Dedicated to Sandra Meadows
A Duncanville Pantherette player notebook from the 70’s asks the following questions of those who wish to be a part of the girl’s basketball tradition: Are you coachable? Are you possessed with the spirit of competition? Are you willing to practice and play hard every day? Are you willing to make sacrifices? Do you have an ardent desire to improve? Do you have the ability to think under fire? Do you believe in your school, your teammates, your coach and yourself?
It is quickly obvious that becoming a Pantherette is a serious undertaking and it is no surprise that the person that led the program for 25 years and still has an influence over it more than 10 years after her death was serious about her job.
Doing your best at whatever you choose to do is one of several rules that Sandra Meadows followed in her own life and demanded from her players. She made it clear to potential players that it was a privilege to play basketball for Duncanville and represent the school and community.
Coach Meadows felt privileged to be entrusted with leading the Pantherettes, and she could never be accused of misusing or taking for granted that trust and the result was a beautiful relationship.
Sandra Meadows grew up in Irving, Texas, one of five siblings. She played girls basketball in high school and developed a love for the game, graduating in 1953. At that time only two Texas colleges fielded teams, so Sandra, like many other Texas girls who loved the game, had to be content to leave basketball behind after high school. After graduating from Texas Christian University in 1958, Sandra coached the varsity team at Fort Worth Castleberry High School for three years, followed by seven years at Olton. After turning both programs in the right direction, the job at Duncanville became open with Rose Farmer’s retirement. Having already won the respect of everyone who saw her teams play, the marriage made in heaven occurred when Coach Meadows was hired at Duncanville in 1968.
The results are mind boggling, as the Pantherettes won 25 consecutive district championships, reached the regional tournament 17 times and the final four 10 times. Her teams won state championships in 1976, 1988, 1989, and 1990. Most amazing is the 134 consecutive wins from December 20, 1987 until March 1, 1991, setting a state record and tying for the second best nationally. Her career record was 906 wins and 207 losses.
During this time the story goes beyond the wins and championships to measure the accomplishments of Sandra Meadows. While she received too many coaching awards and honors to list in this article, her biggest achievements are the testimonies and successes of her beloved players and assistant coaches.
Former player Janice Savage remembers learning from Coach that, “you can do anything you want to.” While that attitude helped her many times on the court, it has helped her even more later in life. Thirty years after graduation, Janice was forced to evacuate an airplane due to a bomb threat. The evacuation chute was higher and steeper than she imagined and between her bad back and the dangerous exit, she didn’t think she could do it. “Then suddenly I felt Coach Meadows’ presence and I did it,” she said recently. “With her prompting still in our minds, all of us knew we could do whatever needed to be done.”
Other players talk about learning confidence and not being afraid of independence. You look people in the eye and hold your head up high no matter whether you win or lose. Coach Meadows owned her own home and took care of herself during an era when many women depended on men for such things. She stood up for what was right and showed respect to everyone, fearing no person or situation.
She believed in hiring good people to work in the Pantherette program and then let them work. The core of her coaching staff from middle school to first assistant was with her for many years. Dana McCarroll was a freshman coach for 17 years and looks back with fond memories at the program. “We were like a family” said Dana. “We were organized down to the second, worked hard and were all proud to be a part of the system.” Sharon Smith worked many years at Reed MS, a Duncanville feeder. She related, “Coach loved teaching and basketball and strived for perfection in everything she did. Even her yard and garden were perfect.”
With the change from 3 on 3 to the 5 on 5 game, many predicted a drop off at some programs including Duncanville. They felt that male coaches would have too big of an advantage having played the 5 on 5 game. While most girls coaches were against the change, including Coach Meadows, once it passed she moved forward to face a new challenge. Three of her state championships were won AFTER the change, a tribute once again to her and her staff and program.
Former player Stacey Speer summarizes what she learned from Coach Meadows as follows:
1) If you’re going to do it, do it right; 2) If you ever think of giving up, just go home; and 3) Never use the word can’t.
“The things I learned on the court have helped me throughout my life. She built each of us into what we are today.”
Sam Tipton of the Texas Girls Coaches Association says “Sandra was a classy lady that kept it simple, led by example and had the respect of everyone on and off the court.”
Janice Savage related recently “I finished college because she challenged me and I never wanted to disappoint her.”
When Coach Meadows was inducted into the Texas Sports Hall of Fame, her sister Eddie Ruth Schreiber summarized the goal of a Pantherette: “She shall be a leader and conduct herself in such a manner so as to be esteemed, not only as a basketball player but as a person.”
When Coach Meadows was diagnosed with breast cancer in the spring of 1989 everyone rallied around her and her assistant coaches had to hold things together while she fought the disease and endured the treatments. But, as always, she led by example and toughed her way back to full duties as the program marched forward.
But, as the 1993 season came to an end the cancer returned and her health began to fade for a final time. First assistant Sara Hackerott took over for the 93-94 season, as coach Meadows devoted her time and strength to being assistant athletic director. “It was a good time. I could still visit with her and get advice” remembers Sara.
Few knew Coach Meadows better than Sara Hackerott who was her assistant the last five years of Coach Meadows career. “I was able to come to practice every day and have the privilege of working with her, talking with her, just being with her. She was my friend. Everyone involved knew that things would be done the right way. It was an exciting yet peaceful time” said Sara.
Sara was the successor that Coach Meadows hand picked to take over the Pantherette program when the cancer returned and her health began to fail. Hackerott led the Duncanville program for five successful years as head coach before retiring from coaching and moving to Tennessee where she is a school counselor.
“Coach Meadows taught me some things to remember all your life, and I have them written down and carry them with me in my wallet. Plan your work, work your plan, the right way, the fair way, every day. If you do these things, you will be successful regardless of any score or outcome” remembers Hackerott.
Margaret Thomas, a former player guided the program for 2 years after Sara. “I played on the first final four team. We didn’t win it, but we were the first,” said Margaret, now a Duncanville English teacher. “It was an honor to coach the program Coach Meadows built.”
Cathy Self-Morgan has continued the Pantherette success, and although most of the former staff have retired or moved on, she continues to keep everyone informed and feeling a part of the special success that few programs reach, much less continue.
Players, assistant coaches, friends and anyone who crossed the path of Sandra Meadows were the recipients of great lessons, counsel and example. Those who learned from it are happy, confident, successful, blessed and many.
Article reprinted with permission from the Texas Association of Basketball Coaches