By Eric Naylor
Photos by Shane Marshall & Kurt Johnson
When the Riverton girls basketball team beat Taylorsville 56-25 to open the 2015-16 season, it was the first of five times Silverwolf head coach Ron Ence would see a team with a similar look to his own. Ence is in the middle of a strong run at Riverton, but the branches of the Ron Ence coaching tree continue to spread to other schools.
“I’ve only had that opportunity once, and his team crushed us, but honestly, it was really fun,” Lee said when asked how it was to coach against her former teacher. “There’s something about Riverton that feels like home even though I’ve been away and I was on the other bench. Ence and I understand that we are competitors during those 32 minutes of game time, but the outcome doesn’t affect our friendship.
“He was, and continues to be, a great mentor to me. We text each other a couple of times a week and use each other to vent our frustrations because we both understand what the other is going through. We share thoughts on opposing teams and try to help each other out as much as possible without jeopardizing our own teams.”
In addition to the non-region matchup with Taylorsville, coached by former Ence assistant Jodi Lee, the Silverwolves faced off twice with a pair of region foes that are also headed up by coaches who once joined Ence on the Riverton bench. Jill Ames coaches at Herriman, while Ashlee McCray runs the program at Westlake. There was no head-to-head meeting with Murray this past season, but the Spartans are also coached by a former Ence disciple – Holly Gillette Wride.
“I feel really fortunate to have coached under Ence,” Wride said. “He taught me about practice, organization, scouting, game prep, using your personnel, working with parents and administration, developing players… I use several set plays that I picked up from him, and numerous drills that were effective for him. He also took the time, after I accepted the head coaching job at Murray, to meet with me and we had a great discussion and he gave me excellent advice about beginning my own program.”
While these former assistants are no longer on his coaching staff, the Riverton head coach follows their careers and enjoys watching what is happening with their teams.
“It’s fun to see them run their programs and share the highs and lows with them,” Ence shared in an email early in the season. “They are great individuals and great coaches.”
Coach Ence helped each of these young coaches develop the type of skills that will allow them to enjoy success as they move on to mentor girls as they take on head coaching positions. Thus, his influence continues to spread throughout the great Salt Lake area.
“I spent four years at Riverton as the head JV coach and assistant varsity coach,” Lee said. “During my time there, the JV team had a 73-7 record, and the varsity team won three region championships and a state championship in 2013.”
Lee said that her time at Riverton helped her to see what is necessary to produce an elite team at the 5A level.
“Ence taught me how to challenge the girls and get the most out of them,” Lee said.
That is an aspect of preparing a team for success that Ence focuses on consistently. For him and for the young coaches who carry on after working alongside him, hard work is perhaps the greatest measure of performance.
“I measure success by how close my team and individual players come to fulfilling their potential,” Wride said. “I also measure success by how hard our team works and how much effort our team gives. I think Ence measures success in a similar way, he always was focused on getting his team to be their best and perform under pressure in the best way.
“Winning was a byproduct of effort and work. He said to me that he wanted to help his teams be competitive. He said talent is the “X” factor, and you need it to win championships consistently, but being competitive through work ethic and effort and preparation is something that can be coached, regardless of talent level.”
His former assistants are quick to recognize the benefits of the Ron Ence coaching tree. He was willing to share with them and that has allowed them to move on with confidence.
“(Ence) is humble and likes to learn, and his focus is on the kids, it’s about them not him,” Wride said. “I think it’s wonderful that a coach at Riverton can have this big effect on our community and the people in it.”
Riverton High senior Eric Naylor wrote this story as part of the Preps Utah student journalism program, powered by Bank of American Fork, which will award two of our published student journalists college scholarships at the end of the school year.