BLUE MOUNTAIN - For the last eight years, Regina Chills put in her time as an assistant girls basketball coach at Ripley but now it is her time to lead a program. Chills will take over the Blue Mountain Lady Cougars as the head coach after the departure of two-year head coach Alicia Thompson.
"I give everything to God because He led me to this job," Chills said. "I've always had really, really strong ties to Ripley and to just have this opportunity to come to Blue Mountain, there was something telling me this is where I need to be."
Chills will take over a team that will look completely different from the past couple of seasons. Two seasons ago, the Lady Cougars broke through for their first trip to Jackson in school history and finished the year with a 20-9 record. Last season with nearly the same roster back, the Lady Cougars went 16-11 and made a second round exit in the Class 1A playoffs.
Only eight girls were on the roster last season, five of which just graduated in May leaving Chills with a team full of inexperienced players. But that challenge to get these girls ready to play for next season is something Chills is not shying away from.
"I just want them to know that they can be successful if they just work hard," Chills said of the upcoming players. "Building their confidence up is going to be the biggest thing because a lot of them didn't play last year. We have some girls that I think will shock some people that they can actually play."
With every head coaching change, the new leader always wants to come in and instill a culture. Not that the previous one is always bad but a new culture is just a stamp of the character of whoever the new coach may be. Chills is appreciative of the foundation of success that has been laid at Blue Mountain and only hopes to expand that moving forward, going about it on her terms.
"I'm hoping that our kids just learn hard work," Chills said of building a culture at Blue Mountain. "Regardless of what everybody else is saying about you, hard work and giving everything you got, dedication, it all pays off."
That hard-working mentality is something Chills has picked up as an assistant working under the likes of current Pine Grove head coach Katie Bates and Ripley head coach Steve Willey. Bates and Willey are two of the more decorated girls basketball coaches in the state of Mississippi. Willey has won over 600 games as a head coach and Bates just wrapped up her third-consecutive state title at Pine Grove, which makes four overall dating back to her 2011 championship with Ripley. Chills says she picked up a few things from both of them and will use them in her time as a head coach now.
"Katie Bates and Coach Willey are two totally different coaches but those two added together is a recipe for something huge," Chills claimed. "She is more like me in wanting everything you got and motivating kids to buy in to watch she is trying to do. Then you have Coach Willey, who is the master of the X's and O's of the game. Those are two huge things that I'm going to integrate into my program because that's all I know."
Chills has already held tryouts for next season and knows who will be on her team for next season. Chills said that the Lady Cougars would not play in any games this summer because she wants her girls to get comfortable with her and her philosophies before they try and put it together against another team. But the work is still going to be put in for the Lady Cougars in two months worth of summer practices to prepare for next season and beyond.
With her hiring, Chills would become the first African American female head coach in Tippah County history, something she noted as a special accomplishment.