Beyond the Court
Written by Olivia (Morris) Hughes
In the spring semester of 2008, I was trying to decide which college I wanted to attend to
continue my basketball career. I had a couple of different choices, but one place really stood out to me and that was Williams Baptist College. There are several different things that made it appealing to me, such as the beautiful campus, the distance from my hometown, and the class sizes; however, one thing stood out above all of those and that was Coach Halford. From the very first time I met her, she went out of her way to make me feel like I was special and that she wanted me to be a part of her team. As a matter of fact, the second time she ever spoke to me she was offering me a scholarship to be a Lady Eagle. I knew at that moment that I wanted to spend my next four years playing for her, and being a part of her program.
When I first arrived at campus in August of 2008, I was excited to be starting college but extremely sad about leaving my family. I was happy to have basketball to take my mind off of the fact that I wasn’t around them all the time. College basketball was much different than high school and AAU; add the stress of trying to do well in
classes and it can be a bit overwhelming. I made several trips to Coach Halford’s office just needing to vent about what I was going through the first few months, and each time she assured me that the first semester was the hardest and if I made it through it, then I would be fine. I had one more big meltdown during Christmas break where I cried at my lunch table at the Parachute Inn because all I wanted to do was go home and be with my family. Once again Coach came in with the voice of reason and told me that the feeling of being homesick wouldn’t last forever, and once I got back into the routine of classes and practice that I would be just fine. She never once told me to suck it up and quit being a baby (which I probably deserved to hear); instead she made me feel like she understood exactly what I was going through and that everything was going to be okay.
The lessons I learned while playing for Coach Halford extended far beyond what she taught me
on the basketball court. I learned the importance of hard work. From day one when I walked in the gym, she told the team that nothing would be given to us. If we wanted a chance to play, we had to work for it each and every day in practice. It didn’t matter to her what accomplishments we achieved in high school, this was college and everyone was out to get a spot on the floor. I learned that just because you were a starter one year that didn’t mean that you were entitled to a spot the next year. You have to come in each day and work hard to prove that you belong on the floor. She also taught me that whenever you walk into practice or a game, you approach it with a businesslike demeanor. That meant that our jerseys shouldn’t be wrinkled, our tops should always be tucked into our shorts, and whatever you did, make sure that you did not yawn! Those things seemed silly and unnecessary at the time, but when I got into the work field I realized just how important that was. She was teaching us how to be
prepared for our life each day by showing us that little details mattered and made a difference.
It makes me sad to think that no other athlete will walk into the SMC and be given a nickname by Coach that they really don’t understand or even like. There won’t be any other upperclassmen telling the underclassmen that they shouldn’t eat any type of cinnamon candy because Coach absolutely hates the smell of it. I doubt any other players will come into practice and have to wear a sign that has a clever quote on it while they run line drills until they can’t stand up, but maybe that’s a good thing! I know several rules and policies that Coach
Halford put in place will remain part of the Lady Eagle program, but now the torch is being passed on to someone else that I know will do a good job because he was taught by one of the best. Thank you, Coach Halford, for your 33 years of devotion to the Lady Eagle’s program and I’m especially grateful for the four years you spent making my life better. I became a better basketball player because you coached me, and I became an even stronger person because I knew you.