Contributing Expertise Creates Town-Gown Bridge: PhD Candidate Sarah Grieve—Model Citizen


When poet, athlete, and aspiring scholar Sarah Grieve, the 2013-2014 Katharine C. Turner Dissertation Fellow, moved to Arizona in 2010, she looked for ways to make town-gown connections at the same time as she started her course work towards her PhD. As a former Division I basketball player, she had spent five years as an undergraduate athlete practicing rebounding, running fast breaks, and making left-handed hook shots, skills she knew weren’t needed in PhD studies, but might be welcomed by a high school women’s basketball team as a volunteer assistant coach.

As an athlete, Grieve herself had numerous coaches and supporters who donated their time to help her train. One coach in particular designed and oversaw her training during the off season, not for any personal gain, but simply because Grieve had asked for help in reaching her athletic goals. That coach gave Grieve far more than athletic training. “Looking back,” Grieve muses, “I realize that it was his support and encouragement just as much as his expertise that shaped me as an athlete and as a person. I also know that even though Title IX has made a significant impact on women’s collegiate athletics (I probably wouldn’t have received a scholarship without it), women are especially in need of opportunities and role models in their everyday lives. I thought, I can dedicate a few hours a week to being that woman for high school athletes in Gilbert, which is the community I live in now.”

Three seasons, hundreds of practices, and about 60 players later, Grieve says, “One of the best decisions I ever made was emailing the head women’s basketball coach of the Wildcats at Mesquite High School and asking if she could use a volunteer post coach.” Grieve began in 2010 by attending the team’s practices once or twice a week, but soon, dubbed “Coach G” by the team, she was in the gym 5 days a week during the season. Grieve is the first to acknowledge that it was an unlooked-for boon to contribute to the team’s development, and to witness the vitality, dedication, and love for a game that she helped to shape.

“The girls ask me when they can call me Dr. Coach, and I hope that having a woman in their lives who is receiving a PhD widens the scope of what they think they can someday achieve.” A model citizen, Grieve represents both the fruits and the seeds of “giving forward.”

—The Editors

Photo: Sarah Grieve poses with members of the Mesquite High Wildcats basketball team (photo courtesy Sarah Grieve).

Field of daffodils background image from A. M. Kirby, Daffodils, Narcissus, and How to Grow Them as Hardy Plants and for Cut Flowers, with a Guide to the Best Varieties (1907). After Wordsworth.