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Women Bisnow
May 1, 2008


This issue of Washington Women is presented by
Reznick Group:
"Building Business Value"


By Karin Tanabe for Bisnow on Business


Juggling has become the official sport of working mothers. And for Brenda Frese, a mother working in sports, juggling has become an art. Turnaround sensation and Head Coach of the University of Maryland’s women’s basketball team since 2002, Frese, who led the Lady Terps to a 2006 NCAA Championship, gave birth to twin boys on February 17th. “I worked all the way until I went into labor and then took six days of maternity leave. The Sunday after I delivered was the last home game for our seniors. I recruited that class so I wanted to be there, but it was excruciating.”


In 2002, Frese came to UMD after earning AP National Coach of the Year and Big Ten Coach of the Year for her work at Minnesota. There she took an 8-20 program to a 22-8 record in her first year, the biggest turnaround act in the history of women’s basketball. “I’ve really loved the challenge of turning programs around. It takes high energy and enthusiasm. I was never afraid of the hard work or the negative situation.”


There’s a dirty six-letter word in competitive sports: Injury. It can shatter a lifelong dream in seconds. While at Arizona State on a basketball scholarship, Frese underwent five foot surgeries and was unable to play her senior year. Her injuries sparked her coaching career: She joined the Pima Community College coaching staff in Tucson and then moved to Kent State to earn a master's while serving as assistant coach. There Frese learned how to turn a team around, which she did at Ball State as well before heading to Minnesota, then Maryland.


A pregnant Frese coaching Kristi Toliver. During the season she sat in a leather office chair with limited movement while assistant coach Daron Park took on a more active role.


Known for her exuberance, Frese didn’t travel to away games during the last two months of her pregnancy. “I thought my surgeries in college were painful but carrying twins was so hard, it just zapped my energy. I’m an active coach on the sidelines and to have that diminish was frustrating. The last two months were incredibly painful. One flight of stairs to the bedroom was like Mt. Everest. I had a bulging disk and was totally dependent on my husband. I couldn’t put my shoes on, get dressed, so many basic things.”


Coach B, as players affectionately call her, with the Lady Terps’ two biggest fans. Frese and husband Mark Thomas had been trying to have children for a couple years with two unsuccessful attempts at in vitro fertilization. When Frese became pregnant, the entire team, program and Maryland’s athletic director, also a woman, were behind her unconcerned that her delivery date fell during the season. (Pictures courtesy of University of Maryland Media Relations/Greg Fiume)


When Frese realized she was having twins, her husband, an Emmy Award-winning TV producer, decided to focus on his family. “Having a job at a top-five program, you have to have support. He had worked with the US men’s soccer team and did their videography. After they finished the World Cup he decided to concentrate on our growing family. I am blessed and fortunate, I couldn’t do what’s required without him.” At home and on the court, Frese says, “it’s a team effort.”

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