By Jordyn Johnson
After around 43 years of coaching, Girls Basketball Coach Donna Cheatham earned her 500th win at Scottsburg High School on Saturday, January 27.
“I owe my success to two things, great ball players who listen and will apply what you ask and God’s blessing,” said Coach Cheatham.
When Cheatham first starting coaching, there was not even a girl’s basketball team because of the lack of funding. They had to transport the players themselves because they had no buses. For practices and games, they had to use the armory, which had concrete floors. Because of the concrete floors, shin splints were wild. Along with all this, they had to come up with their own money for uniforms and shoes.
“In the winter, we would go out in the snow and pick up corn, then sell it back to the farmers for so much a bag for us getting their corn. We also hired out to people in town. We’d rake leaves, wash windows and whatever else we could to earn money,” said Cheatham.
From concrete floors and no buses, to brand new locker rooms and even warm up uniforms, the basketball team has continued to improve over the years. These improvements not only took hard effort, but also a lot of time.
“I think as long as I feel that I can improve people’s lives somewhat and help them become more self-reliant and fight through adversity, I’ll continue to keep coaching. I want to teach them that when life gets tough, you just have to get tougher,” said Cheatham.
When it comes to coaching her players, Cheatham strives to do more than to teach them how to play basketball. She tries to teach them things like dedication, commitment and application. She stated that she hopes she inspires kids to accomplish the most they can out of a situation.
“Kids have to adjust to the fact that life does not always give them perfect situations and they have to learn to fight through it. That is what I think builds character. That is what I look for more in kids,” says Cheatham.
Rather than having a number one rule, Cheatham tells her players five principles she believes will allow them to succeed. Her first principle is to put God first. Number two and three, in whichever order you decide to put them in, is family and country. Both of which Cheatham states you have to respect and treat in the right manner. Number four is educating the mind.
“The fifth one is whatever you want to excel at. If that’s basketball, you’ll be successful in ball. If it’s something else, you’ll be successful in that. When you make a commitment to something, then that means you’re going to dedicate your time towards that. You’re going to spend time studying it,” stated Cheatham.
Cheatham has not only affected basketball scores at Scottsburg, but also each one of the player’s she has coached.
Katie Horstman, a fourth-year basketball player at Scottsburg, stated, “ The number one thing she taught me was succeeding now when you’re young, will lead to success in the future. Over the years she has taught me to take no crap. I used to cry when she yelled at me, now I laugh.”
Horstman is not the only player that thinks this way. Many others agreed that Cheatham has positively affected their basketball careers, as well as other aspects of their lives.
“The number one thing Cheatham has taught me in my four years of playing basketball is confidence. She’s made me stronger not only physically, but mentally. She is a very determined woman and truly cares about what she does,” said Kaitlynn Jennings.
Although 500 wins might seem like a lot, Cheatham says she does not think much about her wins. What she thinks about more is her loses, and what she could have done to better prepare her players for that game.
“When we won the game that earned me my 500th win, nothing other than the fact that we won was going through my head. At that point, I didn’t even know that the 499 was there. I do not check things like that,” said Cheatham.
Though Cheatham was not thinking about her 500th win, the thought ran through some of her player’s minds. Some claimed it added pressure to their performance because they wanted her to achieve this success.
“While playing in that game, I just felt so blessed to have been able to have an opportunity like that,” said freshman player Kady Clancy.
All in all, 500 wins is a milestone, but to Cheatham, basketball is so much more than a number of wins. Her basketball career has taken her to places from United States all the way to Cameroon, Africa. There have been around twelve different states that her previous players have played in. She started with a little girl’s basketball team at Scottsburg High School and has only worked her way up from there.
“When I think back over all my years of coaching basketball, I think the thing I admire most is how much it has allowed me to help other people,” said Cheatham.