When she was 5, Jodi Stanley went to Casper (Wyo.) College with her father.
It was her first time in a city bigger than Baggs, Wyo., and her first time on a college campus.
One thing above all others stuck out to Stanley on the trip — an outdoor basketball court.
With lights surrounding the court, Stanley said she was fascinated by the idea of being able to play ball at any time of the day.
“After seeing that court, I told my dad I wanted to play basketball in college and he said I’d have to play against the boys,” Stanley said.
“There were no girls teams at that time, but I had a goal so I planned to play with the boys.”
Today, life finds Stanley more than just sticking with the game she loved as a child — it finds her and her teams dominating it.
Stanley is a two-time state champion girls basketball coach at the Little Snake River Valley School in Baggs, having led the Rattlers to their latest title this season.
She also won two state titles at LSRV as a player.
She credits the trip to Casper long ago as the spark that lit the flame of her passion for hoops.
As a freshman in 1977, Stanley was part of the first LSRV girls basketball team.
The Rattlers fielded a girls club team for years, but it wasn’t until 1977 the girls program became part of the Wyoming High School Activities Association.
The experience of the several club seasons paid off for the Rattlers — the team won the Class C, now 1A, state title in 1977 and 1978.
LSRV went back to the state title game in 1979, Stanley’s junior year, but lost.
While the Rattlers' best squads may have come early in her high school career, Stanley said she became a better player as she got older.
“Every year I got older, I got better,” she said.
“In my freshman and sophomore years, we beat people really bad.
We had a leg up because we had 4-H basketball and knew what we were doing."
As a freshman, sophomore and junior, Stanley attended basketball camps at the University of Wyoming.
The camps were taught by Casper College girls basketball coach Bobbi Hilke.
In 1980, just before graduation, Stanley received a call from Hilke, who had taken a coaching job at Eastern Illinois University.
“When Coach Hilke called me, I wasn’t really interested in playing there but I flew out there anyway,” she said.
“However I liked the team and I liked the campus and I had a lot of respect for (Hilke).
It made sense.”
On a four-year scholarship, Stanley played guard for Eastern Illinois while earning her bachelor’s degree in physical education.
In her first year out of college, she served as an assistant volleyball, basketball and track coach at Rawlins Middle School in Wyoming.
In 1985, the girls basketball head coaching job opened up at her alma mater.
Stanley said she couldn’t pass up the opportunity.
Coaches aren’t always former players, but Stanley said there's an advantage for those who once played.
“I don’t think you have to have played the game to be a good coach, but I think it helps me relate to my girls,” she said.
“I tell the girls I have been where they are.
I was the star on my high school team, I was a bench warmer in college and I have been the first girl off the bench.
“When they come in as freshman and they expect to play, I understand where they are coming from.”
In her first couple of years as head coach for the Rattlers, Stanley said her playing career helped in more ways than one.
Opposing coaches who game-planned against Stanley in her playing days at LSRV were still around and offered her words of wisdom.
It wasn’t long before Stanley had the Rattlers up and running on all cylinders.
The team has made the playoffs 18 of the 27 years she has been in charge.
In 2002, Stanley won her third state title at LSRV and first as a coach.
But six years later, she went through her toughest season, winning four games with a five-player team.
“When we didn’t have numbers, I had to stop and think if I wanted to do this anymore,” she said.
“When I decided I did, I told myself when we had numbers again, which I knew we would, I would enjoy it and have more fun.”
The numbers haven’t grown much, but Stanley’s squads consistently are the team to beat in Class 1A.
“The reason I have longevity here is because the team is always competitive,” she said.
“There is a competitive culture here and we may not always win the state title, but we always field a competitive team year in and year out.
“It’s a credit to our program that when people see us on the schedule every year, they circle us and know they have to come to play.”
In the years the girls basketball team was short on players, the Rattlers received help from the coach’s son.
Rex, a senior at LSRV, has been the beneficiary of Stanley’s lifetime involvement with the game, helping lead the Rattler boys basketball team to state championships the past two years.
“Rex grew up in a gym because when we had low numbers, I would have him and Daniel (Wille) come in and practice with us,” Stanley said.
“But I try not to coach him, which can be hard.
He has a coach and when he comes home, he needs a mom.
“I showed him the game of basketball, but all his success is a credit to him and his coaches.”
Rex said his mother has always been a big influence for him, showing him the ropes of the game early on.
“She would shoot baskets with me, but she was more of the talking type,” he said.
“I would go to a camp or to a basketball tournament and when I came back, she would talk to me about it and try and give me some advice.
“Her love of the game has helped me have my own love of the game.”
Stanley said she's had offers to coach at bigger schools, but has always believed Baggs is a better place to raise Rex and her daughter.
For four months, Rex said he spends a lot of time with his mom because both the boys and girls basketball teams travel together.
But even when they get home, their shared interest takes center stage.
“During the basketball season, we get home late and there isn’t much time to do anything else,” he said.
“It is all basketball business all the time, and I like it.”
From a 5-year-old starstruck outside Casper College to the 2012 Wyoming 1A girls basketball state champion head coach, Stanley said she has enjoyed basketball from both sides — as a player and coach.
“It was fun to grow up through the evolution of girls basketball,” she said.
“When I first started playing there was no girls basketball, and now they are right alongside boys basketball.”
Stanley said she's grateful to have been able to share her passion of the game with her players for 27 years.
With a solid community, administration and a supporting student body, it is easy to be successful in Baggs, she said.
And while coming back to LSRV wasn’t her initial dream, she doesn’t have any plans to leave now.
“I never thought I would come back here,” Stanley said.
“My life goal was to go somewhere and establish a program.
"I wanted to make it big time where I was, and I have done that here and I’m not anxious to get out.”
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