Ruth Lovelace is “Coach Love” at Boys & Girls High, Brooklyn
Brooklyn’s Bedford-Stuyvesant section is an inner-city neighborhood. Poverty and crime are all too prevalent. Kids often come from single-parent families in which one parent has walked out. Some kids are even raised by parents in other families altogether. And on a cold, quiet winter night, you can only hope that your apartment has enough heat.
Amidst this hardship there is one person who is making a difference in the Bed-Stuy community: Ruth Lovelace, boys’ basketball coach at Boys & Girls High School. She has kept the school on the city’s basketball map since 1994 when she was named boys’ basketball coach by former Principal, Frank Mickens. Lovelace is the only female head coach to lead an “AA” boys’ team in the PSAL.
Before she was hired as coach, Lovelace worked at Boys & Girls as a physical education teacher. While conducting his search for a head coach, Principal Mickens asked Lovelace to help review the many applicants for the job. She brought him her feedback, but, initially, she was never asked whether she would be interested in the job herself. Then, one day, an announcement was heard on the school’s public address system; Lovelace asked her class to take a knee. When her name was mentioned, her class applauded. She later went to speak to Mickens, who told her, “You would be a great person for this job. You would push kids to be good kids.”
Lovelace has seen plenty of success since being named head coach in the fall of 1994. The team has earned a spot in the PSAL playoffs each year since her appointment. The team also has made it to the “AA” finals in each of the last two seasons, but was bested both times by division rival Lincoln H.S.
It is now the time of year when colleges are experiencing “March Madness” on their basketball courts, but New York City high schools are suffering from their own version of playoff fever. Boys & Girls (13-3) recently won early round games to advance to the PSAL semi-finals, and they are scheduled to play their nemesis, Lincoln, in an upcoming game. Although Lincoln is led by senior Lance Stephenson, arguably the best high school player in the city, Boys & Girls won its home game against them in January.
Lovelace’s on-court success has been tremendous, but her commitment to her players off the court and in the classroom sets her apart. She holds a study hall before practice, where tutors are available. Players can utilize the computer lab to do homework or brush up on their computer skills. Players also attend a mandatory pre-SAT course, which recently received additional funding to keep it going. Her efforts are paying off: three players already have the minimum scores required for college entry.
Coach Lovelace isn’t after the talented player who wants to coast through school. She is after the player who is willing to commit to being the complete package: a true student-athlete.
Clayton Sterling, a starting guard on last year’s team, graduated high school and currently plays for the University of Toledo. “He really made me proud,” said Lovelace. He is keeping up his grades at Toledo and is a productive contributor to his team.
Coach Lovelace says that her satisfaction comes from knowing that boys like Sterling can achieve their dreams. She wants to see boys grow into men who can have careers and “become husbands”.
Growing up, Lovelace played basketball at Boys & Girls and went on to Hilbert College, where she became a Junior College All-American. She credits her coach, Sal Buscaglia, who now coaches at Robert Morris University, with giving her support and encouragement. She later played at Seton Hall University and thanks her coach, Phyllis Mangina, for being a mentor for her.
Now, Lovelace gives back to her community and school, and has earned the nickname that her players once gave her: Coach Love.#