Lausanne hired Sara Hammond as their basketball coach last week, a position made available when former head coach Lesa Mears announced her retirement from coaching after 38 years.
While she enjoyed her last nine years of coaching at Lausanne, Mears basketball career began on the court over 45 years ago. A time when the girls’ game looked very different.
“Girls played half court-3 guards who played defense on the opposing forwards and 3 forwards who were on the offensive end,” Mears said.
Growing up in the 70s, Mears said it was not cool to be a female athlete. She said she was often referred to as a “tomboy.”
Not happy with simply playing half-court basketball, Mears would often stay after practice and play with the boys so that she could enjoy full-court basketball.
“You see, at that time, they thought girls couldn’t handle the grit and grind of a full court game,” Mears said. That it wasn’t healthy for our bodies.”
Thanks to Title IX, in 1979, Mears was offered a full scholarship to play basketball at Arkansas College, now known as Lyon College.
While college coaches like Pat Summit continued the fight for equality in women’s sports, the Arkansas College team would travel in a van, eat boxed meals prepared by our wonderful cafeteria staff, play our game, drive home and be in class at 8:00 a.m. the next morning.
“No computers, no virtual classes and we typed our 20 page papers on a typewriter which required using tons of “white out” to correct mistakes,” Mears recalls.
After her playing career was over, Mears began her coaching career in 1983 in the basketball town of Wynne, Arkansas.
Mears laughs as she recalls her first junior high team going 17-0.
“I thought it was because of my coaching,” Mears said.
As she matured as a coach, she said she soon realized that she was only as good as the players that she put on the floor.
“Trophies collect dust, people forget about your win-loss record, but these relationships last a lifetime,” Mears said.
Arriving in October 2012, Mears said she knew she wanted to be a part of the Lausanne community.
“I knew the moment I stepped on campus here that it was a special place, “Mears said. “The diversity, community and school pride that exist on this campus are special and I knew I wanted to be a part of that.”
As Mears looks back on her time at Lausanne and as a part of a game that has grown in both style and popularity, she said the relationships forged on the court mean the most.
“I have seen the women’s game grow into one that is played just like the men’s game. I’ve experienced a 64 game district winning streak, many championships and also games where my teams were beaten badly,” Mears said. “Through it all, the most important thing that I will carry with me forever are the relationships built along the way.”
One of those players, Lausanne alumna Selena Pruitt ’17, said the family atmosphere the team provided helped her both on and off the court.
“Not only did that mentality help us when we are playing basketball, it spilled over into our lives off the court. It taught us how to work with other people, which will be valuable to all of us far past our basketball playing careers,” Pruitt said. “Knowing Coach Mears and being a part of her team was an amazing experience.”
As she looks back on her time at Lausanne as head coach, she said the last year was one unlike another other.
“Coaching during a pandemic while adhering to mask ordinances and a long list of safety protocols was not anything I could have ever guessed I would have to deal with,” Mears said. “Throughout these wonderful and memorable years, I’m grateful for the years I coached at Lausanne.”
Coach Mears is also very excited about the next chapter of Lausanne basketball and knows Coach Sara Hammond will love coaching the Lynx as much as she did.
“I look forward to watching her build a championship program,” Mears said. “It is a great time to be a Lady Lynx!”MeI will continue teaching lower school P.E. I absolutely love teaching our pre-K through 4th grade. The boys and girls are so excited to come to P.E. Class. I will do whatever I can to support Coach Hammond with lower school basketball as well as work with Coach Lima in lower school P.E. Our passion is to teach life skills through movement and games as we lay the foundation of the fundamentals in all of the sports we offer at Lausanne.
Mears will continue teaching Lower School Physical Education.
"I absolutely love teaching our Pre-K through 4th grade," Mears said. "The boys and girls are so excited to come to P.E. class."
And her contribution to Lynx basketball will not end.
"I will do whatever I can to support Coach Hammond with Lower School basketball as well as work with Coach Lima in Lower School," Mears said. "Our passion is to teach life skills through movement and games as we lay the foundation of the fundamentals in all of the sports we offer at Lausanne."