UTAH UTES

Utah Women’s Basketball Coach Lynne Roberts: Representation Matters

Jan 17, 2024, 12:59 PM

SALT LAKE CITY – Utah women’s basketball is growing in popularity and all you have to do is look at how their audiences have grown and evolved over the past year.

Just this time last season, if you scanned their crowd, it was largely an older audience looking for something to do on the weekend.

Naturally, as a team trying to build something, you love and appreciate whoever will show up.

Fast forward a year later and those same people are still there. However, they have been joined by a younger, largely female crowd.

 

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These days you will see fathers and mothers taking their young children- specifically their daughters to see role models in action. Friend groups of teen girls show up regularly now to check out athletes that look like them.

For Utah head coach Lynne Roberts, seeing the growth in their crowds is amazing and knowing her team is helping to breakdown representation barriers is a positive feeling.

 

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Representation Matters To Utah Women’s Basketball

Roberts has been very clear about having a vision for Utah women’s basketball from the moment she took the job in 2015.

 

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In just the past few seasons, it seems like her vision for the team is starting to come to life- particularly being a space where young girls and women can see themselves in a sports setting.

“It’s awesome and to see it grow over the past couple of seasons,” Roberts said. “There are so many little kids after the games that want autographs. I think our players- all of them are such good ambassadors for little kids. I’m proud of our players. Yeah, we can shoot well and play the game, but they are such good people that I think fans and young people can feel that and I love it. I’m proud of them.”

Junior Guard Ines Vieira is one of Roberts’ many ambassadors on the team who represents something a little different between being from Portugal and standing at only 5’6″ but still being highly effective out on the court.

For Vieira, it is special being able to show people what they do, how they do and in turn having their audience really appreciate the effort.

 

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“It’s awesome,” Vieira said. “They are finally valuing our team and we are showing them how to play basketball. How to play like a team, how to play with your teammates and it’s not just one player. I think that is why they always bring their friends and all of that- to show that we are a team, we are a family and it’s awesome having those people out here.”

The Alissa Pili Effect

We all know and have talked about ad nauseum how special Alissa Pili is out on the hardwood, but her impact off of it has grown in importance over the past year in ways no one saw coming.

“It is really neat to see Alissa’s following wherever we go of Indigenous People,” Roberts said. “That is why representation matters so much. That these younger kids that have never seen someone who looks like them- comes from their background and succeeds on such a big stage. It’s really powerful.”

Pili, who is part Samoan and part Inupiaq has been attracting crowds of local Indigenous People wherever the Utes have travelled. Particularly impressive was the crowd of people wanting to meet her after Utah played Arizona State the other week.

“When I saw it at Arizona State- I walked back out of the locker room and it was- 500 people? I don’t know if any of them really knew her,” Roberts said. “It wasn’t like they were all family or something. I was just kind of blown away. Wow. When you talk about impact- that is pretty cool, pretty neat.”

The best part about Pili though, according to Roberts, is the cool head and humility she has kept despite being a star and all the attention that comes with that.

Roberts relayed that after Utah’s losses to Arizona and Stanford, Pili was in the film room and came to the conclusion on her own that she needed to be better about trusting her teammates and it paid off in a big way against Cal this past Sunday.

“She just showed such leadership in that moment,” Roberts said. “It’s really cool to see how far she has come and just her leadership, her buy-in, her humility- the amount of attention she gets- she could be arrogant. She could be cocky. She is none of those things. When your best player has that humility and team-first attitude, then everyone cheers you on. I think that is what makes her special.”

Michelle Bodkin is the Utah Utes Insider for KSLsports.com and host of both the Crimson Corner Podcast (SUBSCRIBE) and The Saturday Show (Saturday from 10 a.m.–12 p.m.) on The KSL Sports Zone. Follow her on XInstagram, and Threads: @BodkinKSLsports

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Utah Women’s Basketball Coach Lynne Roberts: Representation Matters