Mary Schrad: Fighting Through Adversity
At a young age, Mary Schrad used the game of basketball to escape everyday life in the small town of Carroll, Iowa. Now, she uses her experiences from the same game to make a difference in other young girls' lives.
Schrad started her basketball career on an outdoor half-basketball court playing against her five older brothers. At the time, Carroll, Iowa, did not offer organized sports to girls. Schrad used basketball as a way to escape from her home life and to find her self-worth.
In 1972 Schrad was moved from Carroll to Sioux City on a court order halfway through her Sophomore year of high school. She moved into Villa Maria, a house run by nuns. Schrad was unhappy about the move, but everything changed when she was told that Bishop Heelan High School had a girls' basketball team.
Schrad arrived after the Bishop Heelan Crusaders already had a team selected and began their season. Nevertheless, Coach Adams allowed her to try out for the team. Coach Adams was impressed by Schrad and added her to the roster, where she was a forward on the very first girls' basketball team at Bishop Heelan.
With a successful high school basketball career, Schrad accepted a scholarship to attend and play basketball at the University of Iowa.
However, a tragic sledding accident during her senior year, to celebrate a victory with her teammates, left her paralyzed. Doctors thought she would never be able to walk, let alone play basketball again. As a result, the University of Iowa pulled their offer, and Schrad's hopes of playing college basketball seemed to be over.
Schrad didn't give up. With the support of the Siouxland community behind her, she began her journey of extensive and painful rehabilitation.
While rehabbing, Schrad met some athletic coaches at Briar Cliff. The coaches knew Schrad had a long way to recover but thought she would be a great addition to the Cliff. Once Schrad met Lila Frommelt, it was an easy decision for her to wear blue and gold!
For four years Schrad was a stand-out college basketball player at Briar Cliff, playing for Head Coach Sister Annette George. She was a three-time all-Io-Kota Conference basketball selection. During her junior and senior seasons, she was chosen as team captain, named best offensive player and most valuable player. Schrad led the Lady Chargers in scoring and rebounding as a junior (15.7 points per game, 12.4 rebounds per game) and senior (16.7 points per game, 11.1 rebounds per game). She finished her career as the school's all-time leading scorer with 1,119 points and leading rebounder with 707 rebounds. In 1992, Schrad was the first female inducted into the Briar Cliff Hall of Fame.
After her successful career at Briar Cliff, Schrad tried out for the Iowa Cornets and joined the Women's Professional Basketball League, the first-ever professional basketball league for women, for two seasons. She was inducted into the Women's Basketball Hall of Fame in 2018 for the "Trailblazers" of the Women's Basketball League (WBL). She and other members of the WBL were recognized for pioneering the way for the Women’s National Basketball Association (WNBA).
In 1979, Schrad made her way to Europe, where she played in the European Professional League and resided in Vienna, Austria, for the next two years. Schrad was selected to play on a European post-season all-star team that toured 11 countries. She also served as an Adidas endorser in Munich, Germany.
Once returning to the States, Schrad began a successful coaching career that continued for twenty-two years. She coached at all levels, including high school, JUCO, NAIA, and NCAA. Schrad also served as a College Compliance Sports Administrator and Assistant Athletic Director. Throughout her coaching career, she won eight Coach-of-the-Year awards.
After retiring from coaching, Schrad began a career in business and was the National Director of Fitness Franchises and CFO of Sports Health Clubs geared towards helping women.
Now, she is working as Director of Basketball Partnerships at the Ladies Ball, the nation's top girls' basketball championship. Sponsored by the Women's Basketball Hall of Fame, the Ladies Ball Tournament provides girls with a platform to showcase their basketball skills to the world and grow their game.
Thank you, Mary Schrad, for showing women everywhere how to fight through adversity and come through the other side victorious. You are a true #BCUtrailblazer.