Former Western Nebraska Community College women’s basketball and volleyball player Chelsea Lyles is making some noise in the NCAA Division I coaching ranks.
Lyles, who is in her 10th year as an assistant coach at Florida Gulf Coast University, was recently picked by Silver Waves Media as one of the Top 50 women’s basketball assistant coaches in the nation. Lyles said it is an honor to be recognized.
“I am very grateful for the recognition. My purpose has always been to serve this university and program to the best of my ability,” Lyles said. “This recognition is a direct reflection of our program, though. I get to work a long side some of the best coaches and players in the country. They are the one’s who made this possible.”
Lyles has made Florida her home now. But the trip to Florida has been a long one as she came to WNCC from Harrison High in Colorado Springs, Colorado, where she was a 3-sport athlete, competing in volleyball, basketball, and track and field. She was the Colorado state high jump champion.
Lyles played from 2006-08 at WNCC. She played basketball her freshman year, and then basketball and volleyball her sophomore year, helping the Cougar volleyball team to a NJCAA national title in 2007.
After WNCC, Lyles went to play at Florida Gulf Coast University where she played two years of basketball and then after her hoops career was over, she played a year of volleyball for the Eagles before becoming a student assistant for the basketball program in 2011.
Lyles said she has grown a lot over the years in her coaching at FGCU.
“I’ve grown a lot over the past 10 years,” she said. “I’ve learned so much about the value in being a great assistant. My goal is to always be growing. I’m constantly learning about more effective ways to coach, teach and relate to the generation I’m recruiting.”
Her time playing at WNCC and Florida Gulf Coast prepared her well for her coaching duties at the Division I level.
“I enjoyed my time at both places. I learned and grew up so much at WNCC,” Lyles said. “I appreciate the lessons Coach [Dave] Harnish, Coach [Chris] Green, Coach Amy [Winters] and Coach Ped [Jennifer Pedersen] taught me; they prepared me for my time at FGCU. FGCU was an amazing experience, both when it came to basketball and lifestyle. I love the sunshine and beaches, which is why I haven’t left.”
At Florida Gulf Coast, Lyles was instrumental in both basketball and volleyball over the next three years. Lyles was a two-time First Team All-ASUN selection and led the team to a 50-12 record overall and a 34-6 mark in ASUN play. As a senior, she produced double-digits in scoring 21 times and finished in the top 15 in eight different ASUN statistical categories. She was also the recipient of FGCU’s Most Outstanding Female Student-Athlete Award.
After her basketball eligibility was finished, Lyles then spent a year as a graduate student on the volleyball team in 2010, where she started all 26 matches as a middle blocker, finishing the campaign as FGCU’s leader in blocks (66), kills (205), and hitting percentage (.301).
After her playing days in volleyball, Lyles joined the FGCU basketball coaching staff after the volleyball season as a student assistant. She then was elevated to an assistant in charge of recruiting and then, most recently, has been promoted to associate head coach where her roles are pretty much anything.
“I pretty much do anything and everything,” she said. “Even though I’m not the recruiting coordinator, I still do a lot of recruiting because I love it. I do player development on and off the court. I think as an assistant, it’s so important that you’re helping these young women grow as humans as well. We are the bridge in their life that takes them from living at home to living in the real world, so I just try to do my best mentoring them as they prepare for life after college. I also organize our alumni events and camps.”
Ever since Lyles joined the FGCU family as a player and coach, the basketball team has always made the post-season, whether it was the WNIT or the NCAA tournament.
Last season, the Florida Gulf Coast was off to a tremendous season before the season was halted because of the corona virus pandemic.
“We had an outstanding season,” Lyles said. “Before our season abruptly ended, we were 30-3, headed into the conference championship game. We had huge wins over Duke, USF, South Dakota State, and the defending national champion, Notre Dame. We were ranked 24th in the WBCA coaches’ poll.”
Still, Lyles said you can’t take anything away from what Florida Gulf Coast did this past season.
“We had a great year. It was heartbreaking because we knew our ceiling was so high, and that we wanted to make some noise in the NCAA tournament, but unfortunately our season was cut short,” she said. ”Everyone was heartbroken, but we also understood the bigger picture, and we just wanted everyone to be safe.”
Lyles said that her time as a head coach gives her a greater appreciation of what her former coaches have gone through.
“Now that I’m a coach, I have a greater appreciation for my former coaches,” she said. “I had so many great coaches in my career, and that’s why I became a coach, because of the impact they had on my life. I just try to give that back to the players I coach. I know the influence coaches have in young people’s lives.”
That is why Lyles could be a good head coach. With 10 years of coaching experience under her belt, she gets the question a lot. For now, she is happy with being an assistant coach.
“I get this question a lot, and I always say my one focus is to be the best assistant coach I can be for this university and program,” she said. “If the right opportunity came, where I’m called to be a head coach, then I’ll consider it when the time comes.”