Bev Ball's retirement doesn't end her lasting impact on Abilene
ABILENE, TX - Sixty-seven years goes by awfully quick if you love what you do. That applies directly to Abilene's one-in-a-million coach, teacher, friend, and mentor Bev Ball.
For those who know her, Bev Ball is --Kind, generous," said McMurry Athletics Director Sam Ferguson. "Love. She loves everybody," added cosmetologist and former student Jimmie Kay Kennedy. But to herself, Ball says she's, "Just a country girl."
A good assessment after 67 years of coaching. Last week, one of the longest-tenured coaches in Texas in any sport, announced she's hanging up her whistle. But at 87 years young - she's not quite riding off in the sunset. Casey Pacheco, a former student of her's, has now taken the reigns of War Hawk swimming.
"I just told him that he was the boss man now, and that I would just be here to help him in any way he needs," said Ball.
Hard to leave something you've been a part of for so long. Bev Ball began the War Hawk swim program in 2000, but that's after 47 years in the Abilene Independent School district as a tennis and swim coach."It's been a great life for me," Ball said smiling. "I don't know how many thousand kids I've had. And still hear from a good group of them." "She'd been my teacher at Abilene High, and the first week I started to work as a hairdresser, she came to me. Now 55 years later, I'm still doing her hair," said longtime friend Jimmie Kay Kennedy. An incredible run that leads to well-deserved honors. Her accolades, including induction into the Big Country Athletic Hall of Fame in 2003, the Theron Pickle Outstanding Achievement Award by Texas High School swim coaches in 1998, and the Chuck Mosier Girls Coach of the Year in 1999.
"You cannot create hardware to describe her impact," said Athletics Director Sam Ferguson. "Again, it's all about the relationships she's built."
She taught a young Colt McCoy, a retired Admiral, and countless of you who then took your kids to her pool. And she knows it's not coaching that got her here today."Swimming was fun and competition is fun, but to see a young woman or young man grow up and become a mother or a father -- that has been the big thing of working with young people," she said. "You just see people's lives change," Ferguson said. "I've seen grown men weep, prominent men in our community weep, just recalling the impact she's had on their lives." Ball even had spectacular memories outside of coaching, like throwing out the first pitch at a Texas Rangers game last year - and meeting the king of rock and roll when she was young. "He came over to our house on Peach Street, and had milk and cookies with us," Ball recalled about her time spent with Elvis Presley in 1956. "He was homesick." Her legacy won't ever be forgotten. As her name drapes across Abilene High's yearly volleyball tournament, and June 10 th will forever be Bev Ball day, after being declared by Mayor Norm Archibold.
It's even said she could run for Mayor and win without spending a campaign dollar.
"I tell you what, I wouldn't know the first thing about being a mayor," Ball said with a laugh.
But one thing is for certain, Bev Ball has impacted everyone she's come in contact with. And like myself, we'll always cherish that."My kids have been my life ever since I've been in Abilene," she explained. "I don't know what I'm going to do without them." "She's just scared to death that nobody is going to even think of her," said Kennedy. "How can we not think of Bev Ball." And we'll continue to forever do so. Thank you coach. We love you.