Feb. 1, 2010
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It's a rare off day in the middle of the season for the women's basketball team. It's a day for the players to focus on schoolwork and get away from the game, but Vanderbilt senior guard Merideth Marsh can't get away from the sport, and she doesn't want to. Marsh has basketball running through her body, and there's nowhere the Louisville, Ky., native would rather be than in a gym.
Marsh has spent countless hours honing her own jump shot in the gym, but on many of the team's off days, Marsh is more focused on someone else's jump shot. Since her sophomore year at Vanderbilt, Marsh has provided instructional coaching to local girls basketball players once or twice a week.
The opportunity to work one-on-one with kids feeds Marsh's passion for coaching. It's a passion that Marsh hopes to turn into a career after her playing days are over.
"People just have things they are good at, and I'm good at basketball and know it like the back of my hand," Marsh said. "I have a passion for the sport, and it gets me excited to help people understand more about basketball."
Marsh's interest in coaching is what has taken her back to Louisville every summer since her freshman year to help run a basketball camp at her high school, Christian Academy.
"I definitely just want to get my hands in there and get all the coaching experience I can," Marsh said.
Marsh's interest in coaching is not lost on Vanderbilt's players and coaches. In a preseason survey for the team's 2009-10 media guide, all of the team's returning players besides Marsh herself selected Marsh as the player who would be the best coach.
Even Vanderbilt's freshmen have learned of Marsh's desire to coach and have seen Marsh go out of her way to assist them.
"Merideth has really helped me a lot," freshman guard Gabby Smith said. "She really helped me understand the game more. I came here thinking I was a smart basketball player, but I quickly learned that there is a lot to learn, and Merideth definitely helped me with understanding concepts and thinking about how to play certain situations."
The understanding Marsh has of the game is something that stands out to Head Coach Melanie Balcomb.
"I think she is someone who really studies the game and has a good understanding of the game," Balcomb said. "She sees things on the floor that a lot of other kids don't see."
Marsh came to Vanderbilt with a thorough understanding of the game, but the difference between what she knew then and what she knows now is night and day.
"When I came out of high school, I thought I knew a lot about basketball, but then you get here and you learn the ins and outs of the game and whole scheme that is different from high school," Marsh said.
Something that Marsh believes has given her an advantage in learning how to coach has been her experience playing point guard -- a position she played in high school and primarily her first few years of college.
"I think it helps because as a point guard you have to know every position on the floor, and you have to be able to lead people vocally," Marsh said. "As a point guard, you have the ball in your hands and you run the show just like if you are a head coach, you run the show."
By taking on more of a viewpoint of a coach, Marsh has a tendency to look at things more closely than needed at times.
"I definitely will overanalyze things," Marsh said. "It is something I've gotten a lot better with. My freshman year, I'd ask a ton of questions just because I like to know. Coach (Balcomb) will tell me not to think as much and just play and react, and I think I've gotten a lot better at that."
Marsh has also gotten better as a player on the court. Each year, her scoring output has increased. Last year she earned second team All-SEC honors after averaging 10.7 points per game. Marsh's growth on the court may end up being the only thing that slows her down from immediately getting into coaching after graduation. Because of her play, she may be afforded an opportunity to play overseas.
"I want to try to go play overseas first and then come back and get into coaching college basketball," Marsh said. "I want to coach Division I, and it's obviously going to take time for me to get to that level."
In the meantime, Marsh's coaching opportunities will be limited to her work with area youth, as well as chances to lead Vanderbilt's young team.
"You can see on the court how smart she is," Smith said. "She knows what she is doing and she is very confident, so you would almost be crazy not to trust her."