Shana White, 29, is in her first season as head coach of the Peachtree Ridge girls basketball team. A graduate of Dunwoody High School, White played basketball for one year at Wake Forest before an ACL injury ended her playing career. She has coached at Paideia and Pace Academy in Atlanta and spent a year in Springfield, Ill., working as a program director for the YMCA.
In this installment of "Getting to Know..." White talks with staff writer Ben Beitzel about being a star in Dunwoody, coaching basketball by hardly ever shouting and just how much Illinois loves Abraham Lincoln.
BB: How did you make the leap from player to coach?
SW: After (I tore my ACL) at Wake (Forest) my coaches encouraged me to get involved in coaching. I actually coached at a local high school in Winston-Salem (N.C.) for three years until I finished my undergraduate degree. I really liked it because it was the intensity and the fire that you had from playing the game, I don't want to say it's not the responsibility, but it is not the pressure of being a player. As an assistant coach there really was no pressure. A head coach, they take the brunt of everything. Being an assistant coach I got to learn a lot, but also see the game from a different perspective. ... I liked how it lit my fire as far as being excited about it.
BB: So, you don't see yourself moving on to the collegiate level?
SW: Ultimately, I think any coach would say, ideally, they want to be a college coach but my husband and I were born and raised here. We love Atlanta. I don't like the rigors as far as travel and coaching. I would love to have kids some day and my husband wants to have kids soon too. So being a college coach and having a family, just to me does not mesh as far as my goals. My family and my faith are very important to me, so sitting there thinking career going above those things just doesn't add up for me. I just want to be a high school coach. I can have a family and still impact kids' lives but still be able to impact my families lives and be a good wife and be good mother.
BB: How did you meet your husband, Stacey?
SW: Actually, we went to high school together, but we weren't high school sweethearts. He'll let you know, to this day, that I wasn't cool in high school. I was just the nerd-jock and he played on the state championship football team that went like undefeated and was ranked. ... So he tells me I was a loser in high school.
It's funny, my best friend had a super crush on him. We have joked about it since then. We are really big fitness people, we like to work out and we actually ran into each other at the gym and we just started talking and started hanging out and we dated from there and we dated for about two years and we got married about two years ago.
BB: Do you still take pride in being from Dunwoody?
SW: The boys side, I take pride in the fact that they have won state. I am a big person of having kids from your area so I am not a big fan that they have lots of kids that move in. When I went to Dunwoody, we all grew up there, we had known each other since elementary school, we all kind of had meshed. I go back and visit and it is kind of funny people are just like, 'Wow, you graduated in '96.' and I am like, 'That is not that long ago.' But when you think about it, it is over 10 years ago. It is kind of interesting my old varsity coach he actually passed away a couple of years ago ... and to go to his funeral and just see all the people that were there and the people that recognized me. I felt like a celebrity, but I felt kind of weird.
You have a camaraderie with the people from Dunwoody. (My husband and I) ran into a guy who refereed the Norcross-Peachtree Ridge game on Saturday, he was the high school quarterback and graduated with me. My husband and I were waving at him at the game. I have gone to Dunwoody. I am proud to be a native Atlantan, that is rare to say. ... I like to be able to brag about that.
BB: You talked about people moving in to Dunwoody, is that frustrating as a coach to see the kids move around so much?
SW: I am not a parent, but I understand wanting the best for your kids. Just growing up I loved the fact that you have this camaraderie with the community and the kids grew up there and they all knew each other.
And I think the influx of private schools has created another curve ball because people do move to a Wesleyan or a GAC. So I guess my old native Atlantan nature would say that I wish kids would just say in the district they are in and go to their school and kind of create the camaraderie and community spirit.
And now it is hard to do that because they have known each other since freshmen year where when I was growing up I knew everybody since we were in the sixth grade. ... But at the same time with how big this city is and how many great programs, especially in the Gwinnett County area, that you can migrate to, I don't knock it. I'll take the parts that I am given. Whoever shows up I'll coach them to the best of my abilities and hopefully we'll win some ball games.
BB: You have to be the most laid-back basketball coach. You don't yell and you don't even stand up too much. How do you maintain that? You just sit there, you don't hardly shout.
SW: My husband yelled at me, he said I need to yell more. I am learning to get on these girls a little bit more because they are motivated differently. At Pace I wasn't a screamer because I knew a lot of the kids had never played basketball so me yelling at them they didn't know what I was talking about half the time. I let (the players) know my expectations in practice. I try to push them hard. I try to push them in practice so they know my expectations so I don't have to say much in a game. I think with kids, especially girls, because we tend to be emotional more than guys, if they hear somebody yelling at them, somebody they respect and they know and they trust, that is just going to frazzle them. If they see a calm demeanor from me that is going to calm them. ... The pressure is on me to put you in the best position to be successful. If I prepare my team the best I can, the best thing I can do is be laid-back. If I am calm, they are going to be calm.
BB: You had to stop playing basketball because of a torn ACL. With all that has changed, do you think that if you tore it now things would be different?
SW: One of my players was having knee problems and I think she tore her meniscus and she was back three weeks later. Back in the day, you'd be out for months and months.
To see how advanced they are ... my doctor was cutting-edge because she worked with the Braves and the Falcons. She did the hamstring graft, which back in the day that was when everybody did the patella tendon. But now I am sitting there and these people are coming back six months later.
You see Candace Parker and how amazing she is doing and she has had two surgeries on her knee. I would say, yes, ideally I would love to have it happen now, but I know everything happens for a reason and this is the reason I am coaching so I am actually really grateful.
BB: You went to Wake Forest and your husband went to N.C. State, what's the protocol when the two teams play?
SW: This is the first year we couldn't go to the football game because our first game was the next day, but in the past we have bet a box of Krispy Kreme donuts. That's the standard bet. Luckily, since we've dated, my team has won three out of the four years so I've got a box of donuts. I have gotten to the point where I get the box of donuts and I actually give them to him, because he likes the donuts more that me. It is just the satisfaction of knowing that me team beat his is enough.
BB: You spent a year working at a YMCA in Springfield, Ill. How much did they love Abraham Lincoln?
SW: (laughs) Oh my God, it is a huge deal. They have a monument that takes up like four blocks in the street of where his original home was. They have left everything intact from when he left it to go and be president. It's insane. I have never seen ... I mean everything there is just Lincoln. To me it's funny now looking back on it, but they take it very seriously. That is their one claim to fame.