E.A. Sports Today

Oxford’s Peoples steps aside

Lady Jackets’ girls basketball coach makes decision for family reasons; statewide search begins

By Al Muskewitz
East Alabama Sports Today

OXFORD – Tonya Peoples loves coaching basketball. She also loves being a mom to her two active boys. When those two roads intersect a decision has to be made and usually family wins out in the end.

Peoples told East Alabama Sports Today Monday she has stepped down as the Oxford girls basketball coach to become an active part of her boys’ lives.

Her oldest, Abram, is a ninth grader just starting to drive and her youngest, Luke, is a sixth grader who likes playing all three major sports.

The decision still needs to be accepted by the school board, but Peoples is at peace with the choice.

“It’s just time,” she said. “I feel like it’s what the Lord’s leading me to do. … As much as I love being a coach, it doesn’t compare to being a momma and I just want to have the time to support them and enjoy this time that I have.

“I just want to be a part of what they do and I don’t want to be too busy for them. Sometimes as a coach you can invest more into other peoples’ kids than you do your own and I just don’t want that to be the situation.”

The resignation only affects her coaching duties; she will remain in the education system at Oxford. Her husband, Scott, is the receivers coach for the Yellow Jackets’ football team.

Oxford athletics director Larry Davidson said the school would begin a statewide search to find her successor.

“We appreciate everything she did,” Davidson said. “The program is better than when she got here. She did exactly what we asked her to do to develop the program. We’re going to miss her.”

Peoples told her assistants of her decision after the Lady Jackets’ final game of the season, a 34-33 loss to Albertville in the Class 6A Northeast subregional, and told her players the next day. It was, understandably, an emotional discussion.

“It was not easy by any means, especially after it came out of my mouth,” she said. “I cried more in a 24-hour period than I have in a long, long time. Very emotional, but at the same time I had a peace.”

The decision Peoples made to put family ahead of free throws is one that faces female coaches throughout the industry. Before her children were born she coached at numerous schools across the state. She was at Florence for the five years prior to the five she spent at Oxford.

“It’s a balancing act,” she said. “You just have to do whatever you feel like the Lord is leading you because he’ll give you a peace; it just works out, it always has. We’re lucky because we have boys who love sports, but on the other hand they’re boys so I don’t have the opportunity to coach them. If they were girls I could stick around and be a part of coaching them, but that’s not the situation.

“The girls know I love them and they know my heart. There are some things I’ve personally been through I’ve just always (decided) that I don’t want to look back and regret not being around as much as possible and enjoying the time with them. You’re not guaranteed time and you need to make the most of it while you have it. I’m not saying you can’t coach and do that but it was just my time to step away.”

The Lady Jackets were 18-12 this past season and played in the Calhoun County Tournament final after knocking off top-seeded Anniston. They won their area tournament title with an amazing comeback against Pell City, then lost to Albertville on two free throws with five seconds to play.

“Those girls have memories that will last them a lifetime,” Peoples said. “It was a fun season. The thing I think of is thankful. I’ve been blessed just to be with them. We’ve had a good five years here.”

Cover photo: Kristen Stringer/Krisp Pics Photography

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