It’s not every day that you meet your husband or wife on a blind date. It’s also not every day that a husband and wife duo are the head basketball and cheerleading coach at a Division I university.
It just so happens that those are both the case for Chelsea and A.W. Hamilton.
On December 20, Chelsea Hamilton was named EKU’s head all-girl cheerleading coach – just eight months after A.W. Hamilton was announced as the EKU men’s basketball head coach.
However, when A.W. Hamilton took the job, neither knew that this unforeseen idea could be a reality.
“I think it’s good for the university that it’s a little family-oriented,” Chelsea Hamilton said. “We’re all on the same team.”
Being a cheerleader for the entirety of her life until college, Chelsea Hamilton was used to the feeling of a team environment. Originally from Edgewood, Kentucky, Chelsea Hamilton began her career cheering for All-Star Cheerleading, then transitioning to both travel and high school cheerleading.
Her high school career then led her to cheer at Morehead State University, where she earned cheerleading freshman of the year. In 2007, she and her team won the UCA College National Championship.
Though she graduated with a degree in mathematics education, Chelsea Hamilton said that she knew after college that she wanted to start a career in coaching, which ended up leading her to a coaching position at Kentucky Elite in Lexington.
“I really thought that I would coach forever,” Chelsea Hamilton said, “but when we met, he was coaching, I was coaching, and we kind of had to pick.”
When Chelsea and A.W. Hamilton met, A.W. Hamilton had been coaching at Hargrave Military Academy, located in Chatham, Virginia. A mutual friend, who was also Chelsea Hamilton’s boss, had told them they needed to go on a date.
A.W. Hamilton’s team happened to be playing one weekend in Louisville while Chelsea Hamilton was living and coaching in Lexington. They decided to meet up in Louisville at a restaurant called “St. Charles Place” – which would later be the reason why they named one of their daughters “Charlie.”
“We hit it off,” A.W. Hamilton said. “As soon as I looked at her, I said, ‘I’m going to marry her.’ Thank goodness she was a great person, too.”
That night started what would be a year of long-distance dating, which later led to Chelsea Hamilton deciding to move to Virginia.
They were married in November 2014.
After coaching as the head coach at Hargrave Academy for six years, A.W. Hamilton took a job as the assistant coach at North Carolina State University in Raleigh, North Carolina. The Hamiltons stayed there for a year.
Then one day, A.W. Hamilton came home to his wife and told her he wanted to apply for the head coaching position at Eastern Kentucky University.
After speaking on the phone with Steve Lochmueller, EKU’s athletic director, A.W. Hamilton said he realized that it would not be an easy feat to get the job. He asked Lochmueller for an opportunity to sit down and talk with him, A.W. Hamilton said, so Lochmueller flew down to Raleigh.
A.W. Hamilton then came on an interview and was offered the job, and the Hamiltons didn’t look back.
Fall came around, and after the former head cheerleading coach was let go on short notice, there was a sudden need for a head cheerleading coach.
Knowing Chelsea Hamilton’s background in cheerleading and coaching, she was asked to fill the position. Chelsea Hamilton said she agreed to help until they could find someone to fill the position but did not accept the offer because of having to take care of their two daughters and her husband’s busy coaching schedule.
“I think it was two practices in, and I wrote Lochmueller and said, ‘Just kidding, I want the job,’” Chelsea Hamilton said. “It was awesome, and they were great for me.”
What started as a volunteer fill-in job turned into the career that Chelsea Hamilton had thought was going to be her long-term profession. And it helped that her husband was fully on-board with the job, too.
“She started doing it again, and I could tell that her passion, her competitiveness was coming out,” A.W. Hamilton said. “I remember telling her, ‘You’ve got to try to get the job,’ because she was having so much fun, and I knew that if she didn’t, she would have regretted it.”
The student-athletes embraced her arrival, too, A.W. Hamilton said. One of her cheerleaders, senior Emma Jerdon, said that she remembered during their two-a-days, Chelsea Hamilton would have them over to her house and cook for them. That helped the team to bond and for the team to get to know Chelsea Hamilton better as well.
“She knows what she’s talking about, so she’s easy to listen to,” Jerdon said. “Practices are hard, but it made us better.”
Those practices and the time they spent building their relationship off the mat paid off at Nationals this month when the all-girls squad placed eighth overall.
Chelsea Hamilton said that the whole process of them moving to Richmond then her becoming the cheerleading coach has been a whirlwind, but it has been very special for both her and A.W. Hamilton to be so close to family.
A.W. Hamilton, originally from Georgetown, Kentucky, said that the last time he lived this close to family was 1999. Now with them living in Richmond, it’s like they are back home, both coaching for the same university and rooting for the same team.
“I love the people. I love how excited they are about basketball,” A.W. Hamilton said. "I think that we’re a program that can really do some great things because of the passion our fans have. I do appreciate that and how welcoming everybody’s been. It’s a fun place to be. There’s no place like home.”