The inspiring story of Rob Selvig, pioneering coach of the University of Montana’s “Lady Griz” basketball team. In an era when gender discrimination in sports was the norm, Coach Selvig built a ‘house’ of inclusion and empowerment by recruiting female athletes from the ranches, farms and Native reservations of Big Sky country. For nearly 40 years, these athletes would establish the preeminent women’s basketball program west of the Rockies.
One life can make a difference in the lives of many others! That’s what the life of Coach Robin Selvin has proven. This remarkable documentary focuses on the life of Coach Rob, head coach for the University of Montana’s Lady Griz’s basketball team. With 38 years of experience, sporting 865 wins against only 286 losses, we learn though several interviews that he influenced the women in their lives, not just on the basketball court. His players went on to have such diverse careers as a sports broadcaster, attorney, coach, filmmaker, etc.
This fascinating documentary uses game videos, photos, interviews, and location shooting to feature Rob’s backstory and showcase his leadership. In Rob’s prime, he was on his way to possibly becoming an NBA player, but he injured his knee. However, he stuck with his love for basketball and became a coach.
To set the basketball scene, the need for women’s basketball, especially in Missouli, Montana, was made obvious when a talented female player had to play on the men’s team. In fact, the need for supermarkets and a little more civilization was needed to create a noticeable, marketable female team. Greta Buehler says (playing from 1992-1997), at one point, she attended a one-room school in the backwoods. As one woman stated, the nearest mall was four hours away! And Jordan Sullivan, who played from 2010-2014, stated that a person had to travel to North Dakota to go to a Wal-Mart or a movie! But Coach Rob would make sure that Missouli, Montana would soon earn a name for its Lady Griz basketball team.
At least for the guys, sports were big because Missouli didn’t have anything else to do!
Coach Rob Selvig from Outlook, Montana (population was then 75), was one of seven siblings, but he was active in everything. His mother, Agnes, says everyone would go to see his local basketball games and tournaments. In 1978, following the career-blowing knee injury, 25-year-old Rob took on the coaching job at Missouli and says the NCAA didn’t recognize women’s basketball at the time. Thanks largely to Rob, that would soon change.
He would give women hope for equal playing time, calling out the difference in men’s basketballs, uniforms, opportunities for scholarships, decent equipment, and good facilities. The documentary shares how that before Title 9 came into effect that the differences between men’s and women’s basketball was drastic. Anita (Novak) Selvig, Rob’s wife, shares that she played from 1981 to 1985 in North Dakota but Rob saw her height, 6 feet 2 inches, and wanted her for the team.
Rob worked hard, studying game films, and he was an intense coach. It’s said he coached the women like he would a men’s team, but various players state how that brought out the best in them. When Missouli played Oregon State University at Montana in 1984, the people kept pouring in to watch the big game. One player stated the players could hardly hear each other in the huddle. Between 1978 and 1989, the women’s basketball team had earned 283 wins, but Coach Rob still had a long way to go. In 1992, at an NCAA game, Montana played at Wisconsin to a sold-out arena. The Lady Griz grabbed a 85-74 West Regional victory. Coach Rob’s passion and intensity were regularly mentioned. Malia Kipp, a Native American, was given an opportunity to play on his team, and it has since opened up doors of opportunity for other Native American lady players.
Jud Heathcote, coach of the Michigan State Spartans, twice offered Rob an assistant coaching job but he turned it down to stay in Montana. After 38 years, he finally retired in 2016. In a touching part of the documentary, many of his former players show up to honor him at a surprise retirement party.
This terrific documentary has earned our Dove seal for All Ages. It’s a wholesome, family-friendly documentary that even features Coach Rob playing Amazing Grace on the piano.
The Dove Take:
This wholesome documentary is for all sports gurus who hope to maximize their own leadership, regardless of what their court or team look like, as it showcases one coach’s heartfelt influence on his players.