Shooting hoops to throwing pots

Caitlyn O’Neal brings skills to hardwood, potters wheel


Photo Courtesy of Caitlyn O'Neal

NOTHING BUT POTS Caitlyn O’Neal, now JV basketball coach and ceramics teacher, poses for her media day pictures at Goshen College. “Now, reflecting on basketball and what it taught me, I learned a lot about who I am, what’s important to me, and who I am when things are difficult,” said O’Neal. “It offers an experience where you can learn a lot about yourself.”

Arjun Prabhakar '23, Associate Editor, Online

After a successful career on the court, Caitlyn O’Neal channeled her interests into careers:  teaching ceramics and coaching basketball. Now, she is sharing her love of both crafts with a new generation of artists and athletes.

For as long as she could remember, O’Neal has had a passion for basketball.

“I have played basketball since I was four years old and have loved the game ever since” said O’Neal. 

O’Neal continued her basketball journey and took her skills to the high school level.

“My sister and I led the team to a state championship, it was almost like a dream come true winning the tournament with my sister,” said O’Neal.

She then decided to play college basketball. 

“I started off my college career at a D2 school in West Virginia called Davis and Elkins,” said O’Neal. 

After three years at Davis and Elkins, O’Neal looked to pursue her career at a new college.

“I transferred to a small liberal arts college in Indiana called Goshen for my senior year,” said O’Neal. 

She transferred with one goal in mind.

“My sister played for the Goshen women’s basketball team as well and it was our dream to play together since we were very little,” said O’Neal.

During her senior year however, this dream was cut short due to a season ending injury.

“During the first game of the season I tore my ACL and was out for the rest of the season,” said O’Neal.

This injury allowed her to develop a new understanding of the game as she watched her sister play from the sidelines. 

“I realized I love basketball not only because of the thrill of the game, but because I got to share so many special moments with my sister,” said O’Neal.

 With extra time on hand, O’Neal used this opportunity to expand her interest in art.

“I always knew that art was in my future and I just didn’t know what it looked like,” said O’Neal. “I was thinking of being a master painter, but then I took my first ceramics class in college and that changed my life.”

The class also gave her a new perspective on life. 

“I realized I could use ceramics to express my emotions and use it as a way to connect with future people,” said O’Neal. “With so many mixed emotions after I tore my ACL, I realized that I wanted to connect these two things, my love for people and art and pursue a career in teaching” 

She finished her senior year with a bachelors in art, but wanted to come back and play one more year of basketball.

“In my postgraduate year I got my degree in teaching and finished one more year of basketball, but without my sister,” said O’Neal. 

Her experience with basketball helped her in pursuing this career in teaching.

“I learned to be persistent which helped me get my degree and ensure that my students receive the best education and instruction I can give them” said O’Neal.

Now a ceramics teacher, O’Neal looked to continue with basketball, but not as a player.

“I started coaching the JV basketball team this year and it is an exciting experience, but very different from playing,” said O’Neal. 

Learning how to translate her own skills to advice can be a difficult transition at times.

“I am trying to remember how to teach different aspects of basketball,” said O’Neal. “As a player you are being told what to do, but now, as a coach, it is my job to scaffold and break down plays and techniques and to view basketball from a teaching perspective.”

Coaching has also forced her to learn new aspects of the game.

“I had to learn many rules again, but this time from a coach’s perspective,” said O’Neal. “As a player I did not have to worry about how many timeouts we had or how many fouls people had.”

O’Neal has found that ceramics and coaching basketball are similar.

“You’re giving them instructions on how to do something, you model it, demonstrate it, and then hopefully it clicks after repetition,” said O’Neal.

She has helped change the atmosphere for the basketball team.

“Last year we spent the majority of our practices discussing what we could improve on, instead of actually implementing it,” said Inaaya Nazmeen ‘24. “With Ms. O’Neal, we spend practices building up our stamina with conditioning and implementing the changes through a variety of drills.”

O’Neal’s impact on students isn’t shown just on the court, but also in the classroom.

“I have always been interested in art, but this year, when I started taking ceramics, my interests in it grew and I realized I want to pursue this type of art more,” said Caleb Lee ‘23. 

O’Neal is now able to share her love for both art and basketball through ceramics and coaching basketball.