Hum­bled In­man named COY

Bryant coach takes ad­ver­sity in stride

The Saline Courier Weekend - - FRONT PAGE - By Tony Le­na­han tle­na­[email protected]­ton­courier.com

BRYANT – Com­ing up just short of the state cham­pi­onship in a 3-2 over­time ti­tle match loss to Rogers last year, the Bryant Lady Hor­nets got the job done this sea­son with a 2-1 win over 6A Cen­tral Con­fer­ence foe Conway in the state cham­pi­onship this sea­son af­ter fall­ing to the Lady Wam­pus Cats twice dur­ing the reg­u­lar sea­son.

In fact, those were the only two losses the Lady Hor­nets suf­fered all sea­son as they fin­ished 18-2 over­all, 12-2 in the Cen­tral, which brings Bryant Head Coach Ni­cole In­man’s two-year high school record to 35-8, 22-6 in con­fer­ence play. On Thurs­day, In­man was named the Arkansas High School Coaches As­so­ci­a­tion Coach of the Year af­ter lead­ing the Lady Hor­nets to two straight finals ap­pear­ances. In­man also earned the All Preps Coach of the Year last sea­son.

But just like last year af­ter get­ting her All Preps honor, In­man said the credit goes to the play­ers.

“It doesn’t mat­ter how great a coach you are, if the play­ers don’t do what you say and demon­strate some­thing,” In­man started, “the girls were re­ally com­mit­ted to what we were try­ing to do and worked re­ally hard.

“Be­ing a player is dif­fer­ent from be­ing a coach. I wasn’t out there sweat­ing and work­ing my butt off like they were. You put to­gether pack­ages that will help them in­crease their abil­ity, help them in­crease their un­der­stand­ing of the game, and they have to im­ple­ment it when the game starts. As a coach, it’s your re­spon­si­bil­ity to pre­pare them. Once the game starts, a lot of times it out of your hands. You don’t have that much con­trol over what’s go­ing on, and that’s OK.”

But, de­spite tak­ing her team to con­sec­u­tive ti­tle games, In­man still gives credit to some­one else

– her for­mer high school coach in Min­nesota, Tony Pesznegker.

“I had an amaz­ing high school coach,” In­man said. “My fresh­man year of high school was his first year to coach. The year be­fore that they had won three games. When he (Pesznegker) came, he didn’t just insert the se­niors. It was about who does well. My fresh­man

year I got to start and play and we went from win­ning three games to be­ing sec­ond in state. And the next year we won. I had that op­por­tu­nity to live it and to know it can hap­pen. I had a good coach that made me into the kind of coach I am to­day. I’m thank­ful for the train­ing and ev­ery­thing that I had and I was able to uti­lize that. I think that’s made a dif­fer­ence.”

In­man also is a hands-on coach who is close to her team.

“I’m a 24-hour coach,” she said. “I am very cu­ri­ous about what they do. I want to in­vest in those lives. I love the girls. When you do that, I think that helps them de­cide they’re go­ing to play and push. I don’t ever have to yell at them be­cause they want it. It’s the girls, not me.”

What makes In­man’s story even more amaz­ing is the fact that she’s been bat­tling can­cer for just over a year now.

“When we played the cham­pi­onship game last year, a week later I had a seizure and that’s when I knew,” she said. “I went to the hos­pi­tal and all that stuff and that’s when I found out I had two tu­mors in my brain. I started my treat­ment af­ter do­ing some re­search with dif­fer­ent doctors at dif­fer­ent places be­cause we were try­ing to de­cide if I should do surgery. I de­cided not to do surgery and I did ra­di­a­tion all sum­mer. I still have two months of chemo and I’ll be done with that.

“One of the tu­mors ba­si­cally shrank and went away, which was a huge an­swer to prayer and was un­ex­pected. The other one is just there so I go in next month in June and have an­other MRI. The school’s been re­ally great. I was able to take many days off for my doctor’s ap­point­ments and have a lit­tle more rest. So it was a dif­fer­ent kind of year.”

While for most peo­ple can­cer would be a huge distractio­n for any­one to deal with, In­man just took her diagnosis in stride.

“No, I for­get a lot that I have it,” she said of her can­cer not be­ing a distractio­n. “I just don’t think about any­thing go­ing on with me. I’ve been for­tu­nate where I’ve felt good and I’m thank­ful for that. I’ve had a lot of peo­ple pray­ing for me and I have been su­per blessed to have the en­ergy that I’ve needed. The funny thing is be­cause of the chemo and the ra­di­a­tion my brain was get­ting zapped so my short-term mem­ory wasn’t the great­est and it took me a long time to re­mem­ber peo­ple’s names.

“That was prob­a­bly the most chal­leng­ing part for me was my mem­ory, but I loved get­ting out on the soc­cer field be­cause ev­ery­thing I needed to know was there with­out hav­ing to think. Prac­tices, ev­ery­thing that I needed to do, I had great cap­tains and play­ers that helped me. It was a team ef­fort any­time we did any­thing. I’ll al­ways be thank­ful to the girls.”

TONY LE­NA­HAN/THE Sa­line Courier

Bryant Lady Hor­nets soc­cer Coach Ni­cole In­man coaches in a match this past sea­son. In­man was named the AHSCA Soc­cer Coach of the Year af­ter lead­ing the Lady Hor­nets to a 6A State Tour­na­ment ti­tle this past sea­son af­ter lead­ing Bryant to the ti­tle game last year as well.

TONY LE­NA­HAN/THE Sa­line Courier

Bryant Lady Hor­nets soc­cer Coach Ni­cole In­man, far left, cel­e­brates the 6A State Tour­na­ment cham­pi­onship with her team last month at Ra­zor­back Field in Fayet­teville. In­man earned the AHSCA Coach of the Year.

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