MISSOULA — Coaching one program during the COVID-19 pandemic is hard.
But two programs? That's another feat entirely.
Still, that's exactly what Travis Walker has done this season at Missoula Loyola Sacred Heart with the school's basketball programs.
The 2020-21 season is Walker's fourth coaching the girls program, but he added coaching duties for the boys as well, making him one of the rare coaches around the state to head both programs at one school.
"It’s something where, you know, I think at some point you’re like, 'You know what, there’s a lot of juice in the tank,' and these boys are very worth it," Walker said. "They do such a great job and the girls have always done an outstanding job for us. It’s a fun group of both boys and girls."
Walker, who originally hails from Plentywood, is a former University of Montana receiver on the football field, so athletics has run in his DNA forever. Still, coaching two programs isn't easy.
But the Rams and Breakers have managed to make it work all season as they get ready for the Western B divisional tournament in early March in Eureka.
"It’s been fun seeing him coach both of the teams," said junior Lani Walker, Travis' daughter. "I love having the doubleheaders on every game day we have. It's been fun to see him both compete with the boys and then also come compete with the girls. Just been a fun experience this year."
Loyola's girls are defending co-state champions after going undefeated a year ago. The Breakers finished the 2021 regular season 15-3 in the rugged Western B as they aim for a spot at the State B tournament and, ultimately, an outright championship.
"It’s been really good this year and it’s been fun to watch the boys and see them run the same plays as us, but we’ve had a lot to overcome this year with losing a couple of our seniors last year but I think we’ve had a lot of people step up and it’s been really fun," senior Kelsey Esh said.
The boys sit at 8-10 heading into the divisional tournament. Stylistically, their game has changed from last season as well, and Loyola continues to adjust as its crack at the postseason is right around the corner.
"This year, it’s a lot of run-and-gun basketball, like outlet, push the ball," sophomore Raef Konzen said. "Last year it was a little slower and to try and have the other team score even less than us, so it’s a lot different."
"Travis has pushed us and he’s doing great managing both programs," senior Finn Richardson added. "He’s a big basketball guy. He loves the sport. It’s been a pretty smooth transition but we’re just trying to do our best to have fun with it."