Baldwin girls start basketball practice

BALDWIN -- Baldwin girls basketball practices started this week under new coach Nikki Bergman.

Right now, only a junior varsity schedule has been posted. Baldwin didn't have enough girls for any team last year and school officials decided to try rebuilding the program starting with a JV squad.

"We'll try to build and sustain some numbers," Bergman said on Monday, prior to her first practice. "I'm hoping to have eight girls out. We'll see today when practices officially start. Quite a few will come from volleyball. We're trying to get some interest."

The schedule has 19 games which will start at 6 p.m.

"Our opponents will schedule someone else for varsity," Bergman said.

She said the West Michigan D League has given its OK to have seniors on a JV team.

"We do have a couple of upperclassmen who signed up to play," she said. "I'm not sure if they're going to come since there's some disappointment there isn't varsity."

Because most of the players will be freshmen and sophomores, Bergman indicated the reason for having just JV is giving the program time to rebuild.

Bergman, a standout athlete at Tri County High School, accepted a teaching position at Baldwin over the summer and was also appointed as the new varsity girls basketball and middle school volleyball coach.

She graduated in 2001 from Tri County where she played basketball, volleyball and softball, plus one season of track. She was all-conference and all-area in athletics.

After high school, Bergman went to Tri-State University, which is now Trine and played basketball there and earned all-conference honors. She received a Bachelor's degree in physical education.

When Bergman graduated, she was top 10 in scoring and rebounding in school history.

After college, Bergman coached as an assistant one year at Trine and then got a job in Hammond in northwest Indiana, where she spent 11 seasons. She was a health and physical education teacher. She was a varsity basketball coach four years at Hammond and a varsity assistant six seasons in Highland.

Baldwin has struggled with girls basketball numbers in the past. The Panthers did not have a varsity team last season and athletic officials are looking to have a JV team for 2019-20 to work toward bringing back a varsity squad.

"When I interviewed for the teaching job, we really didn't talk about the coaching position," Bergman said during the summer. "I said I would be interested in coaching and they knew my coaching background. That came a little bit later. I am aware the numbers are low and they wanted to do a JV schedule. They said they had a pretty decent middle school program. They're hoping the girls will come out and build on that.

"The struggles of building a program are something I'm familiar with. I guess I won't know what to expect until school starts and they can see me in the halls and in the gym. It will be good I can meet kids in an athletic setting."