When we look back at 2020, it’s safe to say that this year will be remembered as the year of unprecedented challenges and unknowns. In her first season as an assistant coach for the Indiana Fever, April Schilling faced one of her biggest challenges yet.
Entering the WNBA bubble, better known as the “wubble”, Schilling was more than prepared to not only coach, but fulfill whatever role the team needed, and at the beginning of the season that meant stepping in as a practice player. Without guard Erica Wheeler and forward Lauren Cox, and with guard Kathleen Doyle sidelined with an ankle injury, the team was left with nine healthy players during training camp.
However, she could have never anticipated tearing her Achilles during a practice. Sidelined for the season, Schilling wore a boot during the Fever’s first four games, before returning to Indiana to have surgery.
After her surgery, it was right back to work, but this time from her couch, with her leg elevated and her laptop on her lap as she studied film and assisted through Zoom chats.
“I was still watching film on zoom and watching film with the players and giving feedback analytically, as well as scouting,” Schilling said. “It ended up being more analytics, but it helped me grow as a coach because I hadn’t had that much time to strictly spend on the stats and analytics and the different things you can pull out, so that was good for me as a coach and student of the game. I felt connected, but I missed being on the court with them.”
Since the season ended, Schilling has been in Phoenix, Arizona with her children and husband, Ed Schilling, who is an assistant basketball coach at Grand Canyon University.
As the end of the year approaches, one might think that this year might not hold the best memories for Schilling. Nonetheless, she says this year and her short time in the wubble will always hold a special place in her heart because her daughters, who joined her in the wubble got a chance to be around “strong, talented women day in and day out.”
“You know I have this picture in my phone of the girls and the team holding them up in the huddle,” Schilling said with a fond smile. “It was our last game [before we left] and that sticks out in my mind because I love what coach [Marianne Stanley] is doing. I love her philosophy and how she is with people. She cares about people, and I mention that because it’s a testament to her and the players and how they just really welcomed my girls.
“They didn’t have to. There was a lot going on. They were tired mentally and physically and yet they took the time to make an impact on some young people, and I just can’t wait to get back to that.”
As for her Achilles recovery, Schilling’s progress is strong and steady, but one thing’s for sure – she can’t wait to get back on the court and for the 2021 WNBA season to begin.
“Rehab has been going well. It is a long process.” Schilling said. “You know you take for granted just walking and different things you do all your life. For me, I just want to be able to run up and down the court, pass, rebound and train the players. That’s my end game.”