Nate Mast is royalty when it comes to basketball in Champaign-Urbana: a former Champaign high school basketball standout; an Illinois men’s basketball alumnus; and the current coach of the Parkland College men’s basketball team. Last year Mast guided the Cobras to their first trip to the DII NJCAA National Tournament in 17 years. Mast, who was inducted into the Champaign Central Hall of Fame in 2008, is married to wife Ashley, also a Champaign native. The couple has two kids, 3-year-old Nolan and 1-year-old Kendall.
See why we think Nate Mast is a Chambana dad to know.
Q: What are you most looking forward to about this upcoming season?
The great thing about coaching is that each year we are faced with the challenge of bringing a group of young men together to work for a common goal of winning a championship. What makes it exciting is that each year the challenge is different based on the group of guys you have. You truly don’t experience a successful team until the moment everyone on that team has bought into their role and puts the team ahead of everything else. This is my third year as a head coach and I feel that this group of young men is mature, skilled, talented, tough, and basketball smart. Those are key ingredients for a good team. I’m looking forward to the journey of coming together as a team and seeing what great things we can achieve together. It’s not just the wins or losses that determine our success. It’s the work we put in both on the court and in the classroom, and the memories we make along the way that will determine how successful this year was for our team.
Q: Why should we come out to see your team and Parkland sports in general?
I think the great thing about Parkland Athletics is that it’s such a close-knit family out here. I will see players from all eight teams daily in our office. Everyone knows each other out here and not just in the athletic department, but all over the college. Because everyone is so close, it’s a great environment to watch these student-athletes compete since they are like family. Another reason to come and support the Parkland teams is the track record for success. Volleyball has won conference 15 straight years and is a consistent contender for a national championship. Baseball has won the World Series twice since 2002. Women’s basketball just finished third in the nation and has been to the National Tournament three years in a row. And, hoping to add to that tradition of success, men’s basketball won a Region Championship last year and went back to the National Tournament for the first time in 17 years. Good things are happening out here and there is plenty of excitement and entertainment ahead of us.
Q: How do you juggle being a dad to your kids and a coach to your players, and do those roles sometime overlap?
This is an excellent question. I think the key, as is for most jobs, is not to bring your job home with you. Coaching really isn’t a 9-5 job, but sometimes you have to take a break from it. There is recruiting, scouting, phone calls, practice planning, etc. that goes on night after night, but I do my best to put that off when I’m with my family so it doesn’t distract my attention from them. As for the players, I think the biggest challenge to a coach is to be able to show you care for them and hold them accountable all at the same time. If your players don’t think you care about them or they think you care more about yourself than your team, there is zero chance to have a team built on trust and unselfishness. We spend a lot of time on personal development. Sometimes I think that’s even more important than player improvement. If they get better as people and teammates, then ultimately we will be better as a team. On a side note, yes, sometimes the roles do overlap. I try to teach some of the same lessons to my 3-year-old that I do to my players, and sometimes I’m sure I treat my players like they are my kids, even though they may not like it.
Q: What is your biggest parenting challenge right now?
I would probably say my biggest parenting challenge is just wanting to be around my kids more hours each day. It really fluctuates with the basketball season and the off-season. I am thankful and fortunate my wife is able to stay home with our kids so I feel relaxed that they are well taken care of, but sometimes I just want to take the day and go do something fun with them. I think more trips and vacationing is the answer and we try to make up for that when the season is over.
Q: You get a rare night out with your wife. What do you two like to do on date night in C-U?
Wow, that list could be pretty long depending on what mood we’re in. Sometimes it’s nice just to go to the bookstore and have a coffee and a conversation or even read. If we really need to let loose, there are plenty of establishments downtown we like to go to and hangout with friends. Not that we do these all the time, but I’m all for dates that include miniature golf, roller skating, and ice skating to name a few. If I had to guess a typical date, it would include a nice, long dinner and then maybe some casual shopping or even just a walk to enjoy time together without the little ones.
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