School of Mines for the past four seasons. Her mom was a coach, too.

“It’s always been in the bloodlines, and I always knew I wanted to be a part of basketball for as long as I could in any capacity,” said Goldberg, a native of Trinidad. “I never ruled it out, but it definitely wasn’t a part of my long-term plan when I was in college. I originally wanted to go into broadcasting, again, just wanting to be around basketball and sports.”

After three years as a teacher, the last two at Columbia Elementary in District 11, Goldberg realized something was missing.

“I still wanted to work with kids, but in a different capacity,” said Goldberg, who earned her undergraduate degree in communications in 2012. “I wanted to reach them on a bigger level, and that led me back to coaching.”

That’s similar to the experience shared by Miller, who figured she’d earn her master’s degree and then work her way through a variety of positions before reaching her ultimate goal.

It happened much faster, though.

“A good friend of mine (Megan Leatham) was the head coach of the Rampart girls’ team,” said Miller, who graduated from Calhan High School in 2008. “She encouraged me to come to one of her open gyms. It took about 10 minutes of being in the gym with this age group to tell me this is where I wanted to be. This is the group I wanted to impact.”

Following the 2013-14 season, Leatham stepped down and Miller took over.

Jubic, a standout at Pueblo West before starting her basketball career under Caldwell at UCCS in 2006, had her mind, and heart, set on a career in business and finance.

But through basketball’s life lessons, she ultimately found her place as a business teacher and girls’ coach at Pine Creek.

“I started coaching kids at a young age through parks and rec, and I really enjoyed it,” Jubic said. “There were definitely moments thinking if that would be my career, but it was never a sure thing. I didn’t study coaching; I took the business route. I didn’t think I’d be doing it for eight years now, but I finally found my actual passion of impacting kids. That makes me really happy. I think that’s what I was meant to do, but I never would have thought that back in college.”

And for Caldwell, who played at Coronado before a standout, four-year career at Baylor and overseas stint before starting her coaching career at UCCS, beams at the thought of players she recruited using their talents for the next generation.

“To think about it and know they played together, and now they’re all setting roots back into the community they played in, that doesn’t happen often,” Caldwell said.

“That’s such an amazing gift. It’s encouraging to know there is an amazing, strong female presence in coaching. I think that’s what probably makes me so proud and thankful.”

A decade from now, maybe the next crop of former players is doing the same thing.

“I hope so,” Jubic said. “I tell my students I don’t care what they do, just to find something they’re passionate about and become the best version of themselves. I hope we can leave a similar legacy that Jessika left.”