Transforming leaders today and tomorrow

For the players on the Northland Pioneers women’s basketball team, success has come both on and off the court. This success is a direct result of the passion and dedication coach Shannon Nelson puts into helping transform these ladies into leaders, today and tomorrow.

Shannon came to Northland Community & Technical College as a distinguished high school and college basketball star. Crediting family with starting her love for basketball at a young age, she went on to play high school basketball at Marshall High School in Marshall, MN, and then went on to be a key player for the University of Minnesota women’s basketball team.

Seven years ago, she stepped in to fill a last-minute void as head coach for Northland’s women’s basketball team. This one-year coaching position has evolved into a dynasty that has won a National Championship and is ranked #1 in the nation going into the 2016-2017 season. Winning games is important to coach Nelson and her team but much more goes into her coaching style. It’s the dedication to her players off the court that they talk about and remember so fondly.

ShaRon Miller
“Honestly, she changed my life completely.”

“She was the only coach in high school during the recruiting process that connected with me on a genuine level. She was asking about my life, my grades, and that’s what stuck out to me and the reason I made my decision to play for her. She made sure we had a bond that went far beyond just a coach and her player. Honestly, she changed my life completely… for the better! She gave me such a more positive outlook on everything in life. She brought out a confidence level in me, on and off the court, that I didn’t know that I had. I am so grateful for that and for her. I couldn’t imagine playing for any other coach or being at any other school because of her. She has worked hard to help me get to the next level, with school and basketball. My goal is to play at the D1 level and she has believed in me. She really cares about my success and it means so much to me! She cares about us as people. She is there for us no matter what. She is literally our mom away from home. I was five hours away from home for the first time and knowing she was there if I was sick, she was there to listen if I had a bad day, she even would be with us at the doctor when we had an appointment… I couldn’t go home everyday and it meant the world that she was there!”

Kelsey Kainz
“I just wanted to play for Shannon.”

“She treats us in a way that is just amazing. She treats us like we are her own daughters. She pretty much loves us unconditionally and you can see it. Being able to learn from her is the best part. I want to get into coaching and she encourages us to chase our dreams. It means a lot to me to be part of this team and by the end we are never going to forget each other. She really encourages us to bond off the court and spend time together. I just wanted to play for Shannon.”

Jessica Vedbraaten
“She is there for us 100 percent of the time!”

“Shannon reached out to me and we instantly clicked. She is just an amazing coach and has had so much success it’s great to learn from her. She has given me so much confidence already! She doesn’t get mad, she works right with us so we get better. This is my first year and she has made this an easy transition. We can text her, call her, go into her office; she is there for us 100 percent of the time! It’s amazing to have her even show an interest in me; I never really thought that I would play in college and she has pushed me to be successful. It’s the encouragement and confidence she builds that means so much. She can build me up and calm me down. She’s great to talk to.”

Madison Stenzel
“She looks out for all of us.”

“She was so open and welcoming while she helped me get a feel for the team. She really makes sure that we bond as a team. She looks out for all of us. If you need anything, she wants us to contact her. It’s so nice to have her looking out for us. She has done so much… and she wants us to be the best we can be and really cares about us, on and off the court.”

Myesha Caldwell
“My mom told me if I was going to play anywhere, I need to go play for Shannon.”

“My mom told me if I was going to play anywhere, I need to go play for Shannon. She reached out to me and was consistent, I wasn’t sure I wanted to play after high school. It wasn’t what she said to me but it was her actions that made my decision. I am part of something special with her. She has brought out a player in me I never knew. If I ever need anything, I know she is there for me. She is like my mom up here. My mom is down in the cities so I can go to Shannon with anything. She makes me feel comfortable. She makes sure you’re okay; she really cares about us off the court and that means a lot! She has taught me to be confident, to be strong, to be independent (in a good way), guided me to do well in school. That there is more to life than basketball, and you have to go into things with a positive attitude and work to get where you want. I hope to build an even better relationship with her this year. I would love to coach by her side one day. I want to learn from her and I want to be exactly like she is so I want to continue to learn more and more from her. No matter what, I am thankful for what she has done. She has shown me how to be positive and still be a great leader. How has she created so much success? By being Shannon Nelson! Doing what she does best. She is definitely in her element here. I think this is what she was meant to do.”

Emily Hestekind
“She’s the reason I’m here.”

“I tore my ACL last year and she was such a big help! The very next day she scheduled my MRI, she was like a mom for me. She is very caring. It means everything to have her as my coach. She’s the reason I’m here. She came and watched me (in high school) and took a real interest in me; it meant so much more that she was there for me. She has taught us to never get down on ourselves over anything. I can’t picture myself playing for anyone else.”

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