Former Unaka athlete doing well as coach at Mitchell

By Marvin Birchfield

STAR CORRESPONDENT
mbirchfield@starhq.com

   The Mitchell County ladies basketball program enjoyed plenty of success this season, as the added coaching skills of former Unaka graduate Dawn Lowe was an attribute to the winning effort.
   Lowe headed the girls junior varsity club, which went 18-3 on the year to become the top team in Mitchell County's conference.
   One of the assistant coaches on the varsity team, Lowe was part of the Lady Mountaineers' second state championship in the past seven years.
   The JV team was a young squad with a lot of talent that should continue to spill out into the varsity team for years to come.
   "We finished at 18-3 and had a lot of freshman that played for there was 13 of them total, and five sophomores," said Lowe. "Hopefully they got a lot of experience for our varsity team, who were 25-6 and won the state championship."
   Lowe's talent exceeds the basketball court, as she also coaches the varsity softball team, where her knowledge of both games was learned under the Unaka coaching legend Ronnie Hicks.
   "We started the first softball team, I believe, when I was a freshman, and they put that field out there in the middle of nothing, so we spent a lot of times picking up rocks and throwing them," said Lowe.
   "That's a good program, and I'm glad I was part of it. We were good, and he's still keeping that tradition going."
   Lowe might not have the success in softball that Hicks has had so far, but she's definitely doing what it takes to get there.
   "We went over there when Unaka had its jamboree, and we won two games and lost two, so it was a good experience for my kids to get to do that," said Lowe.
   Dawn also played under Hicks in basketball in the early '80s, but she says her playing days were focused more on softball, even though her coaching career has been directed more toward hoops.
   "I've played more softball, but I have coached more basketball," said Lowe. "I have coached basketball every year I have been here in either youth league, jr. high and the high school, where I've been out here coaching the JV team for the past six years."
   Before Dawn ever came to Mitchell County, she had her first coaching experience coming out of college, where she was put in charge of Tusculum's women's basketball team.
   "I coached basketball at Tusculum, where I graduated, and it was a good experience even though I was way in over my head," said Lowe. "I had just gotten out of college and most of the girls I coached I had already played with, but I did learn a lot."
   Lowe graduated Unaka in 1982 and at Tusculum in 1986, where she coached two years, and then proceeded to travel to Mitchell County where she has resided since.
   "I like it here," she said. "It's a lot like being at Unaka, because it's the same kind of people, good country people with high morals and standards for their kids."
   Western North Carolina is not a heavily populated area, so there are not as many activities for the kids as what you might see here in East Tennessee, but sometimes that can be a benefit when dealing with youth.
   "There's not a lot of things for kids here like there is in the big city, but I like teaching here, and I guess I'll be here for the rest of my career," said Lowe.
   With the lack of industry and commercial businesses, it is sometimes easier in the smaller community to deal with the many problems which exist.
   "We've probably kept some kids out of trouble just because we've had them involved with sports, and sometimes a small community benefits from it," said Lowe.
   The 2003 North Carolina 2-A State Tournament was awarded to the Mountaineers a couple of weeks ago, and even though Lowe is not the head coach, her participation on the floor was useful at certain times.
   "There were several assistants on the team, and my job was primarily to make suggestions and things we might need to change, so I'm more of a strategous type person," said Lowe.
   Dawn says it has been real exciting for her and all the kids to experience the feeling of what they have accomplished, and the hard work put forth has made a difference.
   "I'm happy for the kids that they won, because they worked hard for it," said Lowe. "I know every coach feels like their kids deserve it, but with all the camps they went to during the summer I feel they're deserving and the work has definitely paid off."
   As far as the success of her JV team, she credits a lot of the effort to their defense and style of play.
   "We stress defense in practice, and that is something we emphasize in being able to play man-to-man on the ball. We probably work on it the most," said Lowe. "There were times when we struggled on offense, so it's good to be able to bring the pressure on defense and get some easy scores."
   Comparing the group of players she had coached that were on this year's state championship and the present bunch she had this season were pretty even with talent and skills.
   "When these girls who won the state were freshmen, we won the conference tournament, and this year's team had that same type of talent -- and possibly even better from top to bottom," said Lowe.