By KRISTA REDPATH PYRON
She’s Montana-made and proud of it.
Shannon Cate Schweyen not only exemplifies Lady Griz basketball, she is Lady Griz basketball, and so much more. She is Montana’s only Kodak All-American and the list of awards and championships easily fill the record books.
She is embedded deeply in the Missoula community. A wife, mother, coach, and outdoor enthusiast, her basketball playing days seem like a distant memory. She’s eager to talk about making memories with her girls, owl retreats with her best pal, and weekend getaways to the lake in the summertime.
This is just a glimpse of the present life of Shannon.
First, I will go back to look at history through the eyes of a 14-year-old girl. At this age, basketball had really taken off for me. It had grown from a hobby to a full-on commitment. I was in awe of the Lady Griz basketball program. I had taken in the whole Lady Griz camp experience and, being the newspaper-clipper that I was (my room as child was plastered with Larry Bird and Boston Celtic headlines), I would avidly check in to read about their games.
The Lady Griz were spectacular in that era and Shannon was in the height of her career. She dominated the box scores and all other aspects of the game. At this point in my life, I idolized Shannon and the Lady Griz along with the majority of all young Montana girls playing basketball.
My first personal contact with Shannon came in the fall of 1993, just one short year after she led the No. 11 seeded Lady Griz to an 85-74 upset victory over No. 6 seed Wisconsin in the first round of the NCAA tournament. My high school coach announced to our team “the” Shannon Cate was going to visit our practice and “observe” our team.
I honestly didn’t think anything of it. Coach Hatler said she was just passing through and was going to stop in. Don’t get me wrong, I thought it was pretty sweet, but by no means did I think it meant the Lady Griz could be looking at me. Naively, I just didn’t think of these things. I was thinking I better get my Steve Alfred workout in.
Well. I met her. She rocked, was so nice to me, a high-school kid, and that was it. Or so I thought. It turned out though, that I had many more conversations with Shannon and eventually committed to be a Lady Griz in the summer of 1994, just a few weeks after Lady Griz summer camp concluded.
Fast forward to my relationship with Shannon as a coach. It was challenging and not always rosy. She pushed me, taught me, encouraged me, and put me in my place more than once. I identified with her at times and at other times I felt like the worst defender and rebounder on the planet. Shannon understands the game of basketball extremely well, but when you are between 18 and 22 years old, you think you know better than your coaches at times!
The experience and perspective that Shannon brings to the game are a tremendous asset to the Lady Griz program. She speaks so fondly about her players now and I enjoy our visits about different player scenarios, opponents and game reviews. As I joined the ranks of the media rabble this year (color commentator for the home games at gogriz.com), I appreciate her knowledge of the game and honesty about where the team stands more than ever before.
During my senior season, her first daughter, Jordan, was born.
I will never forget visiting Shannon just a few days after the birth at her house with my best friend and teammate, Megan Harrington. There was so much love for this tiny little life, and Shannon was a glowing mother. After holding Jordan for 30 seconds and thinking I was going to break her, I awkwardly handed her back to her mama.
But that day I saw another side to Shannon. She had softened just a little bit and was not my coach right then and there. When Megan and I left that day, I remember thinking, wow, that baby is her responsibility. Just a few short years later, two more girls, Shelby and Sheridan (all named after Montana cities) joined the Schweyen family.
Motherhood is natural for Shannon. You can see pure happiness when she’s with her girls. When I bring up the story of holding Jordan for the first time, it always gets a laugh out of Shannon. Shannon’s motherly instincts even reach beyond her immediate family and into the Lady Griz family. When I was a week overdue with my first son, she stopped by my house to check in on me and offer words of encouragement.
Another telling perspective of Shannon and her life is her enduring friendship with Denver Holt, the director of the Owl Research Institute. Shannon’s passion for outdoor recreation is so obvious when she talks about her history with Denver in the field, learning about the ecology and the habitat of owls.
Together, they talk fondly about road trips to Choteau and other remote areas to take in the outdoors and bird watch. Denver makes a point of what a good spotter Shannon is and she just smiles, humbly. The two friends don’t have to talk to know the depth of their friendship. Shannon has the same enthusiasm talking about hikes up Pattee Canyon with Rosco, her golden retriever and campfires at Lake Mary in Ronan with her husband and girls. She is truly content with her life. It is the same zest for life that paints the picture of who Shannon Cate Schweyen is today.
I see so many different parts of Shannon when I look at her now. An incredible athlete, an empowering coach, a beautiful wife, a dedicated mother, and a passionate outdoors enthusiast. So humble, yet proud of making the choice to stay in Montana and not only put the Lady Griz basketball program on the national map in her playing days, but continuing to make a difference in the lives so many people every day.
I’m privileged to know Shannon Cate Schweyen in so many ways and I think many other people are, too.
Krista Redpath Pyron played basketball for the Lady Griz from 1995-2000. She went on to play professional basketball for Virum in Copenhagen, Denmark. Krista is self-employed and resides in beautiful Missoula with her husband, Dave, and their two young boys, Evan and Oliver. She looks forward to writing frequently about her extended family – The Lady Griz.