BREMEN, Ala. – For the fourth time in school history, the Cold Springs Lady Eagles are the AHSAA 2A Girls State Champions. It’s not just the fourth title for Cold Springs High School, it’s also the fourth title for Lady Eagles’ Head Coach Tammy West since she arrived in 1992. West has helped build multiple championship teams in her tenure at Cold Springs and while all of them had talent, chemistry and great work ethic, there are some differences in those teams that Coach West remembers as well.
“They’re all four pretty different. I can think back and the first one in 1999 was extremely special, it was the first one for any of us. It’s been so long ago and when I think back, I wish the I would’ve enjoyed it more but going into the next ones in 2008 and 2009, you learn to really soak it all in an enjoy it,” West said. “For that ‘08-‘09 group, it was really unheard of to go back-to-back and be able to accomplish that, especially with the record that they had. So, that was just an amazing feat for them. This year’s team just kind of battled all year long and took advantage of some matchups that we had, and I really think we thought we could do it all year long, but now that it’s over you look back and it’s such a huge accomplishment for this group.”
There aren’t very many coaches across the state who know what it takes to win back-to-back state championships, but West joined that club after her team repeated in 2009. The Lady Eagles compiled a combined record of 72-2 during the 2008 and 2009 seasons. Outside of the obvious talent on the team, the returning experience was the biggest factor that West saw in being able to win back-to-back titles.
“You’ve got to have a lot of returning players, and we pretty much had all of them back for the second year,” West said. “When we won it in 2008, most of them were 10th and 11th graders, so having the majority of them coming back was key and of course you had that experience and the nerves weren’t there that second year. They knew what to expect and the experience really helped them to finish off those back-to-back seasons.”
Coach West and the Lady Eagles have entered three different seasons as defending state champions, but she hasn’t had to deal with some of the typical challenges that come with that success. Rather than becoming complacent, West believes next year’s team will be anxious to relive its victory in Birmingham.
“I think it just makes them hungry. I actually think these girls are going to work harder now and they’re going to believe now that they’ve already done it,” West said. “The ones that were part of it this year, they want to do it again and they know what this feeling is like and then the ones that maybe were not out there, they want to be a part of it next year and have that same feeling. I actually think it’s going to make them work a lot harder.”
Becoming a basketball coach was virtually pre-destined for West. Growing up with her father, longtime Good Hope Raiders Head Coach Danny Welborn, exposed her to the coaching lifestyle from a young age
“My dad was the coach at Good Hope and he’s the one that really made me want to coach,” West said. “I still have notes that my dad gave me from my very first year of coaching where he drew up some plays and some practice drills and stuff, so he’s actually the only coach I ever watched up close because I had grown up in a gym with my daddy coaching the boys at Good Hope.”
Every team, every player and every trophy has meant a lot to Coach West, but this year’s title team had something particularly special about it. Her daughter and starting point guard Toni West helped lead Cold Springs to its most recent title and West admits that celebrating as a mom and a coach was truly something to remember.
“You form relationships with so many of these girls, lifelong relationships and just being able to coach all three of my daughters has been a huge blessing. All year long, as a mom, I wanted to see my child be able to experience it after seeing it happen with all these other girls,” West said. “I wanted her to be able to experience that because she’s worked extremely hard in the offseason, and just seeing her face going through all of it, running out, during the game and her emotions after the game, just made it a little bit different for me. I had only ever been there as just a coach and I got to see the kids meeting their parents upstairs after the game, but this time I got to do that, and it was a great feeling. It was a great experience to be able to go up and celebrate not only as coach, but as a mom, too.”
Coach West has racked up 617 wins in her career at Cold Springs, and with her daughter Toni and a host of other Lady Eagles returning next season, that number will continue to climb.