In the corporate world, culture is often thrown around as a weightless buzzword. For a college athletics program, however, establishing a culture is more than just casual jargon.

Jennie Baranczyk, head coach of the Drake women’s basketball team, understands that building and maintaining a team’s culture are often the difference between success and a decline into failure.

“With every player we recruit and bring onto our team, we look for the same passion and commitment from everyone,” said Baranczyk. “We look for people that love what they do, they have a love for basketball, a love for competition, and a love for Drake, and when we’re finding people who fit that, success will find you.”

Baranczyk, a Des Moines native, attended Dowling Catholic High School before playing on the women’s basketball team at the University of Iowa, where she was named to the First Team All-Big Ten in 2003. Following her playing career, Baranczyk would receive her first coaching job as an assistant at Kansas State University before moving on to assistant coaching positions at Marquette University and Colorado University. In 2012, she was named head coach at Drake University in a move that put her back full circle to her hometown.

“I’ve been really fortunate to have a lot of role models in this community, including two parents who are very strong — my dad at Principal, my mom at Mercy — and was lucky to play for great coaches like Bob and Sharon Hanson at Dowling,” said Baranczyk. “Since I have been at Drake, (athletic director) Sandy Hatfield-Clubb has been a tremendous supporter of everything we’re trying to accomplish.”

For Baranczyk’s teams, the accomplishments don’t all come on the court, either. She boasts that since she arrived at her position, players and coaches have combined to complete 1,000 community service hours per year. The team also earned the ninth-highest GPA of any NCAA Division I women’s basketball program during the 2016-17 school year. 

The team Baranczyk inherited in 2012 finished with an 11-20 record but has steadily grown during her tenure, finishing 28-5 and winning the Missouri Valley Conference’s regular season and tournament championship. Baranczyk credits the progress to her experiences at different levels of playing and coaching.

“I think any time you move up a seat (on the bench) you see things in a different capacity,” said Baranczyk. “We want to be very intentional about our culture and how we build that. Last year, we did what hadn’t been done, and this city has embraced the kind of culture we are aiming for.”

Three Areas of Influence

  • Playing as a Division I basketball player at the University of Iowa.
  • Serving in multiple coaching positions around the country before returning as head coach at Drake and winning the 2017 Missouri Valley Conference tournament.
  • Encouraging players to volunteer and study hard.