A tribute to Coach A

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Alexandria Lanette Walden will go down in history as the first African American female head coach of the Swainsboro High School Lady Tigers basketball program. Walden began her coaching journey as an assistant coach for the Statesboro Blue Devils in 2009 until 2014, when she received a call from the late great Coach Bobby Andrews that completely changed her life. Walden credits Coach Andrews as a great mentor and inspiration to her and many others. Additionally, his mentorship has helped to develop her personally and professionally.

Walden graduated with honors from Swainsboro High School in 2005. She enrolled in East Georgia State College, then transferred to Georgia Southern University where she received her Bachelor’s Degree in Multimedia Communication with a minor in Exercise Science with an emphasis on Coaching Behavior, and she earned her Master’s degree in Higher Education from Ashford University. With her educational success, drive to motivate and mentor youth, and her love for the game of basketball, Walden was a top candidate for the position of head coach.

Walden holds many accomplishments throughout her coaching career as a head coach. Those accomplishments include being named Coach of the Year Region 3-AA, 2015-2016; Region Champs 3-AA Girls Basketball, 2015-2016, Sweet Sixteen State Playoffs Region 3-AA, 2015-2016; Region Runner-Ups 3-AA, (2014-2015 1st Round State Playoffs)(2017-2018 State Playoffs 23-5 Sweet 16); 4th in Region 2-AA (2016-2017 First Round State Playoffs)(2018-2019 Sweet 16); and current 2020-2021 3rd in Region 2-AA, pending where the playoffs may lead the Lady Tigers this year. Walden’s coaching record of wins/losses is now current 123-62. Professional Learning Community Training, 2014. As an assistant coach, under the leadership of Coach Jeff Sier, Walden's accomplishments include two -time Region Champions, Sweet Sixteen appearances, and Elite Eight appearances. Many of her former players have been chosen as All-State and All-Star participants. Understanding the importance of an education, Walden has always stressed the importance of earning a degree. As a result, several of her former players graduated with honors and have played or are currently playing basketball on the collegiate level. She also coached a player who currently plays in the WNBA.

Walden has been coaching for 13 years with the last seven years coaching in Swainsboro. Even more rewarding is the fact that Walden was selected as the Teacher of the Year for Swainsboro High School during both 2019-2020 and 2020-2021 school terms. Walden is fully dedicated to her students as a teacher and to her players as a coach. She has followed through with a commitment to her players to ensure that she will not only coach them the game of basketball but how to become and maintain being a student athlete as they learn how to compose themselves on and off the court. Further, she has ensured her players form a sisterhood throughout the season and thereafter. Her coaching staff has been developed with expectations of carrying out her mission and vision for the Lady Tigers basketball program.

Walden has refocused the Lady Tigers basketball program by ensuring that her players are involved in the community in ways to give back. Walden and her team follow through with weekend community service at Brown Hill Chapel Baptist Church in Swainsboro, Ga; participate in Toys for Tots; and so many other community-based outreach programs. She is a very vocal coach who will stand firmly behind her players while holding them to a high standard of achievement for their future success. One of Walden’s quotes she loves to refer back to as an educator and coach is “Learn from yesterday, live for today, and hope for tomorrow.” The quotes reflect her philosophy for those students that feel they have too much distracting them from learning and being a better person.

Walden is supported by her loving husband, Mark Walden III, and children, Mckinley and Mark Walden Jr. Walden is continuing a legacy that was started by her late grandmother, Mrs. Agnes S. Parker, who was the first African American to own and operate a childcare center in Swainsboro. Her teachings are sure to have aided in Walden's passion and commitment to others.

During years when Walden played high school basketball and intramural sports on a collegiate level, she begins to embrace her knowledge of the game of any sport played. Walden set high standards as head coach for all former/current players apart of her program. As head coach she has turned the Lady Tigers basketball program around in the right direction for the better. Her patience and resilience as a strong leader and individual have touched lives across the board regarding the student body and in the community. In honor and celebration of Coach Alexandria Walden for Black History month, her family (sisters, husband, children and nephews), coaching staff, former players, current players and basketball parents would like to show our appreciation for how much she has done with the Swainsboro High School Lady Tigers Basketball Program as being the first African American female Head Basketball Coach. Here are some thoughts from former/current players, former/current coaching staff, former/current parents, and former/current managers that have been touched by Coach A playing under her leadership:

“Coach A, If I had the chance to say something, I’d say… You are phenomenal, influential, aspiring, caring, loving, a back breaker, and the BEST COACH ever! No matter the situation we NEVER LACK! You always make sure we have anything WIN or LOSE!! Through the years you’ve stressed the importance of being a young lady and carrying yourself well on and off the court. Your presence is everything although we hate when you say “on the X, BASELINE, or 35 seconds.” Constructive criticism is another term you have stressed over my years of playing, many can and can not take it but all you want is for us to be better, get better, and do better. I could type so much more, but COACH A., you DESERVE this!! I love you!! P. S.- I played for Coach A starting my 6th grade year during the summer. Every summer I had the opportunity to play with her JV girls in several games during summer league. So, on count, Coach A has coached me for 6 years this season.” Current SHS Lady
Tigers player
“ She’s always been the best role model, mentor, coach and someone I could always talk to. Definitely the life of the party! I had the honor to play for Coach Alex in 2008-2012. I think, I’m old now!” Former Lady Blue Devils Player

“She’s a good person. A good mother. If I needed someone to talk to I could go to her. Coach Alex’s coaching career in Swainsboro started when I became a freshman in high school. I played under her all 4 years. She was supportive and showed me tough love. Now I am a junior in college and she still supports me and is there anytime I need her.” Former Lady Tigers Player

“If I could say anything about OUR sister as a coach it would be, she’s never afraid to evolve her coaching style to fit her team. With every challenge she’s faced, she finds a way to reach the young ladies she coaches.” Former SHS Lady Tigers Manager/ Assistant Coach
“ I done played for Coach A for 2 years now and she is a good coach. She is outgoing, she cares for her team. She will do anything to keep us straight and she makes sure our grades good as well as make sure we are good outside of basketball.” Current SHS Lady Tigers Player

“Coach Alex Walden is a dedicated coach who inspires her athletes and students to become the best versions of themselves. Her authentic approach pushes them outside of their comfort zone, while guiding them along the path to success. Emanuel County is blessed to have Coach Walden as an educator coach, and mentor.” SHS Counselor/Lady Tigers Basketball Cheerleading Coach

“ Coach Alex is so much more than a coach, she is a great teacher, motivator, and mother figure to so many of the kids she has impacted throughout her coaching and teaching career… since accepting the position as head coach, Alex has had to fight through adversity from all angles, but has proven that she can produce a winning program not only on the court but off the court… her program produces great citizens to the community…most of the players in her program are honor students/graduates and they even do community service once a month… anyone who has been blessed to come through this program will tell you Coach A is one of a kind!” Husband and Current Lady Tigers Community Volunteer Assistant Coach

“Coach Alex is one of the BEST people I’ve ever met! She’s outgoing, loving, caring, funny and so much more. She will always keep it real with you, there is no sugarcoating!! She’s like another mother to me. She has never let me down and I admire her in so many ways. I love her so much!” Former Lady Tigers Manager
“I’d say she’s a really great coach! She’s focused on working with the ream as a unit and building so everybody is ready for anything that may come at them, and that’s great because you’re building a solid foundation.” Former Lady Blue Devils Player 2009-2013

“Coach A is caring, hardworking and passionate about basketball.” Current SHS Lady Tigers Manager

“Coach A is truly a caring coach. She doesn’t come to practice just to coach us on our game and leave, she treats us like family, she treats every single one of us as we’re her daughters. She’s always checking in making sure we’ve eaten, making sure we’re doing good academically, keeping us on track teaching us life lessons, she gives us her all. She always looking for opportunities to give us and she is always fighting for her girls. She’s a coach you can look up to as a role model and mother figure because even when she’s tired, “she’s always grinding”. WE all love her for that because we have a Coach who is always putting in work if not for her family or herself, then for her team.” Current Lady Tigers Player

“If I could say anything about Coach A, I would say that she has impacted the life of so many women including mine. Coach A is not just a basketball coach. She is a second mother, a tutor, counselor and anything you could possibly need. She not only pushed me to be the best basketball player I could be but the best woman I could be. Even though I have graduated high school and my basketball career has ended I can count on Coach A to be there if I need her. My life has been changed for the better since Coach Alex has come into it.” Former SHS Lady Tigers Player 2015-2019

“Coach A has been a positive influence in my children’s lives on and off the court. Charlsey played for her from 2015-2019. She always made sure the girls had what they needed in the classroom, in the locker room, on the court, in their homes, etc. She made sure the girls were registered for the SAT/ACT tests and had access to scholarship and college information. She not only focused on grades and basketball but she also provided opportunities for the girls to participate in community service projects within our community. Although my daughter has graduated and is in college, Coach A still reaches out to check in with her. Not only has she been there for Charlsey but she has been there for Tyler. She checks on him and has made herself available if he needs any help or just needs a pack of crackers. Coach A definitely left a mark on our family and a lifelong friendship has been created through her love for young people and basketball. We salute you Coach Alex!” Former SHS Lady Tigers Basketball Parent

“‘Coach A,’ as she is affectionately called, returned to Emanuel County during my 10th grade year. I started with her as Manager, then Coach's Assistant, and now as Assistant Coach, Head of Junior Varsity Girls Basketball. She has sent 5 girls to play basketball at the collegiate level from Swainsboro High School. She coaches as well as teaches at SHS, and stresses these things to her students and her players: life skills, basketball skills, decision-making skills and much more. To her players, she emphasizes that they are students first and athletes second. Before "Coach A" returned, SHS Lady Tigers had not made it to State Playoffs since 2012-2013. Since her return, we have made it to State Playoffs every year except last year. She has produced 3 of our 1,000 Points Club members. Asia Brown, a former player of "Coach A,” holds the record of highest points scored in a single game at SHS. Jasmine Faulkner, also a member of the 1,000 Points Club, was Assistant Coach under Coach Walden in the 2014-2015 basketball season. "Coach A's" overall record as of today is 123 wins and 62 "lessons" - not losses. Our season record for this year is 10 and 9.” Current Assistant Coach/Head Coach JV

“ Coach Alex is such an amazing coach. She knows the game of basketball very well. Throughout my years of playing basketball, she’s the best coach I’ve ever had. Not only was she like a coach to me, she was like a second mother to me also. She helped me with a lot through high school. I appreciate and love her so much. Swainsboro High School basketball program is very lucky to have her as a coach! She has also made the basketball program so much better in many ways. I’m so proud of her when it comes to being a coach.” Former SHS Lady Tigers Player

“Coach A is a loving, caring woman who these young ladies need as their leader. She’s not only a coach, to me she’s someone who cares about the young ladies making it further in life. She keeps them uplifted and on top of everything from the sports to the work in the classroom. The players sometimes might not like it but it’s nothing but love from Coach A. You don’t find too many coaches who care about your child’s schooling but Coach A does and I love it about her. One thing I can say about Coach A, she gets it from her mom and grandparents, they had hearts just like that too. So Coach A, from me to you, keep on caring, sharing, and loving, God has so much more in store for you.” Current SHS Lady Tigers Parent

“Coach Alex is a good coach, she has her team best interest in the game on and off the court. I admire her how she not only cares about them playing basketball, she cares most about their education and that’s a plus for me!” Current SHS Lady Tigers Parent
“To the coach who loves the game of basketball and the competitive spirit that comes with it. During games she isn’t the one to sit on the sidelines quietly. No, she is on her feet giving her players her all just like she is expecting her players to do. I salute you Coach A for breaking barriers and knocking down walls!! Keep doing your thing my girl!!” Current SHS Lady Tigers Parent

“Coach Alex is definitely one-of-a-kind Coach for me. I played JV for 2 years with her and it was the best. She was not only a coach who showed me how to be the best player I could be but an amazing mentor, who I can look to randomly call about anything to this day and give me advice that I can take in all aspects of my life!” Former Lady Blue Devils Player 2011-2015

“She’s a great coach, I love her like a mother. She’s very caring, very motivational, and very influential. She made us better not only as a team but as a people too. She still checks up on me even though I’ve graduated. She’s just an amazing and loving person.” Former SHS Lady Tigers player

“As a sister to Coach A, I have always admired and looked up to her and the role she plays as a sister, mother, wife, educator, influencer, and coach. If I could describe her in one word it would be “Unbreakable.” No matter what obstacles she faces, she always finds a way to be strong, keep her head up, and give it her all. Coach Alex is more than coach, she strives to mold and build young ladies up to not only reach their athletic potential, but she teaches them the importance of education, family, giving back to the community, and putting God first. I am beyond proud of how much she has accomplished as Swainsboro High School’s FIRST African American Girl’s Varsity Basketball Head Coach. Not only does she speak and teach the change we all hope to see in our community, she is the CHANGE! Thank you for being who you are Coach A.” Little Sister

“Coach Alex was always a great mentor on the court and off the court She always kept it real with me and kept me laughing! She was one of the few that took me under their wing at such a young age. I admire her for always showing me and my family so much love and support during times when needed it the most.” Former Lady Blue Devils Player 2011-2015
“It would be the way she is engaged in our life’s on and off the court. The first thing she asks about when we talk is how my grades are. She’s more engaged into your academics because that can take you a long way. Coach A has always been a huge role model in my life and a big mother figure. She taught me a lot about being disciplined and respectful because someone is always watching. We bumped heads at times but it was all out of the love she had for me and the potential she seen in me. I’ll never forget my senior year because it made me a much better person in today’s world. I got taught many lessons that year but it was only to encourage me to do better.” Former SHS Lady Tigers Player

“She was always passionate about everything she did and pushed everybody to be the best they could be.” Former Lady Blue Devils Player 2009-2013

“I think she is a great coach and an excellent role model for young people! That’s from Day!! Nothing but respect from me! I love Coach Alex no matter where she coaches, they will be blessed to have her!!” Former Lady Blue Devils Parent

“Growing up, sports were my go-to, and often, my spare time was spent shooting hoops and pretending that I was an all-star college athlete. I would count down and shoot buzzer beaters to win the game. These small things became my main source of happiness. I always practiced hard because I wanted to be better, and there was always an improvement that I could make. I was involved in recreation basketball and ATAP basketball during my middle school years, and I continued these sports into high school. Instead of being cursed with bad a coach, I was blessed with inspiring African American coach by the name of Coach A. My Coach A loved the game of basketball and the competitive spirit that came with it. During games she wasn’t just one to sit on the sideline quietly. No, she was on her feet giving us her all just like she expected us to give our all. I will always remember our game against Toombs County when we were becoming extremely submissive--we were letting them walk all over us. She knew what it took to get our head in the game. She had been coaching us for years so she knew how we started most games kind of cold, and she had the knowledge to snap us out of it. She called a time out and screamed at us, and this is what pumped us up. We went out there and left it all on the court. We were no longer intimidated by Toombs County. We were playing basketball, and we were playing basketball not to lose, but to win. The way she pushes me, lets me know that I can be in the WNBA. After saying all of this, I want her to know that she is the best thing that happened to me and Swainsboro High School. Period Coach A!!” Current SHS Lady Tigers Player

“One of the best coaches I’ve ever worked with. She’s not only a coach on the court but a mentor/big sister off the court. Sometimes things she says may come off harsh but I know she always wanted the best for me and my peers. Always supportive even after high school. Alex definitely cares about her girls and her passion for coaching showed through her genuine love for everyone of her girls.” Former Lady Blue Devils Player 2009-2013

“Alex is a remarkable coach. She knows the game better than anyone I’ve ever met. She truly cares about her players on and off the court. She gives 100% of herself to the game and to her girls.” Current SHS Lady Tigers Assistant Coach

“What could I possibly say about Coach A? A good coach is positive, enthusiastic, supportive, trusting, focused, goal-oriented, knowledgeable, observant, respectful, patient and a clear communicator. A good coach should be able to instill confidence in the athlete in their racing and training. A good coach should also be able to inspire athletes to be their best and work hard during all their workouts and races. Well guess what we found, a coach that makes you want to work hard. She always inspires the girls! She would always mention the hardest thing in coaching is seeing the disappointment of the girls whom you know has done all the right things and worked hard but did not reach their goal(s). Her main teachings are: Sportsmanship, Teamwork, Positive Attitude, Respect. Now growing up together on the same street I would have never guessed she would be my daughter’s coach. I am so proud of our Coach A! Not only does she help on the court but off the court as well! Her biggest thing is academics, if you don’t get high standard grades she will most definitely call them out before she sits you down. I know in a million years she had no clue that she would make history as being the first African American female basketball Coach at Swainsboro High School. This historic marking is well deserved to be held by our Coach A. We love you Coach A!” Current SHS Lady Tigers Parent

“Coach A was not only a coach, but so much more…a mentor, a mother on and off the court and a teacher. She taught us to strive for the best and go hard from the start to the finish. She always told us “When you are on the floor be a team because we are ALL we have right now.” Yes, we were good athletes but she pushed us to be great STUDENT athletes. I appreciate the love and care Coach A have for us all.” Former SHS Lady Tigers Player

“Coach A genuinely cares about the student athlete’s well-being. For her it is bigger than the game of basketball. She teaches these student athletes life lessons. Lessons they can use after they are done playing the game basketball. She was hired during a time when the girl’s program was on a down slide. Since her hire, the program has been playing at a successful level. The lady Tigers basketball is known across the states a fierce competitive team. She also shows and gives respect to all that she works with. That’s what makes it such a pleasure to work with her. She makes the program feel like a family. I know her mentor Coach Bobby Andrews would be proud of the work she has done.” Current SHS Lady Tigers Assistant Coach

“As your sister and statistician, If I could say anything about you Coach A is how I am beyond proud of you! Your passion, your leadership, facing adversity, building relationships, mentoring the youth, standing for something along with embracing the youth who are in need of supports, and being the CHANGE needed in this community. Your patience and resilience as a coach, your dedication to the rebuilding of the basketball program to have a solid foundation of having a sisterhood/family throughout each season is the root of why you’re such an amazing coach. Coach Alex is one of a kind, the love for the game of basketball and the love she has for her players doesn’t just come around once a year during the season, it’s all year round, which she embraces her team as her family. You deserve your flowers now Coach Alex as you have done such an amazing job with turning this basketball program around for the better for SHS. Some don’t see your vision for your basketball program but knowing just how incredible you are as a sister, mother, wife, educator, and coach speaks for itself. Emanuel County is blessed to have such a strong African American Woman to lead The SHS Lady Tigers basketball program in the direction it needs to go in, for the better. “ A good Coach can change the game, A great Coach can change a Life.”

Coach A, you have been changing lives since you started this journey and it’s a blessing to witness history in the making. Your nephews and I salute you Coach Alex, know you are walking in your purpose!!” Former SHS Lady Tigers Statistician and Sister
Happy Black History Month and Salute, Coach Alex Walden. Hope this little token of appreciation from your basketball family and others around who have had the opportunity to take part in your coaching career warms your heart in knowing what you mean to so many within your community along with your Statesboro Community. We love you, Coach Alex, and we are all happy to be a part of this Black History knowing that you are the first African American Female Lady Tigers Varsity Basketball Head Coach of SHS.

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