Look at the picture of the Southwestern Oklahoma State women's basketball team, and you think it's just a nice team photo with everyone holding a basketball.
Look again, and you realize the coaches in the middle aren't holding anything in front of them.
Their pregnant bellies have been painted to look like basketballs.
Anyone who ever said being pregnant is no fun never met Kelsi Musick and Cophie Anderson.
Musick, the head coach at Southwestern, is eight months pregnant, and Anderson, her one and only assistant, is seven months pregnant. Together, they have experienced much this season — and it's not just swollen ankles and food cravings. They have also taken a program that won only three games three seasons ago and guided it to its first ever appearance in the NCAA Division II Tournament, which starts Friday.
“It's been kind of unbelievable,” Anderson said.
The madness started well before March.
Late last summer, Musick thought she might be pregnant. She took a home pregnancy test, then called Anderson.
“I don't know for sure,” she told Anderson.
The best friends met at Musick's house, and Musick showed Anderson the test.
“Oh, yeah,” Anderson said. “You are pregnant.”
Together, they screamed and laughed and cried.
Then a month later, the scene repeated itself. Anderson was the one who took the pregnancy test but wasn't sure of the results, and Musick was the one who assured her that she was indeed pregnant.
Again, they screamed and laughed and cried.
“It was so fun,” Anderson said.
They decided to have some fun, too, with how they told their players. Musick went first, writing a poem that she had the seniors read sight unseen to the rest of the team. At the end, the poem broke the news she was having a baby.
The team went crazy.
Then about a month later, Anderson sent a bag of candy to the team with a note attached. The note ended with, “Good luck from Coach Anderson's baby.”
“They went crazy again,” Musick said.
For as much fun as Musick and Anderson have had with their pregnancies, there have been challenges.
Since Musick is due April 8 — it's a boy that she and husband, Josh, plan to name Maddox — and Anderson is due May 5 — she's also having a boy that she and husband, Wayne, plan to name Cameron — both are currently in their third trimester. This is time in most pregnancies when doctors want women to reduce stress, increase rest and curtail travel.
None of that fits with coaching a basketball team in the national tournament.
“Obviously, I don't want to put myself or especially my unborn baby at risk,” Musick said. “But at the same time, I feel like this is what I'm supposed to do. I'm supposed to be a basketball coach.”
Anderson said, “You just do your job.”
Still, both have made adjustments.
Musick had a scare about a month ago. After a nine-hour bus ride home from Arkansas-Monticello, she had so much swelling that her doctor feared pre-eclampsia, a condition that can be dangerous for mom and baby. Tests were run, and even though some of her numbers were elevated, the doctor determined that she was fine.
The close call changed her perspective.
“I've just been a little more cautious,” Musick said.
She has taken alternate transportation to some games, for example. Last week with the team playing in the Great American Conference Tournament in Bartlesville, she traveled with her parents in their extended cab pickup. That way she could sit in the backseat with her feet up.
She has put her feet up more at practice, too.
“I'm still going to yell at ‘em and get on ‘em,” Musick said. “We're still going to run sprints if necessary.”
Anderson is quick to tell Musick to settle down when she gets fired up in games, too.
“Now, she's still going to yell ... but she's not as intense,” Anderson said. “That's just my job, to bring her from a 10 to maybe a 5 or 6.”
Anderson knows, after all, that if Musick goes into labor, coaching the team falls to her. She's prayed that doesn't happen.
“And I talked to Maddox, too,” she said. “He knows his auntie's hot on his trail if he tries to come out early.”
“I'll make him run if he comes out early.”
Told you that these two made pregnancy fun.
But at the same time, these coaches have been great examples to their players.
“They're probably two of the toughest women that you'll ever meet,” senior guard-forward SaRaya Oyler said. “You never hear them complain even though they're about to pop.
“It's brought us all closer.”
Which brings us to that team photo.
The day before the team left Weatherford for the national tournament, the players gathered before practice to paint their coaches' bellies. Musick and Anderson did it as something of a reward — “They've been a part of this the whole time,” Musick said of the players — but more than anything, they did it because it was fun.
That has been their approach all along, even as they've reached the later stages of their pregnancies and their season.
“I don't think we were worried. I don't think we were scared,” Anderson said. “We thought it was going to be fun and exciting.”
Sure looks like it has been.
Jenni Carlson: Jenni can be reached at (405) 475-4125. Like her at facebook.com/JenniCarlsonOK, follow her at twitter.com/jennicarlson_ok or view her personality page at newsok.com/jennicarlson.