Raegan Pebley still wears heels at 6-foot-3. The courtside attire of the TCU women’s basketball coach often consists of feminine blouses, dresses or pencil skirts – a look that the team’s administrative assistant, Jodi Christian, describes as “classic and understated.”
But if you ask Pebley how she describes her style, she has difficulty finding the words. Perhaps that’s because, for Pebley, beauty isn’t defined by how a person dresses, but by who a person is.
“I think the way our girls dress in a game – that is beautiful,” she said. “I think the way they play is beautiful. If I could be wearing that uniform instead of stilettos and whatever, I would choose that outfit any day.”
Pebley gets her love of coaching from her father, a basketball coach himself, who would tell his six children to “do something that you love.” That message stuck with Pebley, who went on to play for the University of Colorado from 1994-1997. She was later selected as the 21st overall pick in the first-ever WNBA Draft in 1997, becoming one of the first basketball players of the league during its inaugural year. Pebley spent two years in the WNBA, playing for the Cleveland Rockers and the Utah Starzz (now known as the San Antonio Stars), before leaving to pursue a career in coaching.
Pebley would coach at George Mason, Colorado State, Utah State and Fresno State before landing at TCU in 2014. She brought a new philosophy to the team, known as CLIMB – C stands for Collective Commitment, meaning to stay committed to one’s teammates and the basketball program as a whole; L stands for Learn to Lead, or discovering one’s leadership capabilities; I stands for Invest, putting time and effort into schoolwork and relationships; M is for Mental Toughness, or “being excellent at controlling the controllables” and “not getting distracted by uncontrollables”; and B is for Believe, or putting faith into what one is doing.
“That final whistle, when it blows for a woman, can be an identity crisis, and you don’t know who you are without the game,” Pebley said. “What we try to really stress to [the players] is basketball is not who you are – it’s what you do with who you are.”
The CLIMB philosophy is especially important for the team this season, she says. Last year, the Frogs were solid, finishing with an 18-15 record and winning two games in the Women’s NIT. But after losing senior stars like Zahna Medley and Veja Hamilton, the Frogs entered the 2016-2017 season as one of the youngest teams in the Big 12, having six freshmen and just two seniors on the roster. With such a young team, the Frogs’ season was less than ideal.
Still, Pebley says this season has been about learning the process – focusing on the details that separate a win from a loss and mastering those details. But, like everything else, it takes time.
“That’s a strong message for a young team to learn, that the details are the separators between good and great,” Pebley said.
There’s another philosophy Pebley says she wants to instill in her team – the idea that “strong is beautiful.” She talks to her team about personal branding and carrying oneself in a way that shows confidence and personality, especially when leaving college to enter the workforce or professional playing arena. Athletic director Chris Del Conte, known for his distinctive purple suits at games, is in on it as well, offering a program that fits student athletes with professional attire like blazers and pantsuits in preparation for job interviews.
“People are already getting an impression of you before they meet you, and is that going to match when they actually physically meet you? We extend that conversation not just to attire, but to body language, to their social media,” she said.
But the idea that “strong is beautiful” isn’t just for the players. It’s for Pebley, too.
“Clothes don’t make the person,” she said. “When somebody walks into a room, and they’re confident in yoga tights and a baggy t-shirt, that can be just as beautiful as somebody in the most high-end outfit.”