“I love every one of them.”
Each time a group of seniors graduate, they continue to leave an indelible mark on the program they attended. Of course, there remain memories of the thrill of victories, the agony of defeats, and every other moment in between.
But in the case of the outgoing senior class for the Lady Greyhounds softball and football teams, the impact has meant much more than that for Lady Greyhounds assistant softball coach and head football coach Mikayla Greene.
“We kind of grew up together. Not just as a coach and players, but as people. They are my family and I love every one of them,” Greene said. “This group of seniors have been with me through the worst things that have ever happened to me.”
This group includes seniors who graduated this week with football players like Emily Brennaman, Cheyenne Davis, Madison Gordon, Megan Hamilton, Reagan Hicks, Kyleigh McMahon, Maeleigh Price, Erica Rowland and Taylor Trefelner. Hamilton, Price, Rowland and Trefelner are also among last week’s graduates of the softball program which also includes Destin Howard, Kayla Bonner, Kate Cole, Brianna Edmonson and Sierra Hursey.
And like any family, that close bond was there during a time of great need for Greene. When the current senior class arrived at JCHS in first grade, Greene’s late husband, Travis Greene, had been diagnosed with stage 2 brain cancer.
“He was always himself and going through treatment, and he absolutely loved supporting our sports teams here and the kids who played for me,” Greene recalled. “He was diagnosed with grade 4 brain cancer (the next one) in January, just before the start of their first football season.”
This first year was amidst a learning experience on both sides. They were Greene’s first class of football players. As they adjusted to football at the high school level, Greene took on the role of head football coach, a new path for herself as well.
“They started their career in high school with a young coach who knew next to nothing about football. They were patient and we all learned together. They taught me things about football and I taught them discipline. I knew no matter how good soccer players they were, it’s very hard to succeed without discipline,” Greene said. “The girls and their families have always been too kind and patient with me and everything that happened in my personal life. I missed practices and even a game or two with my late husband, and they never missed a beat while I was away.They kept the program running even when I wasn’t there.
That spring, Greene had some exciting news for his players, and it had nothing to do with wins or losses. It was that she and Travis were expecting a child.
“These seniors were some of the most excited for me when I told them I was pregnant in the spring of 2020. They were sophomores then and on top of the world,” Greene said. “We had an incredible team with very good players, and I was pregnant, and life was good.”
A promising team with a head coach expecting a child. On the surface, the future couldn’t have been more exciting. But of course, it was also Spring 2020, when COVID-19 turned things upside down for the Lady Greyhounds, abruptly ending the Spring 2020 sports season. All hopes for a post-season and beyond this year were over for all teams as the sports world locally, nationally and internationally grappled with the impossibility of knowing when play would resume.
“While the rest of the world was shutting down, they were constantly texting for workouts and exercises they could do to improve while we were closed for COVID,” Greene said. “I’m sure part of it was boredom, but the other part was work ethic. This band has a ton of heart and work ethic.
Amid COVID-19, Travis Greene’s health declined.
“I don’t know who was more devastated not to see each other, me or them. They always wanted updated photos of my baby bump and to get updates on Travis’ treatment,” Greene said. “Personally, when the world shut down, it was a blessing in disguise, which I would soon find out. Travis’ health declined faster than I ever imagined, but because the world shut down, I ‘ve been spending a lot more time with him than usual when it’s football season, and then August came along.
In the span of four days, two polar opposites of joy and sadness arrived for Greene. The birth of a child and the death of her husband.
This happened at the start of the Greyhounds softball season. With COVID-19 looming, new head coach Tripp Burt and assistant coach Tyler Clifford were at the helm, with the start of the season marked by precautions in place at events such as the wearing of masks and the highly available and visible hand sanitizer.
While the plan for Greene was to return to his role as head football coach next spring, whether or not Greene would return to campus in the fall of 2020 was uncertain. It didn’t take long to remember how much the Lady Hounds meant to Greene, who at the time was on maternity leave. “I went through two of the
“I experienced two of the biggest changes anyone goes through in life four days apart; having my baby and losing my husband. I’ll be honest, there was a time when I didn’t know when or if I was going to return to school in the fall of 2020. My daughter was about a week old, my husband had left to be with the Lord a few days before. and I was a disaster,” Greene recalled. “I needed to get out of my house and there was a softball game that day. I knew exactly what I needed; see my “kids” so we went to my other house, high school. They were so excited to see me – really Avery, my daughter – but I have to say they were excited to see me. After that game, I knew I wanted to be back at work and get my normalcy back, which has a lot to do with the group of seniors graduating this year. They are my family and will always hold a special place in my heart.
Towards the end of the regular season and the start of the playoffs, Greene joined the team as an assistant coach. The Lady Greyhounds rode to Elite 8 in Columbus, where they won the school’s first state title since 2010.
“She was just very positive. Seeing how strong she was helped us move forward in the season,” said Lady Greyhounds pitcher Destin Howard. “I honestly think she helped us win in the state. If we didn’t have her, a lot of the things that happened to us wouldn’t have happened.
From Greene’s perspective, the championship season was the result of something simple: hard work paying off.
“It’s always an amazing thing to see that hard work pays off and good things happen to good people. That’s how I feel about the coaches I work with, the players and all of their families,” Greene said. “We are all here for each other and for the children, and it is such a blessing to witness so much success for some of the people you love the most. It was one of the greatest days of my life and I will never forget that feeling.
Burt added, “It was definitely an invigoration. She has been through some tough times in her life and has a lot of heart and spirit. I feel like it transferred to our daughters and it gave us a big boost. The passion and the fire that she brings, she brings that out in our players.
But the coaching didn’t end with the celebration that late October afternoon in Columbus. Next up was the resumption of the football season for Jones County, and Greene wasn’t the only one on the softball side shifting gears. The junior class that year included four who played both sports – Price, Hamilton, Rowland and Trefelner.
“I love coaching both sports. I’ve always loved softball. I’ve played my whole life, including the 2010 state championship team. On the other hand, I’ve never played softball. football, actually the first football game I ever watched, I was an assistant coach,” Greene said. “I love it though. I love the challenge of learning a new sport. I love coaching, especially groups like this graduating class. They are hardworking, determined, competitive and just want to represent their school and community well. It’s something that I emphasize with my teams, it’s the community.
As for the 2021 season? The Lady Hounds made history by winning a home playoff game for the first time in school history and advancing to the second round. Jones County returned to the playoffs this year, a season with a bittersweet ending ending in a loss to McIntosh as the Lady Hounds bid farewell to a group that meant more than wins and losses.
“Jones County is an amazing place. I know it’s not perfect, nothing is, but this community saved my life,” Greene said. “They supported my late husband and me through fundraising, love and prayers. I make sure my student-athletes know this and help them show them how amazing this place really is.