Sarah Simmons has a lot of fond memories of growing in Marshall and can name a handful of people who helped influence her to get to where she is today as a high school head basketball coach.

“Ned Dennis, he’s an attorney in Marshall but he was influential when I was little, little in the Little Dribblers program,” she recalls. “I remember he jump started a lot of our careers in basketball. That program and what he did for Marshall kids was very influential.”

Simmons graduated from Marshall High School in 1994 where she played basketball and ran both cross country and track.

“We weren’t great in basketball but we always did well in track,” Simmons added. “Coach (Emma) Bennett, she passed away not too long ago but she coached many of us Marshall kids and we had an incredible track team. She was the best. She was a coach who could get 60 high school girls to do their best every week and that’s not easy.”

While growing up in Marshall, Simmons always felt the community support.

“The school and the community were super supportive,” she said. “Marshall back then, just four years before we won state in football, so we were a very sports-oriented community. There was never a time where we didn’t feel supported, which is super special of the hometown.”

Growing up and watching college basketball games in her hometown motivated her to play college basketball herself.

“My mom used to take me to watch the ETBU girls basketball,” she recalls. “Being in that gym, the old gym and they didn’t even really have seats, they were basically risers but the ETBU band used to play for the girls and I always said to myself, ‘I’m going to play in college like that one day.’ That was a big influencer too growing up.”

She eventually made that dream come true as she played basketball at Abilene Christian University.

“My major was actually history and government, go figure,” she said. “I was tempted to do the law route but I couldn’t get away from my love of basketball. So I went the education route.”

Coaching and teaching was a desire Simmons had when she was in elementary school.

“Apparently when I was in third grade, I looked at my mother and said, ‘I’m going to be a basketball coach and a teacher when I grow up,’ and I never lost vision of that,” she offered. “I don’t remember saying that to her but she said I did.”

Her post-college career has led her to a handful of stops, with the most recent being at Magnolia West where she led her Lady Mustangs to the regional semifinals.

“That was a big deal,” she said. “We had a good team so I wanted to at least get as far as we had the year before, which was the regional quarterfinals but these girls were so special. My brother is a fireman in Marshall, so Scott and my parents would come down and he was like, ‘Man, they play like college kids.’ That was a huge compliment to me to know that when he watched them, he wasn’t bored. It was fun.”

Simmons however, will enter the 2019-2020 school year with a different team.

“Now, I’ve changed jobs,” she explained. “I took a new position at Montgomery ISD. The school is literally 10 minutes from my house. So I’ll be at Lake Creek High School. It’s brand new. It just opened last year. Building the program like I did at Magnolia West, I get to do again at Lake Creek. I’m excited for the challenge.”

She added there are many rewarding aspects in being a basketball coach.

“Probably the most rewarding part of coaching basketball is seeing the girls have a common goal and achieving it,” she said. “For someone who is hyper competitive like me, there’s just no better feeling. To instill confidence in young women and see it come to fruition on the court is really special.

“I would say that a team’s family spirit is intoxicating to me but the competitive nature reminds me that I can do anything that I put my mind to,” Simmons added when asked what type of life lessons she has learned from basketball. “You can apply it to anything.”

When she reflects on her time in Marshall, the thing she really misses most is the community.

“My teammates, hands down,” she said. “We’re lifelong friends. And my family is still there. That community raised me. That’s what I miss.”

This is the second installment of an occasional series. Please send topic suggestions to nhague@marshallnewsmessenger.com.