By Braedan Shea
As the game clock inside Springfield College’s Blake Arena expired on March 27, it ended another successful New England Women’s Basketball Association (NEWBA) Senior All Star Game Classic.
A multitude of players and enthusiastic spectators made their way to center court.
Amid the sea of people and the colorful arrangement of jerseys, the arena was buzzing. The energy was high and joyful, as everyone involved connected with each other – including the players, who, despite having been opponents for four years, were enjoying time with these familiar faces for what may be the last times.
It was beautiful – a powerful and poetic way to end a strong collegiate career.
And none of this would have been possible without the extraordinary leadership of a very influential person: Michelle Lee Scecina.
Scecina has seemingly always been a leader, first introduced as a student at Springfield in the mid-90s. As a member of the women’s basketball team, she established herself as one of the greatest players in college history. being the only Springfield player to end her career with both 1,000 points and 1,000 rebounds. She was named to the Eastern Collegiate Athletic Conference (ECAC) All-Region Team as a junior in 1995–96, and to the NEWBA Senior All-Star Team the following year.
After graduating in 1997, Scecina decided she wanted to take her leadership skills and apply them to something else: teaching physical education.
After a two-year stint as an elementary school physical education teacher in the town of Springfield, she learned that it just wasn’t for her. She was looking for something more. So she decided to return to Springfield College as a graduate student where she could become a coach, as a graduate assistant coach alongside head women’s basketball coach Naomi Graves.
During her time on the sidelines, she helped Pride win two NEWMAC championships, including a record campaign in 2002 where Springfield set the program’s most wins in a season with 25, and reached the semi-finals. NCAA Division III regional championships.
Scecina graduated again in 2001 and returned to teaching – this time at Minnechaug High School – while also remaining Graves’ assistant. Although she enjoys teaching high school more than elementary school, she realizes that what she really wants is to become the head coach of women’s basketball at the college level. In 2004, she finally got the opportunity she was looking for.
“I was an assistant coach for another year after the GA and then I had the opportunity to work at Mount Holyoke College with the coach who was there at the time, whom I met during ‘a camp,” Scecina said. “Two years later she left and I was the head coach there.”
Once he became head coach at Mount Holyoke, Scecina enjoyed immediate success. In her first year at the helm, she led the team to a NEWMAC regular season title in 2004-05. After that season, in 2005-06, she guided the Lions to victory over perennial powerhouse Emmanuel College in the ECAC Division. III New England Championship, while setting a new program record for wins in a season with 23.
She topped that by being named NEWMAC Coach of the Year the following season, after leading the Lyonnais to their first-ever NEWMAC championship. With their 51-46 win over WPI in the league title game, they also earned a berth in the NCAA Division III National Tournament for the first time in program history.
But big success wasn’t the only thing she took away from training. It helped her become who she is today.
“It was a great learning experience for me, I grew up in a suburb of Boston and then came to Springfield, which is predominantly white, and I just hadn’t had diversity in my life at that time. time,” she said. “At Mount Holyoke I got to experience a lot, learn a lot, I hope to educate a lot of people in all aspects of life, whether it’s mentoring my student-athletes on my team or working with d other colleagues and different departments, I grew a lot during this time. I learned a lot from that experience at a women-only liberal arts college.
It was also during this time that she, along with her longtime friend Nicole Chaszar, became co-president of the NEWBA organization.
“The NEWBA game happened my early years,” she said. “I had sent some of my senior players there, but one year we just didn’t get any information about it. I asked a friend of mine who was coaching in the west from New England: “Have you seen anything about the NEWBA all-star game? What about seniors? I have one I’d like to pitch,” and we found out that the person running it didn’t have more time. They said, ‘We’re not going to have the game this year, but if you want to take it back, feel free.’ So I said ‘Well, I guess we’ll take over.’
The two are still leading the organization 15 years later. They’ve improved it since taking over the reins, adding weekly awards such as Player of the Week and Rookie of the Week, so players can get the recognition they deserve.
Scecina remained Mount Holyoke’s head coach until the winter of 2018 when she finally passed the torch to Jackie Ward. After this final season, Scecina has returned to the place she knows best: Springfield College.
“(It’s) hard to put into words, but if you had to put it into one thing, it’s the people. It’s the students, colleagues, graduates, faculty and staff – it’s the people with who we interact with every day,” she said.
Her return came in 2018 when she was named assistant athletic director for student-athlete enhancement, later taking on a new compliance role in fall 2020. Her primary role is to ensure student- Athletes are familiar with NCAA institutional policies and procedures and roles, as well as ensuring teams follow all of them. She also handles roster management and eligibility, to name just a few aspects of her job.
Scecina accredits her leadership because of her aspirations, as well as her past experiences, and wants to make sure she can use her life experiences to help anyone in need.
“I like the idea of being able to help young people, whether in their field or their sport, and to be able to contribute to their experience. My leadership comes from the fact that I learned a lot from my mentors – people who were in positions to be able to help me (…) Even the former athletic director here, Cathie Schweitzer – saw a female athletic director and thought that I can do it. Being able to give back too. I had a great experience and I really care about our students and student-athletes,” Scecina said.
“People have that energy, and seeing that makes me want to help them.”
Photo: Springfield College Archives