Sam Cooke once sang “a change is gonna come.”
While Cooke’s song was written many years ago and has no relation to East Oktibbeha, its reference to hard times and overcoming certainly fits the current climate at the school.
Facing accreditation issues, the school is not only undergoing changes academically, but changes are taking place athletically as well.
One of the most visible changes can be seen on the sidelines of this year’s East Oktibbeha basketball games as two new faces are leading the charge.
For the Lady Titans, former assistant coach Izella Brewer has moved up to the ranks of head coach, while science teacher turned coach Greg Washington has taken over the East Oktibbeha boys.
For Brewer, the opportunity to coach at her alma mater is a dream come true.
“It feels great to be coaching,” Brewer said. “I always wanted to be a coach since I played ball for so long. Basketball is really my dream and I am just happy to be able to be here for the girls.”
With the uncertainty facing the school system, being there for her team is one of the most important things Brewer says she can do right now.
She intends to make the most of the every moment on the hard wood.
“I always tell the girls to keep playing no matter what goes on around you,” Brewer said. “Our girls had a tough time at the beginning of the year and they were kind of disappointed, but I told them to keep pressing ahead and to put their best foot forward.
“We only have a few games this year, so I have instilled in them to make the most of every moment on the court. That is their escape and to enjoy each moment they lace up.”
The encouragement Brewer provides to her team comes as no surprise to anyone who knows the coach.
Describing herself as a “parent, teacher, sister and leader,” the coach just wants to see her team be successful and she is willing to be there for them no matter what it takes and no matter which role she has to portray.
Washington echoes Brewer’s statements on being ready for the challenge and doing what it takes to see these student-athletes succeed.
“I’ve always loved the game of basketball and just having the privilege to coach this year has been a blessing,” Washington said. “Coaching has its challenges, but I look forward to stepping in and getting my feet wet. I am excited about the two wins I have under my belt and I’m ready to see where the rest of the season goes.”
Having served in various roles academically including teaching chemistry, anatomy and physiology and biology, Washington was well aware of the situation East Oktibbeha’s students were facing and he was more than ready to coach them on handling whatever life throws at you.
“When Mr. Rush brought it to my attention I gave him the OK on it,” Washington said. “Anytime they ask me to do something that will benefit the students, I am up for the challenge and that is what I try to teach these kids.
“I try to instill in the kids that no matter what situation you are in, you keep going. That is the same on and off the court. Regardless of the situation, we are still going to play hard and keep moving forward.”
It seems that both coaches share the same motivation of strengthening their students both on and off the court. With that backing them, it seems no matter what obstacles face East Oktibbeha in the coming days the basketball teams will be ready.