This week’s guest is one of the best athletes and coaches to come out of McKinney ISD — someone who positively impacted people in McKinney for four decades and will be inducted in the MISD 2020 Hall of Honor in three weeks.
Please kick back and enjoy the McKinney Courier-Gazette’s Sunday Spotlight Conversation with McKinney legend Darla Sessom.
How does it feel to be semi-retired after a very successful teaching and coaching career in McKinney ISD?
Sessom: It feels great. After 32 years of teaching and coaching, 29 with MISD, I was blessed with the opportunity to come back after retiring and work with the McKinney athletic department on a part-time basis. While I was coaching, I knew that a lot went on at the athletic office.
However, I had no idea the extent of work behind the scenes that is involved in making MISD the best athletic program in the state. Being a small part of this team allows me to stay involved in the athletic realm of the district in a different role and I’ve thoroughly enjoyed it.
Being semi-retired has also freed me up to help out with my aging parents and spend more time with my husband, Mike.
What do you miss the most about coaching?
Sessom: I miss walking in the gym and hearing balls bounce and kids laughing. Believe it or not, I even miss the smell of the gym.
There’s nothing like it. I miss those “a-ha” moments when an athlete finally gets it after weeks of practice and the excitement of seeing kids working together to score a point, make a steal, or create a turnover. As a coach, I had the unique opportunity to influence young adults in ways that others in the school system do not.
Coaches spend so much more time with our kids and can create that unique bond only a player/coach can have. I found that coaching is so much more than just X’s and O’s, it’s about listening to the kid whose parents are divorcing and is struggling to cope; it’s about making sure that the student who is failing a class is attending tutoring and getting the assistance they need.
Coaching is also about the child who comes to school with shoes too small or clothes that are dirty and hooking them up with a “stash” of items from our own wardrobes; it’s about not giving up on a child even if she has given up on herself.
It’s all those life lessons athletics teaches that carry over to the real world and then being able to watch as they move into adulthood and watching them succeed. Knowing that I could make a difference in a child’s life, even if just a small one is what I miss most.
What does McKinney High means to you after being a star athlete for the Lionettes in your high school years and then coaching them as an adult?
Sessom: My blood bleeds blue and gold, even though my heart does have a bit of blue and orange since most of my former Johnson Middle School students attend North. I am and will be forever grateful for the teachers and coaches who poured their time, knowledge, and hearts into me to ensure that I reached my full potential as a student-athlete.
They are the ones who instilled in me a drive for excellence and a never-say-die attitude. They taught me to respect myself and my opponent and that giving anything less than my best was unacceptable.
Because of their profound influence, I was inspired to become a teacher and coach. I also wanted to have such an impact on young adults as they had on me.
What were the emotions when you got the call that you had been picked to be a member of the MISD 2020 Hall of Honor class?
Sessom: My first emotion was of gratitude. I am so grateful that the committee thought I was worthy to be named as a Hall of Honor inductee. It is overwhelming and I am so thankful.
My second emotion was of humility. Knowing those who have already been inducted and those who are in the class of which I am a part of this year, I keep asking myself, “How in the world do you belong with these athletes?” It truly is a humbling experience.
What’s your greatest memory of being the head coach of the best volleyball team in McKinney High history?
Sessom: There are so many memories of that special time in 1990. After coaching three years at other districts, to be able to come back to coach at my alma mater was, in and of itself, unbelievable.
I felt incredibly blessed for the opportunity. The volleyball program at McKinney in 1990 was pretty down. The 1989 season yielded only three wins, so I knew that there was much work to be done.
However, knowing the caliber of athletes that McKinney produced, I knew that the talent was there. It was just a matter of teaching the skills and putting the players in the best positions that would yield success.
I had an exceptional group of young ladies who were hungry to learn and willing to put in the work. I remember when we had reached our fourth win during a tournament early in the season, one of the girls during our after-game talk said, “Hey, we’ve already won more ballgames than all of last year combined and we aren’t even halfway through the season yet.”
This was a turning point for the team, and the girls realized they could be the pioneers of a winning volleyball program for McKinney High School. Qualifying for state and being in the final four that year was a dream realized by these young ladies and their legacy has paved the way for other Lionette volleyball players since.
Who helped give you the foundation to have a Hall of Fame coaching and teaching career?
Sessom: I first credit my Lord and Savior. He has blessed me beyond measure and has guided my path in life to this day.
My parents, by teaching me the value of honesty, discipline, and hard work, helped set the foundation that would enable me to find success in the athletic realm.
And, without question, my coaches, Glenna Duncan and Susie Hales, had the most impact on me as an athlete. Their knowledge of sports and the ability to make me as passionate about competing as they were is what molded me and enabled me to continue my athletic career into the collegiate level.
How does it feel to have made such a positive impact on so many McKinney student-athletes’ lives over the last three decades, including some fellow Hall of Honor inductees?
Sessom: It warms my heart to see many of my former athletes winning in life. And to see so many inducted into the Hall of Honor makes me proud.
If I have contributed in the least to their success, I give God the glory that he was able to use me for his purpose. There is a great responsibility placed upon teachers and coaches because of their far-reaching influence. It is my prayer that I have, in some small way, passed on the tradition of excellence instilled in me from my coaches, to my former student-athletes.