SENIOR SPOTLIGHT: Kuzmina following her childhood dream

MINOT, N.D. – Growing up in Riga, Latvia, Anda Kuzmina’s first love was basketball.

“My mom told me it was my first word — ball,” she said. “I just love the game. I was the kind of player who would go to the gym and put up shots. I didn’t necessarily need to, but because I needed to get better, I would put on my headphones and shoot. It was my therapy.”

That dream extended to playing basketball in the United States. Kuzmina accomplished that, first playing for NCAA Division I University of South Carolina Upstate and then NCAA Division II Western Colorado.

From there, she turned her attention to coaching.

“That became the goal after playing. I love the college game, so coaching at that level was something I wanted to do. I really like the personal, one-on-one coaching, too. That’s something I’ve thought about, too,” she said. “After two years here, I’m definitely still into coaching. There were a lot of ups and downs, learning and growth, but all in a good way.”

Kuzmina finished her capstone project in the MSU sports management master’s program on leadership styles in coaching. She learned about various motivational styles and what is considered most influential to an athlete’s commitment.

The past two years in the sports management program and as a graduate assistant women’s basketball coach leading up to her capstone have helped Kuzmina develop her style.

“I think the capstone was the hardest single thing I’ve done in my academic career,” she said. “I looked into athlete’s preferred style, not necessarily what they actually wanted, but what helps them reach their potential. My time in the master's program was excellent. I could apply so much of what I learned to the job.

“As a player, you don’t realize all that goes into coaching. You see it as just something fun, and the coach comes in with their coffee in the morning and watches basketball all day. It’s so much of the little things. Now, I’m calling places to get food and have to worry about a player who is gluten-free. I credit Amber (MSU assistant coach Amber Renz) so much. She does so much, and where she felt comfortable with me to handle something, she would give it to me.”

MSU’s smaller coaching staff allowed her more hands-on experience.

“It was a big adjustment for me compared to how it was in South Carolina,” she said. “There is such a difference on how many duties you would have being a coach there compared to here. It was a learning process for me for sure; I learned the game and why certain things are working and not working for us and, for lack of a better word, the dirty work no one else wants to do. But I embraced all of it.”

While Minot State might have been a leap of faith for Kuzmina, it isn’t new to her. She started her career at Upstate without making an official visit, relying on conversations with coaches before coming to the U.S. to help her decide.

“It was kind of crazy; I didn’t have a visit, so I didn’t really know what to expect,” she said. “It took a couple of weeks to adjust; the culture in South Carolina is certainly different than what I knew growing up. But the people in South Carolina were very nice. I settled in, and my best year of basketball was my freshman season.”

After transferring to Western Colorado for her final “COVID” season, she started looking for GA positions. She didn’t initially apply for Minot State but instead found out firsthand how close-knit the coaching community can be.

“I applied for Jamestown, and their coach knew (former MSU coach Mike Brandt), so I had a connection there. At the same time, an administrator at Upstate texted me that Minot might be interested in me,” she said. “It was crazy how full circle that was.”

She again decided to move and was pleasantly surprised at how much Minot reminded her of home.

“Of all the places I’ve been, Minot is probably the closest to home. The sun stays out until like 11 p.m. in the summer, same as home; all four seasons are the same, and the scenery is very similar. When I got here, I felt like this kind of feels like home,” she said.

While she isn’t 100% sure of her next step, she feels MSU might be the right fit.

“The more I talk to people, the more they tell me to just work my way up,” she said. “Amber was one of the main reasons I chose Minot. Making those relationships and connections is huge. I really value that. The United States has really become home for me, so it’s hard to say what the next five years holds, but I know I love the game and want to continue to be involved in basketball.”

About Minot State University
Minot State University is a public university dedicated to excellence in education, scholarship, and community engagement achieved through rigorous academic experiences, active learning environments, commitment to public service, and a vibrant campus life.

Published: 05/13/24   

» More MSU News