By Alex Brown
It’s a familiar sight for Lady Bulldogs fans. Merideth Jacobs is on the hardcourt, exhorting her team to finish strong. As time winds down on an early-season blowout, reserves play out the final few minutes.
But this scene does not take place at the Fred Delay Gymnasium, nor is it a Union basketball game. Jacobs, a 2009 graduate, is entering her second year coaching women’s basketball at South Gibson County High School.
“(Coaching high school basketball) is something that I’ve looked forward to for my whole life,” Jacobs said. “Growing up, it was something I knew I wanted to do.”
Jacobs’ first year at the helm was also a first for South Gibson — its first year in existence. The first-time head coach took over both the men’s and women’s basketball programs at the new school at the start of the 2009 season, soon after receiving her diploma from Union in secondary education.
“(It was my) first year out of college, first-year job, obviously it was nerve-wracking,” Jacobs said. “You don’t know what to anticipate.”
This season, Jacobs has taken her focus to the women’s team, hoping to help the Lady Hornets improve on their initial 4–14 campaign. She said she knows she has her work cut out for her.
“I embrace the challenges, and I have to understand that it takes time (to build a program),” Jacobs said. “I have to remind myself over and over that it’s going to take time, it’s going to take years. This is somewhere I want to be for a long time. (I want to) establish something, establish a foundation for basketball here.”
The high school is currently made up of only freshmen, sophomores and juniors. Jacobs said as the school continues to expand, the growing talent pool will help the program move forward.
She said another key will be cultivating a desire in younger students to play and keeping middle-school athletes motivated to achieve the goal of one day making the high school roster.
While Jacobs knew from an early age she wanted to coach, her career direction did not happen overnight. She credits Union’s women’s basketball coach Mark Campbell with providing an example for how to build and maintain a successful program.
“(Coach Campbell) is dedicated to the Union program,” Jacobs said. “He has modeled the coach I want to be and the foundation I want to build here at South Gibson. I learned a lot from his coaching philosophy.”
Winning may take time, and Jacobs is eager to see final scores that reflect the effort she puts into the program. But she said her job carries more significance than the numbers on a scoreboard.
“You’re not only there to win ballgames, but you’re there to help those young ladies develop into young women,” Jacobs said. “I not only coach them, but teach them as people. In the past year, I’ve watched all 12 of my girls mature in so many ways. Watching them grow and learn by mistakes, that’s very rewarding.”
While Jacobs is still in the early stages of what she hopes to be a long tenure at South Gibson, it may not be wise to overlook her young team just yet. She doesn’t wait around to achieve her goals. In her first two seasons at Union, Jacobs won two NAIA national championships.
She may not be able to contribute the way she did at Union, scoring more than 1,500 points in her career, but the leadership skills she learned at Union will be an asset in her coaching career.
That leadership was on display in 2008 when Jacobs returned after missing a season because of injury. She guided the Lady Bulldogs to the national championship, collecting her third NAIA title in the process.
Jacobs said her recent playing career helps her relate to her players, and her success on the court gives her credibility with them.
The respect she is still striving for — on the sidelines — is that of a winning basketball coach. With her program still under construction, Jacobs may have to wait for that distinction. Then again, Merideth Jacobs isn’t one to waste time.