The family game

Casey Smith is a woman with a lot on her plate.

As the membership and wellness director at the Dubuque Community YMCA/YWCA for five years, the 31-year-old also serves as the girls basketball coach for the Dubuque Hempstead High School Mustangs, her alma mater and a team she excelled on in her own right as a player.

Casey added “wife” to the list in June 2017 when she married Justin Smith, whom she had coached alongside for three years after her high school and college athletic career.

In April, the couple will welcome its first child.

“It’ll be a big change,” the bright-eyed and energetic Casey said. “But it’s one that we’re really looking forward to.”

A life lived on the court

Graduating from Hempstead in 2005, Casey was a force to be reckoned with during her time on the court as a Mustang.

“I was raised in a sports atmosphere,” Casey said. “My dad was a coach. It was just always something that was in the family.”

According to the Telegraph Herald, she was twice named a first team all-Mississippi Valley Conference selection, earning all-district and second team all-state honors her senior year. She also established records for 3-point field goals made in a game, as well as for points per game.

Additionally, Casey netted a school record of 68 3-point shots.

As if that wasn’t enough, alternating from forward to point guard during her senior year would be a move that would result in the best numbers of Casey’s career: 16.8 points, 4.7 rebounds, 3 steals and 2.1 assists per game, scoring a single-game record of 35 points.

When she graduated from Hempstead, Casey finished as the school’s No. 2 all-time leading scorer.

She would continue her legacy at St. Ambrose University in Davenport, Iowa, where she was a three-year varsity letter-winner and was twice named team captain.

There, she studied kinesiology before enrolling at Clarke University in Dubuque, where she earned her Bachelor of Science in kinesiology and sports management.

After graduating, Casey remained connected to her familial roots in sports, pursuing a coaching career and following in the footsteps of her father, Ron Breitbach, who coached her as a Mustang.

From 2011-2014, Casey served as an assistant coach for Clarke’s women’s basketball team. After that, she took on a role as the assistant varsity coach and head junior varsity coach at Hempstead alongside her future husband, Justin.

After he assumed an assistant coaching position at the University of Dubuque, Casey was led to a sweet return to her old stomping grounds at Hempstead. Her father would serve as the assistant coach.

“I love it,” Casey said of coaching. “It’s not only a fun and exciting career, but I don’t know of too many jobs that enable you to see the difference your making in people’s lives. You get to see the impact every day.”

Her family also owns and operates Breitbach’s Debry Grange Golf & Recreation Center in Dubuque.

It all comes in handy when transitioning to her role at the Dubuque Community YMCA/YWCA, where she oversees the organization’s membership and wellness efforts.

“When I was evaluating what I wanted to do as I got older, something with fitness and athletics just fit,” Casey said. “There are a lot of deep roots.”

The next generation

Family is at the core of Casey’s life. With motherhood set as the next game-changing quarter, it’s especially significant for her and her husband after struggling for two years to conceive. But since becoming pregnant, this is the first of many children Casey hopes to add to her family.

“I always wanted to be a mom, ever since I can remember,” she said. “There are people who have struggled much longer than we did, but it makes you all the more grateful when it finally happens. Every little kick you feel brings laughter.”

While Casey acknowledged that her future might include less sleep, she’s confident that the love with be limitless.

“It’s exciting,” she said. “I’m already an aunt, and I love that, but I have a feeling that being a mom is going to be even better. I come from a huge family. I have two brothers — one older and one younger. My dad is one of six kids. My mom is one of eight. I have 40 first-cousins, and we’re all very close. We grew up together at the driving range. It was like having a big family neighborhood. My husband comes from a much smaller family, but we love the idea of a huge family.”

Casey also is preparing her family for the juggling act that will come with a full-time career and maintaining an already active basketball schedule, upwards of 100 games spanning the four months of the season between her and her husband.

She anticipated that her child will grow up much like she did — attending games, helping out as a ball boy or water girl and watching her parents do what they do best, on the court and off.

“It’s what I was brought up around and grew up knowing, so it feels like second-nature, almost like coaching and doing what I do in wellness has prepared me for motherhood in a way,” Casey said. “Justin also grew up playing sports and his dad coached. It will mean balancing our priorities and being better about making the most of our downtime. It will mean taking cues from the positive lessons and benefits we learned through sports. But it will also mean an exciting future.”

The close-knit family surrounding her has proven to be a good cheering squad.

“Leadership can come in many forms, but with Casey, I think she really has a gift to quickly connect with people,” said Breitbach, her father, former coach and today general manager of the Mystique Community Ice Center. “Her engaging smile, genuine enthusiasm and ability to carry on an easy conversation typically leaves a very positive first impression. Quickly one realizes Casey is really fun to be around, confident in her belief system, competitive by nature and very authentic. Mix in a tremendous work ethic, a lover of traditions and someone just as comfortable laughing or crying with others and you have a pretty solid formula to be impactful.”

Breitbach added that both Casey’s role as a coach and with the Dubuque Community YMCA/YWCA has helped her develop as a role model, empowering young women to value themselves and to embrace healthy living and the importance of family.

“As a soon to be mother, I am confident this new, awesome life event will provide many stories to be shared with those who Casey connects with,” Breitbach said. “The little girl who grew up shooting hoops with her brothers, played for her coach father, married a basketball coach and got most of her redeeming qualities from her mother has plenty more to give.”

Megan Gloss writes for the Telegraph Herald.

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