BVU Women’s Basketball Coach Last Season After 26 Years


Ella Wiebusch, Contributing Writer

For Buena Vista University (BVU) Women’s Basketball Head Coach Janet Berry, Senior Night was nothing short of spectacular. After erasing a 13-point 4th quarter deficit to take the win, Berry’s “Disney-Movie” day was fulfilled.

“I don’t think I can really put it into words, but I’ll tell you what, I’ll remember last night’s game for a really long time. It was a classic Disney story. It started off well, we played poorly during the beginning of the game, and the team rallied for the win; it ended up being a really great day and an awful special memory,” said Berry.

Growing up in an athletic family, Berry knew her whole life she wanted to be a coach and a teacher. Although her mother passed away early in Berry’s life, she gave her two things.

“My mom gave me my competitive spirit and the love of sports in general,” said Berry. “It’s never been about basketball, it was always about coaching.”

Following 26 years as the Head Coach, Berry will be stepping down from her position and taking up the role of Head Women’s Golf Coach. Berry has actually coached multiple sports besides basketball, including volleyball, softball, tennis, and golf, and helped coach volleyball at BVU for three years as well.

“I’m a coach because I love being around the players,” said Berry. “I don’t necessarily love the game of basketball; I love the people and relationships I form. It’s all about the relationships for me.”

While basketball may not be her favorite sport, she will miss the intensity and adrenaline rush on the sideline during the game. “It certainly won’t be like that during golf,” joked Berry. 

After watching players grow and develop, Berry felt that it was time to move on. When the golf position came open, she worked with administration to put together a couple of part time positions.

“If you had told me this was going to happen in September, I would never have guessed it,” said Berry. “But when the opportunity came in November, I thought it was the right time for me.”

Berry feels her successor, and current Assistant Coach, Dana Christen will do a great job leading the program.

“My advice for her would be to keep your perspective,” shares Berry. “What happens doesn’t define you. If you have a bad game, it doesn’t mean you’re a bad coach. Maintain that work-life balance and keep a positive mindset. I think I’ve been able to show her over the years how to be both a coach and a mom.” 

Coach Christen, an eight year assistant to Berry, began her career in South Sioux City before moving to Milwaukee, Wisconsin, then Newell Fonda in Iowa, and finally settling at BVU.  

“I have loved basketball ever since I was little,” shared Christen. “I played college ball at Briar Cliff University and also tried out for overseas basketball after graduation.”

Influenced by great coaches, including Coach Berry, she has developed a passion for coaching; being able to see all the young ladies grow up and move into their adult lives is something she cherishes. 

As future Head Coach, Christen aims to continue to evolve the program and develop what Coach Berry has established in her past 26 years.

“Developing the program is knowing who you are and staying true to your core values, knowing the kinds of kids you want to recruit and what your program is about,” adds Berry.

Christen aims to keep that vision in check. Both coaches feel they have been blessed with their opportunities, and are grateful for the support from the entire BVU community.  

“I will definitely miss Coach Berry for her spirit and love for the game and players,” said Christen. “She has certainly pushed me to be my best and I appreciate all that she has done for both myself and the program. I have grown to be a passionate coach who cares for my players and wants the best for them. I want to win and consider myself a motivator for that.” 

As both coaches step into new roles, their goals for each program’s future are the same. Coach Christen wants to keep BVU in the running year in and year out for the Conference Championship.

“I want to bring energy and enthusiasm to the Women’s Basketball program,” expressed Christen.

Likewise, Berry also aims to take home a Conference Championship.

“We have a couple of really good golfers in our program right now, and so trying to get a couple more kids to see what we can do is the goal,” said Berry. 

In looking back on her career, Berry expressed feeling blessed to have spent 26 years at the same college and having Head Men’s Coach Brian Van Haften as an amazing colleague to work alongside. Berry is looking forward to the slower pace of golf and more time with family.

“This has been a really fun group,” said Berry. “They care a lot about each other and work well as a unit. As a coach, it’s fun to be on a team like that. I told them after Senior Night that I couldn’t have had a better group to go out with. It just felt right to go out with them.”  

Coach Christen is ready to step into her new role and lead the team to new heights.

“I am super excited for this opportunity and feel very blessed!” says Christen.  

“Coach Berry offered years of experience to this program,” says junior guard McKenna Whitehill. “She has got after me more than a couple times, but it has always been in my best interest as a player. She has challenged me and pushed me to become the best player and person I can be both on and off the court. We will miss Coach Berry next year but the team is also excited for the new perspectives that Coach Christen will bring to the program.”