Rock Chalk Weekly: Building a Family

Written by Tabatha Bender, Kansas Communications Student Assistant

Without the University of Kansas women’s basketball team, it’s tough to say that Steve and Ann Wallace would have ever even met. For them, basketball has become more than just a job and has evolved into a lifestyle that follows them off of the court.
Their story begins long before their time working for KU basketball. When Steve was a boy growing up in the Kansas City area, he was already a basketball fanatic. One could find him in his back yard shooting hoops by himself on any given day.
“He used to call games when he was playing by himself in the backyard,” Ann said. “His mom drew up a little business card saying he was a basketball coach. As a kid, he wanted to be involved in the game.”
According to Steve himself, he would pretend to recruit his own team to play with. Growing up in Kansas, typically the players were from his home state or nearby. This helped to form his love for Kansas basketball at a young age.
“I pretended to have guys like TJ Brown and Dan Peterson on my team,” Steve said. “Growing up I already looked up to this program.”
Ann, however, grew up just outside of Madison, Wisconsin. She credits her love of basketball to growing up with twin boys who lived in her neighborhood when she was a girl. The three would get together and play basketball.
“I’m the oldest of three girls and I grew up being a little bit of a tom-boy,” Ann said. “There were some older twin boys in the neighborhood that I would hang out with. I would also go down to the park and play by myself. I used to take a ball down there in the summer and shoot the ball around for hours.”
Although Ann realized she wasn’t meant to be a basketball player, she still liked to play the sport recreationally and participated in other sports growing up.
“By no means was I ever meant to be a basketball player because I do not have the skillset for it, but I’ve always played sports throughout my life,” Ann said. “I’ve always enjoyed the competitive nature and the drive to succeed.”
Her love of sports followed her into her post-high school years, when she completed her undergraduate degree in exercise science at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Ann also received a certificate in athletic training, and hoped to pursue the line of work though a Master’s program.
“I started looking at other BCS schools, trying to get out of the Big 10,” Ann said. “I landed the swimming and diving job here. I worked with that team for two years but I always helped work the basketball camps and helped out wherever I could. It ended up that I was graduating from my program and the person working as the trainer for women’s basketball was leaving. I interviewed and moved into a office at the end of the month. This is my eighth season here with basketball.”
This happened to be perfect timing, as Steve was just finishing up his own undergraduate degree at the University of Kansas and was hired on to work for head coach Bonnie Henrickson as a graduate assistant (coach).
“We met here,” Steve said. “I was a GA for Bonnie and she had just got the athletic training job. We went to Australia on a team trip right after she got hired with the team and that’s where it all started. This was in 2007.”
Steve and Ann developed an attraction for each other over time. Ann claims that it is his ambition that first intrigued her about her now-husband.
“I liked his ambition for what he wanted to do,” Ann said. “He has always been someone that when he wants to do something, he is going to put everything and all he has into it. That same ambition has always trickled into me being better at what I do, too. Watching him and his ambition to want to succeed and do well at what he loves, makes anyone around him, including me, want to do the same.”
Steve mentioned Ann’s blue-green eyes and her demeanor toward people that helped him fall in love with her.
“There’s a lot of things that attract me to Ann,” Steve said. “Especially how she takes care of people and how she treats people in general.”
Today, the two serve as a balancing act for one another that helps keep their relationship strong.
“I am definitely the planner and organizer, whereas he is more laidback,” Ann said. “We’re the yin and yang in that sense. He makes me realize when I need to chill and I can tell him when we need to get things moving and have a plan. He makes me smile, and makes me laugh when I’m stressed out.”
At the conclusion of Steve’s graduate program, he decided to leave Kansas in order to pursue other opportunities with basketball. However, the couple continued to date long-distance during this time.
“I left for a while and then came back a couple years later,” Steve said. “I left (Kansas) to work with the Rhode Island women’s basketball team, then Tennessee Tech. I ended up coming back to Kansas and worked with Piper high school near Kansas City for three years before coming back to KU at the start of the (2014-15) season.”
His loyalty remained strong to his native state for one main reason: family. Not only was Ann working with the women’s basketball team in Kansas, but his parents resided here, too.
“This is home,” Steve said. “I wanted to be back in Kansas. I had been away from (Ann) for two years at that point. My family is here, so I wanted to come back and be with them. I quit my job and hoped to find one here.”
Find a job he did. He took a position at Piper High School in Kansas City as the boys’ basketball head coach. After leading them to a 32-13 record in two seasons and a state tournament appearance, Steve finally made his way back into the KU program when he took over an assistant coach position for the 2014-15 season.
Steve and Ann got married in the summer of 2012 and welcomed their first child, Addison (Addie for short), in June of 2014. As one can imagine, life changed with the arrival of their new addition.
With both Wallaces now having positions on the women’s basketball staff, they quickly learned how essential their basketball family would be to raising their own family. It has given them the opportunity to thrive not only as parents, but as professionals, too.
“Everyone on the women’s basketball staff are our good friends,” Ann said. “Helping out with Addie and making sure we have what we need. We knew that we were walking into a situation where we had a family to support us. ”
Not many married couples have the privilege to work and travel with their spouses. Ann and Steve not only get to do that, but they are also able to take Addie on the road with them.
“I get to see my daughter on the road more than I do when we’re in Lawrence,” Steve said. “On a normal day if I’m at home I get into the office between 8:30 and 9 a.m. I get home around 6 or 7p.m. Addie is in bed by 9 p.m. I might get to see her for as much as 20 minutes in the morning and then for a couple hours at night. When we’re on the road, I get to see her every time we’re transitioning and in the hotel room. That part, for me, is awesome.”
Ann agrees with her husband and said being able to have their daughter around makes their professions better than it already is.
“She’s been a very good baby,” Ann said. “She’s always happy and just goes with the flow. There’s more logistics involved and more planning with bringing her along, but I would never have it any other way. We’ve been fortunate that we’ve had support from Bonnie and from the administration that we can do this.”
The Wallace’s say it boils down to being a part of a larger family than just their own. The women’s basketball family has embraced them and has helped them transition into Steve’s new position as an assistant coach and with Addie.  
“It’s really a family helping us raising Addie,” Ann said. “Everyone tags in and helps however they can. If I have to do something, I’ll hand her to Drew (Markowitz) and he will watch her or she’ll sit with really anyone else that’s around. Everyone has been helpful. It’s our little family inside a bigger family.”
Not only does the couple enjoy having Addie around themselves, but the women’s basketball staff and players enjoy seeing her during road trips and other events, too.  
“When we had the holiday clinic, Addie was up here for that,” Ann said. “At one point Katie O’ Connor had her going one way, Drew had her going another way. Steve would look at me and neither of us would know where she was. Then Drew had her and then Steve’s got her and then Katie Capps. Everyone likes to pass her around. She’s social and she’ll hang out with anyone.”
Steve said he is lucky to have his immediate family, especially his parents, around to help too. His mom stays with Addie during the day while he and Ann are at work and they watch her on home game days.
“My parents have been a blessing in all of this, too,” Steve said. “They allow us to do what we do and still make sure Addie is taken care of.”
With such a busy schedule, especially during basketball season, the two said they try to do things that a normal family would do. They go to Kansas City once a year to get a break from all the hustle and bustle.
“Every year around our anniversary, he always plans a Kansas City trip,” Ann said. “It’s just a two- or three-day getaway for us to go. Steve plans the whole weekend out. I don’t have a clue what the plans are; I just know we’re going to Kansas City for a few days. We’ve done that for five years now.”
According to Steve and Ann, having a child doesn’t mean that they have to stay at home all the time. Addie comes along with them whenever they have something planned, whether its basketball related, or just being with friends.
“If we want to go to a friends’ house for dinner or something, we just pack her up and she comes with us,” Ann said. “There’s more logistics and planning involved, but she’s become a part of our world. We aren’t changing our world, for the most part, for Addie. We’ve just immersed her into what we already do.”
For Steve and Ann, working for the women’s basketball team has become a lifestyle and they hope they are able to be an example of good family values to their women’s basketball family. They want the women on the team to look at how they treat each other and learn how to treat their fellow teammates with respect and as family members. 
“I would like to think there are things that I’m helping to take care of with them that they’ll remember,” Ann said. “I’ve always wanted to be someone that they can talk to. Someone they can relate to. I hope that carries over into the way my own daughter sees me as well.”
Specifically, Ann hopes that she can be a role model for what the women on the team can achieve after their time at Kansas. She said that she hopes to inspire them that it’s possible to achieve everything they want to in life.
“As a female, I would like to think on some level, they say ‘she figured out how to do it,'” Ann said. “There’s a way to have a time-intensive career and raise a family at the same time. Once you’re given a situation, you have a way of figuring it out and things fall into place. I would like to think on some level, I’m a role model to Addie. I hope when she’s older, she can look back and say, ‘Wow, mom did all of this, but for the players, too.'”
All in all, the Wallace’s never would have guessed their lives would be how they are today, but they are thankful for how everything has worked out.
“I want to emphasize that we wouldn’t be able to do this without everyone (with the team) and my family at home,” Steve said. “We think it’s a unique opportunity and we are very grateful for it.”
Having been married for almost three years now, Kansas women’s basketball assistant coach Steve Wallace and athletic trainer Ann Wallace understand that it takes being a part of a bigger family to raise their own and they are thankful that they have found one to be a part of.

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