Since she was 5 years old, basketball has been one of the main focuses of Jessica Stone’s life.
Now she has found something important enough to draw her away from the court — a son.
“Basketball is challenging and very fulfilling. It has played a very big role in my life,” stated the former Lee University All-American who has spent the last three years as the head coach of the Walker Valley Lady Mustangs. “When my son came along, my priorities changed. This past season I didn’t feel like I was able to do either (be a mom or coach) as well as I could, because my attention was divided.”
Stone and her husband, Adam, an assistant football coach at Polk County High School, became parents for the first time when Jon Reid was born 10 months ago.
Coaching is a very demanding and time-consuming profession, with in-season work requiring seven-day a week attention. It involves as much as 60-70 or more hours, between classroom responsibilities during the day, as well as practice or game preparation (including scouting, game or practice film watching), plus often two games (JV and varsity) a night, two or three times a week.
During the offseason there are camps, ones the team attend as well as ones the coaches host, plus conditioning and preparation for the next season.
“I’m going to continue to teach (wellness and physical education at WVHS), but now I’ll be able to come home at the end of the day and be Mom,” she remarked. “I’ll have my summers and Christmas vacations free.”
“It’s (the adjustment to not being around basketball) going to be tough. I already miss my girls (Lady Mustang players), but I’ll see them around school and I’ll come to games,” Stone related.
“When I went into talk with Mr. (Danny) Coggin (the WVHS principal), he and Mike (Turner, the WVHS athletic director) were very supportive in my decision, and have been great about it. It’s nice to work with people like that,” she commented.
Stone and fellow Lee teammate and roommate Jan Spangler took over the Walker Valley program when longtime coach David Tucker stepped down after the 2009-10 season. Spangler was the head coach and Stone the assistant for a season, before Spangler returned to Lee to work under Lady Flame coach Marty Rowe, handing the Lady Mustang reins to Stone.
Under her tutelage (including her year as an assistant coach), Walker Valley has advanced to the Region 3-AAA Tournament level all four years and compiled a 70-50 overall record, including a 31-16 mark in District 5-AAA regular season games.
After a standout high school career in Western Kentucky, Stone and Spangler were recruited by Coach Rowe to play at Brescia University in Owensboro, Ky. After sitting out their freshman red-shirt season, the pair came to Cleveland when Rowe was hired to direct the Lee Lady Flames.
Along with being Academic All-Americans (three times for Spangler, twice for Stone), they were both selected twice to the NAIA All-American teams. Stone was named the Southern States Conference Player of the Year, while both were All-SSAC multiple times.
“I saw her (Spangler) play in a Christmas tournament one year (when they were in high school), but we never played against one another,” Stone explained. “Her cousin was actually my best friend growing up, but we didn’t meet until Brescia. Then we found out the connection with the cousin.”
The duo became roommates and best friends upon arriving in Cleveland, where the highest point of their Lady Flame success came with a No. 2 ranking in the NAIA national poll for much of their senior season. With the pair becoming four-year starters, the Lady Flames posted 110 victories and played in the NAIA National Championship Tournament each of their seasons together.
Coincidentally, Spangler and her husband, Bradley Central assistant basketball and freshman baseball coach Patrick Spangler, also had their first child this past year — a son, Hudson Tyler.
Stone, whose dad was a high school coach, spent her first two years after Lee coaching basketball at Ocoee Middle School, while teaching at WVHS.
“I’m not saying I’ll never coach again, we’ll just have to play that by ear. Right now I just want to be Mom,” she stated.
The Lady Mustang program will be looking for its fourth head coach in the 13-year history of the school. Jonathan Dycus and Monty Frazier were serving as Stone’s assistant coaches and will be conducting the Lady Mustang summer camp next month.