Eileen McWhorter has coached virtually every sport at Woodward during her 31 years at the Academy, and earlier this spring, she spoke with us about some of her favorite moments in that time.
War Eagle Watch: How did you get into coaching? What were the biggest reasons you wanted to coach?
Eileen McWhorter: I have always loved sports and being active. When I was hired to teach English at the Lower School in 1987, I was asked to coach three sports – softball, basketball, and soccer. Woodward was a lot smaller then, and I was young, single, and eager to help out. Coaching was a fun way to get to know and work with students and fellow teachers who also coached.
WEW: You’ve coached so many sports at Woodward — what are some of your favorite memories from coaching?
EM: After 31 years of coaching, there are certainly a lot of memories! I have worked with so many amazing coaches and talented student-athletes over the years. Even though as coaches we like to say that winning isn’t everything, I would have to admit that some of my fondest memories are those from when we were on a winning streak. Being a part of the 1995-1996 back-to-back girls’ basketball state championships was an incredible experience. Coach Jim Waller, who was recently inducted into the WA Athletic Hall of Fame, was the best mentor a young assistant coach like me could have had.
Another favorite memory is the 2015 varsity tennis season. This was my first season as head coach, and I had a wonderful group of hard working girls. Our road to the finals was a tough one, but we were able to eliminate each opponent, one by one. Defeating Buford 3-0 to capture the AAAA State crown was truly a magical moment, one that I will never forget — very exciting!
WEW: With tennis, what has drawn you to sport in particular over the last several years? How happy were you with the performance of the team this year?
EM: I played doubles tennis in high school and have maintained a love for the sport. In 2010, I was offered the opportunity of being a varsity assistant to head coach Kim Tatum. We have had so much fun working together over the years. We had some talented and successful teams, winning state championships in 2010 and 2011 and making a run to the state semis in 2013.
This year’s team finished with a standout overall record of 17 wins and only 5 losses. Season highlights included beating rivals Wesleyan, Blessed Trinity, Marist, and Lovett. We also, once again, went undefeated in Region play and swept Eastside to be crowned Region 4-AAAA Champions (fourth consecutive Region champs)! In the state playoffs, we remained unbeaten through the first two rounds, defeating Cross Creek 5-0 and Mary Persons 4-0. In the quarterfinal round, we battled but lost 0-3 to North Oconee, who went on to win the state title. Overall, it was another outstanding season! I could not be more proud of the girls’ accomplishments.
WEW: What have been the biggest challenges for you in your coaching career? How have you overcome them?
EM: My role as coach has been a rewarding one, but there have been some difficult times/choices. The hours put in on the softball field, basketball, and tennis courts are way beyond counting. One of my greatest challenges has been trying to balance being a coach with my life as a wife and mother of two kids, Jake (’13) and Shelby (’16). In 31 years I have never taken any time off from coaching, not even when I was pregnant or had newborns. My family has always understood my coaching commitments, but I have often felt guilty for my time away from them, especially when my kids were very young. Fortunately for me, they have been and continue to be so supportive and helpful, which makes it a little easier to deal with the guilt. Another difficult challenge for me is dealing with the emotional stress encountered with tryouts and having to make cuts. Some might think it easy, but it has always been hard on me — hurts my heart. I hate to disappoint anyone. After years of handling tryouts, I feel I have gotten wiser — maybe more experienced is the better way to phrase it — about breaking the news (explaining the reasons) to those who don’t make the team. It is still my least favorite part of the job.
WEW: What is the best part of being a coach, for you?
EM: For me, the best part of being a coach is all the rewards that come from working with and teaching young people. I learn as much from them as I can only hope they learn from me. The relationships that grow over time on a daily basis are immeasurable. I would not trade those moments for anything. When the opportunity arises to see and talk to these young ladies years after graduation, when I see what amazing women they have become, it is so gratifying to hear them talk about the fun times we had or the learning experience they gained when encountering adversity. To have played a small part in those special memories is both humbling and meaningful to this old coach!