In an unexpected place somewhere in the rolling hills of southwest Tennessee, there is a coach. She stands in the shadow of the late great Pat Summit. Unlike the former coach of the lady Tennessee Volunteers basketball legacy, this local coach goes mostly unnoticed. She’s up before the sun and many times returns home after darkness descends. Teacher by day, she takes on the challenge of helping failing high school students in a poor county pass who are otherwise in danger of failing out.
After the long and demanding day, while other educators are going home, this teacher jumps into her car and drives across the county to another school, transforming into a coach along the way. Working tirelessly, she molds and shapes local girls into skilled athletes who might just capture the attention of college coaches.
Many of these young girls lack the upbringing that would propel them to success. More days than not, this coach runs through the drive thru and brings them the only meal they have for the day. If they don’t have equipment, she buys it with her own money as well.
She convinces these girls they are winners when everything in their individual world screams they are worthless losers and will never amount to anything. She teaches them teamwork, integrity, and the value of doing what’s right.
On game day, no matter what the score is when the clock winds down, these girls are winners. Thanks to a lady who has lived her entire life in this county, they now have life skills they never would have developed had she not taken the time to instill them within these underprivileged girls.
Many of her players have gone on to play college ball on scholarships that purchased their tickets out of poverty and into a successful life. She coaches in a no nonsense, earn your own way, all or nothing style. Girls have to earn their spot on the team by intense hard work. Once they are on the team, they have to work even harder to keep their spot.
Some don’t agree with coach’s style. They say she’s too strict. Her friends call her crazy for giving up her time and hard earned pennies on a teacher’s salary to ensure the success of these young athletes. But where the ball meets the court, girls are the only ones who matter. And at the end of tiring workouts or a hard fought game, know what they call her? They call her Coach.
When the last basket is made and the balls are put back into the closet, this unsung hero quietly retreats back into the shadows while a few girls from poor families walk a little taller. Armed with more than dribbling skills, they approach life armed with a new wisdom, a greater understanding of what possibilities await them if they will continue practicing the skills Coach taught them.
You won’t find this coach on ESPN. Or on the cover of Sports Illustrated. You’ll find her off the beaten path on the backroads of rural Tennessee doing what has earned her the right to be called Coach.
My hat’s off to you. May God grant you wisdom and endurance to continue to mold future women of America into successes, one dribble at a time.