By DJ MOORE
COVINGTON, Ga — Coming into the 2022-23 season, the Newton Lady Rams basketball team had a few odds stacked against them. For starters, it’s a young squad with a new head coach in Jawan Bailey battling through a competitive Region 4-AAAAAAA.
Historically, the Newton girls have been solid, even nearly winning a Class AAAAAAA state championship a few years ago. But with every coaching change comes the task of building a new culture — one Bailey hopes will last for years to come.
It isn’t as easy as people make it look, though, and the coaching staff knows it’ll take some time.
“This generation is used to instant gratification,” Bailey said. “So sticking to a process when it’s not resulting in wins all the time makes it difficult. But I see the correct habits being formed, the correct attitudes towards hard tasks, etc. So a shift is definitely on the horizon .”
The Lady Rams (3-15, 0-4), though, have implemented a couple of things to help speed up the process.
First, the program has adopted the motto, “Just One.” Senior power forward Kourtney Sherrod shared what the motto means to her and her teammates.
“‘Just One’ is basically to get 1% better everyday, and that really builds us up as a team,” said Sherrod. “For example, if we have practice, we are encouraging someone else and patting them on the back.”
Another tool at Newton’s disposal has been the book, “The Power of a Positive Team: Proven Principles and Practices that Make Great Teams Great,” by Jon Gordon. It’s a book that helps teams become more positive, united and connected.
Williams believes this book describes what this year’s version of the Lady Rams is navigating.
“This book is basically what the girls are going through this season, and it makes us happy that they are taking what they learn in the book and plugging it to their daily lives on the court,” said Williams.
The players have done more than depending on this book and their program motto. They’ve also taken upon themselves to expedite the championship building process.
Outside of the basketball court, the Lady Rams
spend time together to help build cohesion among themselves.
“We have done a couple of team bonding (activities) where we got to know each other, and it has helped us build a bond on the court,” said Sherrod.
Included in Newton’s 3-15 overall record is an 0-4 mark in region play. Its last game was a 58-28 loss to Parkview on Jan. 20. The Lady Rams are currently in sixth place in their tough region that features the likes of top-10 caliber teams Brookwood, Archer and Grayson.
Tania Bailey leads the team averaging 10.1 points per game with Zoey Jackson right behind her averaging 9.8 points. Derrinique White is the team’s leading rebounder with her 6.3 boards-per game average.
White highlighted how everyone on the team has been supportive of each other despite the outcome of their games.
“First off, [coach Bailey] tells us to encourage, which helps us a lot to build the culture that he and the coaching staff is trying to build at Newton,” said White. “Us encouraging each other helps us out a lot even though we are not winning the way we want to win. It is building upon winning more games from this year or next year’s season.”
Sherrod and White are the only two seniors on a team that is made up 75% of underclassmen. Before the seniors leave, they have goals for the future of this program regardless of how this season turns out.
“With them being young, our younger teammates have that time to establish that bond that we are currently building on,” said White.
Sherrod also wants to see the Lady Rams basketball program continue building on their sisterhood.
“We have a good bond,” Sherrod said. “But I want them to be a family, sisterhood.”