Mary Chrnelich Nellen


by Jennifer Tomazic

MILWAUKEE -- Mary Chrnelich Nellen has made a name for herself in the basketball world, most recently hosting workouts for young girls. Don't call them clinics.

"We say not a clinic because we don't have doctors and we're not a camp because we don't have tents," said Chrnelich Nellen.

But what they do have at One on One Teaching Hoops are athletes. For $20 at the door, any 6,7,8,or 9 grade girl can attend one of Chrnelich Nellen's work outs in the summer and play a couple games a week.

"I don't want to teach kids plays right away. My goal is to teach them how to just play. Teach them the basics, the fundamentals," said Chrnelich Nellen.

"My ball handling has improved a lot and I've gotten a lot of confidence in myself and I can do things I never thought I could do before," said incoming freshman Allison Fochs.

Chrnelich Nellen sees a lot of players like Allison who are young but have already gotten comfortable in one position. So during the weekly workout, Mary pushes them to hone in on their weakest skills.

"You're encouraged to make mistakes," said Chrnelich Nellen. "When Allison finally bought into my system of trying things she just exploded."

Now Allison is equipped to play any position when she starts school in the fall. So is her buddy, Erin Gifford.

"I think it's great how she tries to get to know everybody who does her program and learn everybody's name and tries to get a real personal connection with everyone," said Erin.

Some connections have stood the test of time. Shawna Nicholes played under Chrnelich Nellen when she was younger and she's come back from playing professional basketball in Europe to help out with Chrnelich Nellen's workouts.

"She's like my basketball mom," said Nicholes. "Her and her philosophy, basketball alone, have transformed my life."

Chrnelich Nellen has a pretty impressive basketball resume: she was on the first Pius High School girls basketball team that won the state title, she played college ball at Kansas, and even played a year with a professional women's team in Chicago.

But Chrnelich Nellen doesn't focus on her past but rather the future of the sport.

"It's more about empowering these young girls and showing them that you can do this. You can play hard and you can be strong, tough, and rough but at the end of the day, you're still a good person," said Chrnelich Nellen.

Her One on One Teaching Hoops program is fairly new and from last year to this year, it has triple in size.


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