Area coaches learned skills at local alma maters

Published 12:00 am Sunday, February 22, 2009

Peter Arnold never intended to become a basketball coach.

Arnold, who was a standout basketball player for Cathedral before graduating in 1980, was perfectly happy working as an insurance adjuster after getting his master’s degree from the University of New Orleans and moving back to Natchez in 1991.

However, a back injury led him to the sidelines at the very school he had starred at 20 years before.

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“I had two major surgeries on my back and was disabled from going back to work,” Arnold said. “I was desperate to find something to do. Ken Beesley Jr. was coaching the boys basketball team that year, and I begged him to let me help out.”

The next year, both Ken Beesley Jr. and Craig Beesley, who coached the girls basketball team, decided to give up their basketball coaching positions, Arnold took over the girls program.

He coached the girls program for two years and then jumped over to the boys program. He is in his fifth year as varsity boys coach and took the team to its first South State Tournament in recent memory last season.

“It’s everything I thought it would be and then some,” Arnold said. “You have all these great memories when you play high school sports about coaches and what they meant to you. Then you start coaching and all those memories come back and you start establishing relationships with young players. I’ve got kids on my team whose parents I went to school with.”

Arnold is just one of several local high school coaches who was a standout athletes in the area in his younger days.

Lance Reed was an All-Metro linebacker for Natchez High in 1990 and had a successful college career at Louisiana Tech before becoming an assistant coach at Sam Houston High School in Arlington, Texas.

Reed, who had never applied for a head coaching position before, threw his hat into the ring when he heard the Natchez High football job came open in 2004.

“It was a dream come true for me (to come back and coach at Natchez High),” Reed said. “I always had it in my mind that if the opportunity presented itself to pursue a head coaching job, (Natchez) would be it.”

Craig Beesley is another coach who knew he always wanted to come back and coach at the school he attended.

Beesley, a 1989 Cathedral graduate, played baseball at Delta State before graduating in 1993 and coming back to Natchez.

Beesley coached baseball at Natchez High for one year before returning to Cathedral as an assistant baseball and head varsity girls basketball coach in 1995.

He has coached the baseball team since 2003 and the football team since 2007.

“I enjoyed high school here and always wanted to come back here and become a coach and teacher at Cathedral,” Beesley said. “I enjoyed the school and the atmosphere around the school.”

Beesley said some things are different about the school from when he was a student, but the most important things have stayed the same.

“There are more advanced placement classes than we had back then, and a lot more sports are offered now. But there is the same family atmosphere around the school. This is the place I want to be.”

Hayles is also back at the school he attended after spending several years away.

Hayles is a 1989 graduate of Adams County Christian and is in his second year as the football coach and athletic director.

It is his second stint at the school. He previously coached for three years in the 90s after being the head football coach at Trinity Episcopal for two years. He then spent six years as Wilkinson County Christian’s football coach before coming back to ACCS in 2007.

“You just see where the good Lord leads you, and I was blessed that he led me back here,” Hayles said. “I get to be with my family and watch them grow.”

While several coaches are back at the schools they attended, there are some who are coaching elsewhere.

David King graduated from ACCS in 1987, but when he was looking for a job following his marriage, Trinity was the school that offered him a break.

“I was student teaching at Ferriday High School, which I loved and had planned on teaching at Ferriday,” King said. “I ended up helping a friend coach the baseball team at Trinity. That was my first job. After I finished my student teaching, I came over to Trinity and fell in love with the kids.”

King has worked his way up from the ranks of assistant baseball coach at the school, taking over the boys basketball program in 1996 and the football program in 1998.

Trinity and ACCS are rivals now, but when King was playing baseball and football for the Rebels, the rivalry wasn’t there.

“Trinity wasn’t really a rival when I played because we were a much bigger school,” King said. “I never really thought about it in that way.”

Because of that, King said he never had a problem coaching the Saints.

“It never has been uncomfortable for me,” King said. “I loved ACCS and still have a big part of my heart at ACCS and always will. But Trinity was the school that offered me a job and I fell in love with the kids here.”

ACCS girls basketball coach Melanie Hall has had experience coaching and teaching at both ACCS and Trinity, the school she graduated from in 1980.

Following her high school graduation, Hall played basketball at Mississippi College before graduating in 1984. Then it was back to Trinity.

She was at Trinity until 1989 before going to ACCS for seven years. She went back to Trinity in 1999 and spent the next nine years there before returning to ACCS this season.

For Hall, returning to the Miss-Lou after her collegiate career ended was a no brainer.

“I think it’s something the good Lord put inside me,” Hall said. “There was nowhere else I wanted to go or thought I would go.”

Hall said no matter which school she is coaching at, she is just blessed to be doing what she loves in the place she loves.

“What I do is such an awesome profession,” she said. “God allows me to work with young people daily. It’s a ministry every day. What an awesome profession. I’m just so thankful to be where I am.”