New Blaine girls basketball coach receives NCAA Inspiration Award


New Blaine girls basketball  coach Gracie Phelps received the 2023 NCAA Inspiration Award on January 11 in San Antonio following a national runner-up season for the Western Washington University (WWU) Vikings. 

“I just felt extremely honored and humbled to be around such incredible and inspiring people,” Phelps said about the experience.

Phelps said she found out she was being honored with the award through her coach Carmen Dolfo, who also connected her with the Blaine job. 

“So many things have happened for me because of my college coach,” Phelps said.

After redshirting her freshman year, Phelps played basketball for the Vikings from 2017 to 2022. In her final season, the Vikings made it to the NCAA Division II national championship, losing to Glenville State 85-72. Phelps started in both the semifinal and championship game. Over her five-year career, she played in 126 games, earning 46 starts and averaging 5.9 points, 1.7 assists and 2.7 rebounds per game.

Phelps took on the Blaine coaching job before graduating from WWU in December 2022. With four regular season games left to play, the team has an overall record of 3-13 so far this season.

“Every win has been huge,” she said. 

Phelps said her goal for the rest of the season is for the team to have fun, work hard, have a positive attitude and find ways to motivate each other.

Phelps graduated from Arlington High School in 2016. During her time there, the Eagles made it to the state tournament all four years and to the championship game twice, in both 4A and 3A divisions.

Phelps said part of her job is reining in her competitiveness. She said when games aren’t going their way she often feels like she needs to change tactics, but that the team’s development depends on consistency and repetition. She also said it’s been a difficult adjustment getting to know the team while not being a teacher at the school. 

Phelps said she’s proud of how hard her team works.

“They want to learn and they want to be better,” she said. “That’s all I can really ask for as their coach. That makes it fun to coach.”

Phelps said her assistant coach John Pope, who she’s known since she was in fifth grade and has been coaching with for a year now, has offered her support. Last spring, Phelps coached Whatcom Middle School’s girls basketball team with Pope. She has also worked boys and girls basketball youth camps through WWU.

Phelps double majored in multidisciplinary studies and elementary education at WWU and received a minor in multilingual education. 

The NCAA Inspiration Award honors an athlete or coach who used perseverance, dedication and determination to overcome a life-altering situation and become role models, giving hope and inspiration to others.

More of Phelps’ story can be found on the NCAA’s website at


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