Chris Rogers likes to say that in basketball, there are many second chances. Ashlee Courter was his.
Ashlee and Chris, the head women’s and head men’s basketball coaches, respectively, at Marymount University, met in 2006 while coaching at Franklin & Marshall College in Lancaster, Pa. Although they worked in the same department, for 21 / 2 years Ashlee and Chris rarely spoke.
The two were at very different points in their lives; Ashlee, then 24, was new to coaching and working constantly to establish a name for herself in the field. At that time, she was only a year older than many of her players. Chris, on the other hand, was 32, married with two kids (Georgia, now 10, and Hugh, now 7) and was working to become a head coach.
“It’s strange how you can work so closely to someone but not really know them,” Ashlee says. “We were both focused [on] our own basketball world, striving to make our teams the best. We didn’t even realize our . . . partner was right under our nose.”
Despite their limited interactions, both respected and admired one another’s work ethic, passion as a coach and commitment to the sport. Both were former star collegiate athletes; Chris was a four-year letter winner at Penn State while Ashlee, a Marymount graduate, made four consecutive NCAA Division III tournament appearances, including the Final Four championship in 2002.
A reorganization of the sports department in 2008 brought the college’s coaches closer together. The athletic team began spending time together outside of work, and a friendship developed between Chris and Ashlee.
A few months later, he was offered the position of head coach at Marymount University in Arlington. Chris, who was then separated from his wife, whom he divorced in 2011, accepted the position and moved to the District.
A year later, Ashlee was offered the position of head women’s coach after her mentor and longtime Marymount coach, Bill Finney, retired. The move was purely professional, Ashlee says, and an opportunity to “give back to the school that had given so much to me.”
Chris helped Ashlee transition into work and became a close confidant during her first year of coaching. Working side-by-side daily, it was not long before the two of them realized they shared many interests and developed strong feelings for one another. A series of informal dates for lunch and ice cream brought them even closer together.
Ashlee, who admits to having a hard exterior, felt she could relax with Chris. “I can and will let my walls down, but it’s only for certain people and on my terms,” Ashlee says. “He takes me out of my comfort zone, which is a really good thing.”
Chris had a feeling that this relationship would be different from his last. “I knew she liked me when she was telling me things I could tell she didn’t tell other people,” he says. “Our talks were unique. . . . It felt like this is what a real relationship was supposed to feel like.”
As they began spending more time together off the court, they learned they had much more in common than their passion for basketball and exercising. They shared similar values, morals and religious backgrounds.
They also both understood the pressures and demands that came with scouting, recruiting, practicing and preparing for games. For instance, they understood if one of them needed to drive out of state to meet a promising recruit or cancel dinner plans last minute if a game went into overtime.
“Even though our offices are across the hall from each other, our schedules are opposite,” he says. “When she’s practicing, I’m not, and vice versa. We play on the same nights, but we often play double headers. . . . We are always crossing paths.
“We don’t really have any hobbies,” Chris jokes.
They agree that the hardest nights are when one team wins and the other loses. “It’s always, well, how can I tone down my happiness or how can I be super excited for her right now,” Chris says.
Despite their busy schedules, they make an effort to have date nights and traditions. For example, every year they celebrate the beginning of college basketball season, known as Midnight Madness, with a midnight drink.
On and off the court, Chris describes Ashlee’s personality as intense, sincere and passionate. “She’s a great influence on my kids,” he says. “I feel I am a better parent now because of her.” Ashlee admires the way Chris bends over backward for the people he cares about: his players, his family and especially his children.
“He can be very quiet and reserved, which I like,” she says. “Even though we have positions that make him the center of attention, he doesn’t need to have all eyes on him. His actions speak louder than his words.”
In May 2013, Chris’s mother confided to him that she had saved his grandmother’s ring for the right woman. She believed that woman was Ashlee. “It makes me sound like a momma’s boy, but when my mom handed me the box and said give it to her,” he says, “that was it.”
Four months later, he invited Ashlee to join him on a hike at Turkey Run Park, near the George Washington Memorial Parkway. After a 30-minute hike, the trail opened up to a small waterfall. He led her to the center of the fall, dropped to a knee and proposed.
“He got me,” Ashlee admits, smiling. “I really didn’t think it was coming.”
Ashlee Courter, now 32, and Chris Rogers, now 40, were married June 27 at the Castle at Maryvale Preparatory School in Brooklandville, Md. Afterward, they celebrated with 135 guests at the Gramercy Mansion B&B, a historic Tudor-style mansion in Baltimore. Instead of a guest book, the guests were asked to autograph a basketball. The cake topper was a cartoon version of the bride and groom wearing their college basketball jerseys.
This fall, two Rogers will be coaching from the sidelines of Marymount University’s basketball courts. Well, make that one Coach Rogers and one Coach Courter-Rogers; Ashlee will use the hyphenated name on the court.
“Our love for basketball is what led us to each other,” Ashlee wrote days after the wedding. “It’s pretty special [that] our love for what we do led us to the love of our lives.”