Santa Barbara Sports Figure of the Month: Kirsten Moore

Westmont women's basketball coach Kirsten Moore

Westmont women’s basketball coach Kirsten Moore

One of Alex Moore’s favorite verses from the Bible are words his wife, Kirsten, strives to live by every day.

The verse is from the Book of Chronicles: “Be strong and courageous, and do the work. Do not be afraid or discouraged, for the Lord God, my God, is with you.”

Some days it’s hard. On those days, all Kirsten has to do is look into the eyes of her and Alex’s 6-month-old daughter, Alexis, and she’s revitalized — her strength comes back, the discouragement disappears and she gets back to work.

“She’s such a gift,” said her proud mom.

Kirsten Moore, the women’s basketball coach at Westmont College, lost her husband last May. Alex, a 31-year-old professor of kinesiology at the Montecito school, died from complications following surgery for Crohn’s disease.

On Saturday, Westmont is hosting the Alex Moore Classic, a benefit basketball doubleheader featuring the Warrior men’s and women’s teams against San Diego Christian. Tickets are $25 for general admission and $10 for children under 12, with proceeds from the event benefitting Kirsten and Alexis.

The night also will include a celebration of the life of Alex Moore. The event begins at 5:30 p.m. with the women’s game.

Moore with daughter Alexis Renee

Moore with daughter Alexis Renee

Kirsten Moore, Presidio Sports’ honoree as Sports Figure of the Month, is amazed at how much support she’s received from the community.

“This community has thought 10 steps ahead of me in trying to support me and Alexis,” she said. “Some people came up with this idea as a way to honor him. I’m really grateful.

“Alex passed away after school got out last year, so it’s great to have something on campus for him.”

Westmont President Gayle D. Beebe has been impressed by the outpouring of support.

“We seek to assist Kirsten and Alexis in every tangible way possible, including financial,” he said. “I’m delighted to witness the love and concern for Kirsten that has inspired the Alex Moore Classic and the many people who have stepped forward to make this event a success and a blessing for Alex’s wife and daughter.”

Another purpose of the event is to raise awareness of Crohn’s disease, a type of inflammatory bowel disease that may affect any part of the gastrointestinal tract.

This award is made possible by American Riviera Bank

This award is made possible by American Riviera Bank

Each Month, Presidio Sports recognizes a local sports figure for their extraordinary contribution to the Santa Barbara athletic community.

It is our way to recognize those who are making a lasting impact in our sports community, whether it is an outstanding athletic performance, a lifetime achievement award, or perhaps a great example of leadership.

“A lot of people don’t know about it and that it affects a lot of people,” Kirsten Moore said.

Kirsten feels blessed to be at a place like Westmont, where she’s been the women’s basketball coach for eight years. She met Alex at the school in 2008.

“Even though how hard everything has been, there have been so many things that have helped me feel that I’m not alone,” she said of the Westmont community. “I got strength and courage from God. Just to be in the place that I am I don’t think is a coincidence. I think I’m there for a reason.”

“I really know it’s a special place,” she continued. “For me to be able to continue to coach and take care of my daughter, there’s no way I could do that without so much support. People have gone above and beyond, to whether it’s meals they’re providing, or taking care of Alexis for practices, and during the day so I can work.

“They say it takes a village to raise a child, even in normal circumstances. In the circumstances we’ve been in, Westmont has just been incredible.”

Kirsten says her basketball team has shared in her feelings of sadness.

“The team has really been supportive of me. They all knew Alex, and Alex really supported them.

“I have moments where I just cry and they’ll cry with me, and it’s OK. We are in it together.”

Moore reminds her players not to take their health for granted.

Through it all, Moore and the Warriors are off to a 10-3 start and are ranked #12 in the country. The Warriors play next on Saturday as part of the Alex Moore Classic.

She said the experience has brought the team closer and has reinforced what she tells the players in practice: to give their best effort all the time, not take anything for granted and enjoy the opportunity to compete and use their talents. Also, the fact their health should not be taken for granted.

Kirsten realizes the difficulty in maintaining that sense of urgency to not take things for granted. But, she notes, this experience has given her and her players the “unique ability to recalibrate and refocus, and to not stay in that place when we’re struggling. And, to really play for something bigger.

“When something like this happens, the wins and losses don’t mean as much,” she continued. “It’s more about striving to be our best with every opportunity we have. What that ends up looking like and how that translates into wins and losses we have yet to see. If it’s winning another championship, that’s awesome. If it’s not winning another championship but feeling like this team maximized what we can do and what we’re about and worked valiantly to be our best every day, I think we’ll feel like that’s a success as well.”

Kirsten loves coaching basketball. She discovered she had the knack for it while attending the Lavin Basketball Camp in the Bay Area when she was a sophomore in high school.

“I was already coaching at the camp and coaching older girls,” she recalled.

Coaching basketball was in her blood. Her father was a coach, her mother a teacher and her older brother played the sport.

“I’ve just had this passion for basketball every since I can remember. My very first word (when I was a baby) was “ball,” she said.

But she never thought coaching would be her profession.

It became her career after she was asked by her head coach at Oregon to be an assistant.

“Once I started doing it, it just became obvious this is where I can make a difference,” she said.

After Alex died, Kirsten was asked by some people if she would give up coaching.

Not a chance.

“It never, ever crossed my mind not to keep coaching,” she said. “That’s what I’m gifted to do. That’s where I feel like I can have purpose and make a difference in other people’s lives. When I’m able to help other people, that’s when I feel happiest.”

Kirsten said the strength she gets from Alexis is tremendous. She’s the inspiration “to do the work.”

“She’s been a blessing beyond what I can imagine. I have so much love for her. I can’t just sit and wallow in self pity or feel sorry for myself because some bad thing happened to me. I have to do the work for her, and I want to. She gives me the passion to keep going, stay positive and find good in life, find good in humanity.

“She gives me a ton of motivation every day, to get up and do well and try to live victoriously.”

Alex would be proud.