July 8, 2009
Mandy Fondren believes there is no place better to learn than close to home.
Fondren''s decision to accept a job offer to become East Webster High School''s new girls basketball coach is even more appealing because she grew up in Sherwood, a small community in Choctaw County, and she will have an opportunity to join a school with a tradition-rich athletic department.
"I wanted to get closer to home and I had kind of heard about the East Webster job through the grapevine and I thought it would be a really good job," Fondren said. "There will be good mentors who are previous coaches who will help me gain experience in my first head coaching job."
Fondren replaces Bill Brand, who resigned earlier this year as girls basketball and slow- and fast-pitch softball coaches at East Webster High to become the school''s principal.
Brand is excited to add Fondren to his faculty.
"She came highly recommended," Brand said. "She seems to be very organized and very energetic. We''re looking for her to start strong."
Brand said the Fondren''s hiring is subject to the approval of the Webster County School Board, which will meet July 14.
Brand said he received more than a dozen applications for the opening, and he interviewed six candidates. He said Fondren''s reputation as a "hustler" and a "go-getter" helped her as a player, and he believes she will bring the same mind-set to East Webster High.
Brand said Fondren will teach social studies and/or science.
Fondren, 24, worked for the past two years as a seventh- and eighth-grade science teacher at Brandon Middle School. She worked as the ninth-grade girls basketball coach at Brandon High School in 2007-08.
The 2003 graduate of Ackerman High played women''s basketball for two seasons at Blue Mountain College (2003-05) before moving on to Mississippi State, where she received her degree in secondary education (concentration in biology).
Fondren said the prospect of taking her first head coaching job is even more exciting because she will be doing it at a school that takes a lot of pride in the success of its athletics program. She said sports weren''t pushed as much at Brandon, and that she is eager to return to a more competitive environment, even if it means there will be more pressure.
"I like the pressure," Fondren said. "I think it will make me work at it a little harder."
Fondren feels she is still maturing as a coach. She said she enjoyed her experience as a coach at Brandon High and is anxious to continue to learn and to grow as a coach.
Fondren''s playing experience should help her as a coach. She played softball and basketball and was a member of the track and field team at Ackerman High. She went on to play two seasons as a shooting guard on the women''s basketball team at Blue Mountain College, a small four-year co-educational college in North Mississippi.
"I have always wanted to be a coach since I was in high school," Fondren said. "I guess I have been waiting and sitting back on the right opportunity. I have just been sitting back with a year of experience and now here we go."
Adam Minichino is the Sports Editor for The Commercial Dispatch.