Flying Queens coach expecting baby as team heads to National Cha - KCBD NewsChannel 11 Lubbock

Flying Queens coach expecting baby as team heads to National Championships

Alesha Robertson-Ellis (Source: Wayland Baptist Athletics) Alesha Robertson-Ellis (Source: Wayland Baptist Athletics)

Provided by Wayland Baptist Athletics

It was one of the hardest decisions Alesha Robertson-Ellis has ever had to make and, at the same time, one of the easiest.

The Wayland Baptist Flying Queens are in Billings, Mont., for the NAIA Division I Women's Basketball National Championships, but Robertson-Ellis, their head coach, won't be with them when they open the tournament at 10:45 Thursday morning against Bethel University of Tennessee. Instead, she'll be watching the game online back in Plainview.

"I hate that I'm not going," she said.

Robertson-Ellis has a good excuse for not climbing aboard the bus and making the long, 16-hour trip to Montana for the tournament. As anyone who has seen her in the last few weeks knows, she is due to have her and husband Andy's first child – a boy they plan to name Kingston James – sometime in the next 3-4 weeks.

And, per doctors' orders, Robertson-Ellis decided not to accompany her team to its biggest games of the season.

"My doctors all said the same thing – not to go," said Robertson-Ellis, pointing out that the trip wouldn't be the best situation for mother or baby, nor would being that far away from home should she go into labor prior to her April 9 due date.

Almost as soon as she found out she was pregnant last August, Robertson-Ellis knew a situation like this was possible.

"I knew I would be cutting it close,"

Almost ever since, Robertson-Ellis struggled with whether she should go or stay behind. The closer the tournament got, the more stressful it was.

"The whole time I was saying I have to put this baby first, as much as basketball and this team mean to me. I knew I would be trying to talk myself out of it, but I have to stick to my guns

"I felt like it was a lose-lose situation because I know what my instincts were telling me, but I also didn't want to let my girls down. I kept thinking of scenarios of how I could be there with my team.

"I fought with people for about a month about going. I was losing sleep. Going through the process (of making a decision) was killing me."

She talked to some of her mentors – former coaches who have been through similar situations ("people who aren't my doctors or my husband, because I knew what they were going to say") – and they all came to the same conclusion: Don't go.

"It just came down to the same conclusion every time," she said. "Everybody keeps reminding me that it's best for the baby and my health if I stick behind.

"My mentors told me that basketball has been No. 1 for me for so long, but that my priorities are about to change."

A week after finally making the decision to let her team go without her, Robertson-Ellis was still struggling with it.

"I was still trying to come up with how I could get there. It's nearly drained me."

Before the Flying Queens hopped on the bus Saturday morning for Billings, Robertson-Ellis spent lots of time game-planning with assistant coach Melynn Hunt, a successful veteran high school coach and administrator who has been by Robertson-Ellis' side ever since she came to Wayland in 2013. Both Robertson-Ellis and Hunt are former Texas Tech Lady Raider players…albeit it more than three decades apart.

"I have complete faith in Coach Hunt, which has given me some peace about it," Robertson-Ellis said. "I've always been thankful for her, but especially in a time like this. She's a God-send. I'm very thankful for her and what she does for me."

Hunt will continue her role overseeing the Flying Queens' defense while graduate assistant coach Iesha Greer and student assistant coach Brianna Bogard will take over the offense in Robertson-Ellis' absence.

"I went over a lot offenses with Brianna and Iesha. They will run a lot of the offense," she said. "I'm thankful for them. I have a good staff."

Robertson-Ellis continues to communicate with her assistant coaches as the tournament draws closer, and she plans to contact them during the games, too.

"I'll be as involved as I possibly can. I'll be on the phone a lot, for sure at halftime, and I may shoot a text or two."

As difficult as the decision was to make not to go to Billings, it's likely to be just as tough – if not tougher – for Robertson-Ellis to watch the tournament unfold from home.

"I know I made the right decision, but boy, it hurts," she said. "I don't know if I will ever get over it, but when I see Kingston born I will be glad he's healthy."

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