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Simmons steps down as BPC women’s basketball coach
Coach Sheila Simmons in action earlier this season
By Taylor Hereford
Director of Marketing
MOUNT VERNON – After seven successful years in coaching – four of which as head women’s basketball coach at Brewton-Parker College – Sheila Simmons has decided to turn in her whistle to enter the classroom on a full-time basis.
“I began to evaluate the years I’ve put into the game and I feel like I’ve gotten everything out of it that I wanted,” Simmons said from her office in the Bartow and Jean Snooks Student Activities Center on the Mount Vernon campus.
Simmons compiled at 99-33 record at BPC, which included winning the Southern States Athletic Conference’s (SSAC) regular season co-championship in 2005. The Barons finished as runners-up in the SSAC Tournament in 2005 and 2006 and made back-to-back trips to the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA) Women’s Basketball Tournament during those years. She was also named SSAC Coach of the Year and the Russell Athletic/WBCA Region 6 Coach of the Year in 2005.
As she closes the door on this particular chapter in her life, Simmons said she has so many wonderful memories – especially from her time at BPC – which she will cherish for years to come.
“Posting a 32-4 record in 2005 and winning the conference co-championship was very special,” she said. “That particular team broke numerous team records. Not many coaches can say that they were able to accomplish what we accomplished that year. And having the chance to go to the national tournament two years in a row will also be something I’ll never forget.”
Before her time at BPC, Simmons was a graduate assistant coach at the University of Montevallo in Alabama (1992-93), an assistant coach at Eastern Kentucky University (1993-2000), and head coach at Brevard College in North Carolina (2000-2003). While coaching at Eastern Kentucky and Brevard, Simmons held faculty positions in the area of physical education.
At BPC, she has been a faculty member in the Sports and Fitness Department and will join the college’s Division of Education this summer and teach education courses that relate to health and fitness.
“Coach—or should I say, Professor Simmons, is one of the most talented and caring professionals with whom I’ve worked in my career in higher education,” said Dr. David Smith, president of BPC. “Our students will be positively influenced by her classroom and interpersonal skills. Our institution will be blessed by her commitment to Christ and her pursuit of excellence.”
Steve Barker, BPC’s athletic director, praised Simmons’ coaching ability and her commitment to seeing her players graduate.
“It’s been a real pleasure to work with her for the past four years,” Barker said. “She is a great ‘x and o’ coach who won a bunch of games. Her teams have always had high graduation rates, which is the sign of a coach who knows how to build a successful program. I wish her the best of luck as a faculty member at BPC.”
Simmons’ motivation to step into the classroom full-time is not solely based on fulfilling all her expectations as a basketball coach. She will also have a chance to devote more time to her family, which she says is more of a focus now.
“My mother is in need of a kidney transplant,” she said. “I feel like I need to be there for her and help her through this process. Stepping down from coaching will allow me to focus more on my mother and the rest of the family.”
Simmons said she told the team of her decision the week after this year’s SSAC Tournament. The players were very supportive and wished her the best.
“I was able to gather a sense of appreciation from the team for the time that I was their coach,” she said. “I told them I would still be at the college and in the area, so we would be able to keep in contact.”
Simmons has had the chance to coach many great players in Mount Vernon; the most recent being this year’s senior transfer Monique Martin. Martin was named SSAC Player and Newcomer of the Year and was a member of the SSAC All-Conference Team and a WBCA/Kodak All-American. Martin signed a free agent contract this April with the WNBA’s Connecticut Sun – the first basketball player in Brewton-Parker College history to play at the professional level.
“Being involved in the whole WNBA process with Monique and seeing her get to the next level was definitely a highlight,” Simmons said.
Looking back over her seven years on the bench, Simmons said coaching basketball has taught her a lot.
“I’ve learned so much in coaching,” she said. “I’ve learned you have to have discipline in this sport. I’ve also learned how to work with people, especially players, and how to treat them with respect.”
And she gives God the glory for all of her success.
“God has blessed me as a coach,” she said. “When all is said and done, I want people to remember that I put Christ first in my life.”
She said the “competition side” of her will miss not sitting on the bench during games in the future. A fan of all sports, she knows she’ll be able to enjoy all BPC athletics from the stands. How she’ll feel, though, as a spectator when the women’s basketball team first takes the court to open the 2007 season is another story.
“It will definitely be different,” she said with a hearty laugh.