Humbled Inman named COY
Bryant coach takes adversity in stride
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.”
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.
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.