Student-athlete of the Month: Bailey Strand

UND Women’s Basketball starter turns recovery experience into academic inspiration

Bailey Strand

As a freshman, Bailey Strand played in 27 games before suffering a season-ending knee injury, yet still earned a spot on the All-Academic Big Sky team. At UND, she has studied psychology for pre-physical therapy. She sees a psychological background as helpful for those dealing with the mental strain of a long injury recovery process. Photo by Connor Murphy/UND Today.

Since finishing high school, Bailey Strand knew she wanted to help people.

Even so, she wasn’t sure what she wanted to study at UND.

“It had a lot to do with basketball because I wanted to play in college,” Strand, a junior guard on the women’s basketball team, said of her decision to come to North Dakota. “But I wanted to have a good academic experience too. That’s number one.”

After a standout high school career in Fergus Falls, Minn., including 12 varsity letters in four sports and an all-conference nod for basketball, Strand arrived at UND undecided.

Adversity to advantage

As a freshman, she played the first 27 games, including a start, before suffering a season-ending knee injury. She still earned a spot on the All-Academic Big Sky team as well as her first collegiate letter.

The injury kept her red-shirted for her entire sophomore year.

During Strand’s recovery process, her path in academics became more clear.

“Going through physical therapy taught me that there’s a mental side to it that I never realized,” she said. “Especially when I got hurt, I saw how I could impact an athlete’s life by helping them. It really set in stone what I wanted to do.”

Since then, Strand has pursued a bachelor’s in psychology for pre-physical therapy. She sees the psychological background as helpful for those dealing with the mental strain of a long recovery process.

In addition, she’s hoping to earn her master’s in sports psychology next year.

“I’ve been taking more kinesiology classes,” Strand said when asked about her current studies. “This past semester I was taking an exercise physiology course and that was super interesting; so many things related back to sports and its impact on the body.”

Bailey Strand

In a game against the University of South Dakota in Vermillion earlier this year, Strand showed flashes of her long-distance magic by hitting a five 3-pointers in a close loss against a strong Coyotes squad. Photo by Connor Murphy/UND Today.

Athletic balance

The later stages of a science-heavy degree demands even more focus and time management, something Strand has in spades.

“She’s very dedicated to what she’s trying to accomplish as a student athlete,” Women’s Basketball Head Coach Travis Brewster told UND Today. “She has a tremendous work ethic in the classroom and has worked extremely hard to get herself back from injury.

“And the biggest thing we’re trying to do is get Bailey to have fun while she’s doing all of this type of stuff, because she’s very driven.”

Now that she’s healthy and more adjusted to the college game, this season, Strand is having the breakout season that many expected from her out of high school. In a game against the University of South Dakota in Vermillion earlier this year, Strand showed flashes of her long-distance magic by hitting a five 3-pointers in a close loss against a strong Coyotes squad.

“Sometimes your social life is nonexistent but that’s okay,” Strand said about balancing life as a student athlete. “We realize we have a lot to do in a day so we can’t waste very much time. If I have homework, I always tell myself that I have to get it done before I can come shoot, because otherwise I’d be shooting all the time.”

Strand finds it important to limit the amount of homework she does in a sitting; she’s developed her own way of splitting time between homework, practice and everything in between (including sleep). When asked about her key to success, the answer was immediate.

“Hard work,” she said. “On the court it’s a lot of hard work, as well as with academics. It’s about keeping a mindset. In the real world, if you work hard and manage your time, you’ll probably be successful.”

Basketball legacy

Such values have been instilled by both her parents, Brad and Renae Strand, and the team’s coaching staff.

During the 2017-18 season, Strand remains a consistent starter and key contributor — particularly from three-point range. Back in December, she sunk five three-pointers against South Dakota in the first half.

She’s made the Big Sky All-Academic Team each year she’s played and has received recognition by the University each year for her exceptional grades.

“Both of my parents are teachers,” she said. “They’ve always pushed academics and believe I’ll do well as long as I’m giving it my all. For basketball, it’s them as well as the coaches because they are pushing us to get better each day.”

Her father, Brad, also coached her basketball team during her junior and senior years. The Otters had a record of 61-3 in Class AAA play during that span.

For Brewster, developing a successful student athlete culture starts at the recruiting process.

“We purposely look for student athletes that do well in the classroom,” he said. “Keeping up with their studies is on them. You look at us right now, our team GPA is over 3.2. We have four 4.0’s, so that tells you a little bit about how we do things and our expectations.

“It’s a tradition that’s carried on and started long before I got to UND.”

Moving forward from that tradition, Strand isn’t too sure what’s next after UND. Basketball is a passion that won’t end after her collegiate career comes to a close.

“My father is a coach, so I’ve seen myself maybe in coaching,” Strand considered — citing her studies in sports psychology as a strong foundation. “If not, hopefully I can find a way into school for physical therapy.”

Either way, she’s looking forward to help.