Bolkema comfortable in the background at Illinois State | Cambridge News

Always a bonus when those who are hauling the freight (sometimes literally) get a shout-out or, in this case, a nice feature in the local paper. Here’s a salute to Katie Bolkema, Director of Operations for Illinois State Women’s Basketball.

Katie (Ehlen) Bolkema can be found sitting in the first chair of the Illinois State University women’s basketball team bench during any home or road game.

As the Director of Operations for the program, not only does the Cambridge native help coach the Redbirds, but she plans all the behind-the-scenes aspects that help the program run smoothly in and out of season.

“There’s a lot of parts that I absolutely love about my job. Getting to work with 12-13 Division I athletes, being a mentor toward them,” Bolkema said she enjoyed about the job. “I can still coach in my own way. I’m always trying to help them out, whether it is with school or life. I think that’s the most rewarding part of my job.”

Bolkema, a 2009 graduate of Cambridge High School, is in her third season in the position with ISU. She graduated with a Master’s degree in sports management while working as a graduate assistant with the event management staff.

After spending some time back at UW-La Crosse as an assistant women’s basketball coach and athletic event coordinator, she applied to the Director of Basketball Operations position and worked her first year under then-head coach Barb Smith.

As with any staffing change, all positions within the program can fluctuate. Head coach Kristen Gillespie kept Bolkema on staff, and the change in the dynamics around the team are much different.

“My first year here, it was kind of a do-or-die situation where they needed to win,” Bolkema said. “Coming into the program (in my second year) and reboot it, there was a lot more flexibility.”

Bolkema is responsible for managing the budget, travel and marketing of the program along with compliance, eligibility and coordinating the nutrition of the athletes.

Bolkema also works with opposing teams to set up the arrival schedule and make sure everything runs smoothly on the day of the game.

“One day, I could be the co-CEO of the program, and the next day, I could be the janitor,” Bolkema said.

Read the entire article at the Cambridge News.

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