CHAMPAIGN — First-year Parkland women’s basketball head coach Laura Litchfield fell in love with basketball early on.
She took notice when her older brother, Mark, would come home and practice with their dad. Soon, her attempts to master the crossover dribble blossomed into a genuine passion for the game.
“It was fun for me,” Litchfield said. “I had a lot of energy, I could burn energy, and it was just something to do outside.”
Mark had the upper hand in many of their early one-on-one games, but Laura learned to get creative. Pump-faking and shot selection were key, especially when she joined in two-on-two with Mark’s friends.
“I’d be that fourth player that they let play with them, which always made me super excited,” Litchfield said. “That was a big moment for me as I was in my middle school years ... it meant a lot to me.”
Organized basketball began for Litchfield as a third-grader when she attended Unit 7 Schools in Tolono. Her passion for the game truly took off upon learning the fundamentals — the X’s and O’s and how to spread out a defense.
A multi-sport athlete growing up, Litchfield also played soccer and volleyball before becoming a standout basketball player at Champaign Central High School.
After a year at Southwestern Illinois College in 2013-14, Litchfield returned to Champaign to play the 2014-15 season at Parkland College. There, she set the single-season record for assists as the Cobras fell one win short of an NJCAA Division II national championship.
“What an amazing season,” Litchfield reflected. “The team, just how we jelled and were able to be, offensively and defensively, so powerful.”
From there, Litchfield moved on to play two seasons at Illinois-Chicago, where she appeared in 39 games over the course of two seasons.
Unsure of what she wanted to do next, she eventually returned to Parkland, where she served as an assistant on head coach Allie Lindemann’s staff for the last two and a half seasons.
“One of the most rewarding things about being a coach is the impact and influence,” Litchfield said. “You can have a positive impact on the players that you’re coaching, the support that you can give them and just help them build confidence with their game.”
In the near-decade between starring at Central’s Combes Gym to being chosen as the leader of Parkland’s program, Litchfield has seen women’s sports evolve to prominence on the national stage.
“Even when I was in high school, you wouldn’t really find a WNBA championship game being televised in a sports bar or something like that, or even on TV,” Litchfield said. “Now, they’re being televised, (along with) regular-season games, which is great.”