Since taking on the role of Gonzaga’s women’s basketball head coach in April 2014, Lisa Fortier has led her team through record-setting – and record-breaking – years. Come game-time, the energy and excitement – on the floor and in the stands – is palpable, a result of countless behind-the-scenes hours of drills, skills and no-frills hard work.
But these game-day accomplishments tell only part of the story. In addition to building strong players and cohesive teams, Fortier focuses on developing strong women who have the prowess to become strong leaders, on and off the court. She and her players make intentional efforts to put themselves where they are needed and where they can affect change.
“Wherever we go, we want to be very present in our community,” Fortier explains. “We connect ourselves to projects that matter to us.”
One such endeavor is Blessings Under the Bridge (BUTB), a Spokane-based non-profit that connects area homeless people with everything from bus passes and clothing to medical care and warm meals. Fortier, her team and their families volunteer at BUTB each Christmas, spending quality one-on-one time with homeless members of the community.
And, sometimes, all the team has to do to make a difference is play. The 2018-’19 basketball season marks the fourth consecutive year of the Avista Assists program, a collaborative effort that connects Gonzaga’s women’s basketball team, Project Share and SNAP, through $10 contributions for each regular-season assist. Thus far Avista has donated $13,500 to the program, with all funds going directly to households that need help covering energy costs.
“It’s a motivator,” Fortier says, “To know what we’re doing on a daily basis really makes a difference.”