True to the school – MHS graduates return to alma mater to coach Lady Bulldogs

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, December 14, 2004

Tena Niven knows what it’s like to be a student-athlete in high school. She even knows precisely what it’s like to be a member of the Lady Bulldogs basketball team.

Bouncing through the halls of Montevallo High School are the memories of friends, classes and ballgames from Niven’s high school days.

She uses them to connect with her players as head coach of the Lady Bulldogs basketball team.

And it’s not just Niven, all three of the girls team coaches graduated from Montevallo High School – assistant Thomas Brown graduated in 1977, assistant Ron Holsombeck in 1980. Niven was a member of the class of 1987.

&uot;We want them to understand that we’ve been there,&uot; Niven said of her team that she calls one of her favorites in her 12 years of coaching.

&uot;We remember what it was like,&uot; Holsombeck said. &uot;Most coaches know what it’s like to be a high school athlete. We know what it’s like to be a high school athlete at Montevallo High School.

&uot;It may not make us better coaches, but it definitely makes us better communicators.&uot;

All three coaches said they draw from their experiences as an athlete at MHS, particularly from lessons taught by retired coach Richard Gilliam.

&uot;He was strong and fair,&uot; Niven said of Gilliam. &uot;More than anything he cared about his players and his players knew it.

&uot;A lot of times when things come up I say, ‘how would Coach Gilliam handle it?’&uot; Niven said.

Those memories are part of the reason Niven jumped at the chance to return to her alma mater four years ago.

After earning her undergraduate and master’s degrees at Auburn, she coached for a spell at Shelby Academy, then spent five years at Jemison.

&uot;I had always stayed in touch with the program,&uot; Niven said. &uot;I wanted the shot to come back. I absolutely loved it.&uot;

Holsombeck spent several years coaching, teaching and working for an outside business before returning to MHS. He even served as Sports Information Director for the University of Montevallo for five years prior to his return.

Brown was a multi-sport star at Montevallo, lettering in football, baseball and track. He also led the Bulldogs to two state championships in basketball. He has been volunteering as an assitant for 15 years.

The staff also coaches softball together in the spring, where Holsombeck serves as head coach