“She’s kind of got an intimidating face, but in the end, she’s got a soft heart,” senior, Alyssa Thompson said of Winnebago’s coach, Judy Krause.
“It looks like she’s, ‘Oh, she’s very tough,’ but she has like a really soft heart,” added senior, Drew Pendzinski.
Coach Judy Krause has been Winnebago’s girls basketball coach for the last 30 years, where she’s continuously put her team on the map.
Krause earned her 500th career win earlier this season. She was honored for the milestone with a memento, and surprised by former players. However, Krause says the milestone isn’t all that important to her – she just wants to know her kids played well.
“I guess I’m the type of coach who doesn’t dictate as much,” Krause said. “I want them to be able to control their destiny, and so to be able to see what we do in practice transfer over to a game, that’s what’s the most important thing. The 500 – that was really nice, I’m certainly not the person that likes to have the honor or the fame or the glory or whatever.”
Krause’s love for the sport began as a child, and eventually led her to play for Northern Illinois. Majoring in education, she put her two passions for teaching and basketball together, allowing her to start her career at Winnebago.
What’s kept her coaching after all these years?
“I really enjoy the players, and by players, I mean like, there are certain characteristics of a kid who’s an athlete,” Krause explained. “I always enjoy seeing where they start and where they can finish.”
There was a small gap during Krause’s coaching career, when she decided to take a three-year break during 1998 and 2001, to take care of her newborn daughter and 6-year-old son. With the support of her husband, Krause did return to the gym, where she says her kids grew up during every practice.
“I always thought with having my kids in the gym, at least I knew where they were and they were safe and they’d get to run around and they learn a little bit of what it [takes to] be part of a team or group,” Krause said.
Throughout her time coaching, Krause’s seen girls basketball grow more competitive.
“It’s just fun to see that the gap isn’t as great between boys and girls,” Krause said. “I mean, girls can do the exact same thing boys can do, and it shows out on the floor, so that’s fun to see.”
Throughout the years, Krause’s teams have gone through lots of ups and downs, but perhaps one of the highest points in her career was in 1992, when her team finished in 3rd place at state. A group that had played together since 4th grade, Krause says she still keeps in touch with the players through social media.
“A former player who, she has her Facebook Live goin’ of her son playing, so that’s a really neat thing,” Krause explained. “Another girl, a mom, who her daughter got a scholarship to play volleyball in college, so those are really neat things to just get to see a little bit of what’s going on in their lives.”
Fast forward to today’s team, Krause says she’s pleasantly surprised with how successful the team has been so far. Filled with young players like Miyah Brown and Renne Rittmeyer, Krause continues to see growth on the court.
“They’re an unselfish group,” Krause said. “They’re very much committed to being the best they can as a team. They’re just a really nice group of kids that [work] really hard and they’re very competitive, so this has been a really fun year.”
“Coach is always trying to push us hard, and she knows that we’re a good team, but she has to just keep pushing us and never let us get too big of a head,” Thompson said.
Given Krause’s close relationships with both her past and present players, on top of the wisdom and expertise gained throughout the years, the respect she gets in return comes as no surprise.
“Everyone looks up to her and not as a mom, but she’s someone to go to when times are tough and she’s like a great coach,” Pendzinski said.
Krause doesn’t take any of it for granted either.
“I’m a firm believer that you have to give respect in order to get respect,” Krause explained. “I think that’s in the field of education. We all learned that a long time ago, that I’m not any better than they are and they’re all trying their very hardest and so I’m going to do the same on my end.”
So how much longer does Krause see herself coaching?
“Every year, since I’ve started coaching, I take it year by year,” Krause admitted. “I have never gone out and said ‘Ooh, I can’t wait ’til that class shows up.’ That’s ridiculous, so I just go by the season and then after the season, a lot of contemplation, some prayer, and see what’s going to happen.”