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“I Feel Like This Is Where I’m Supposed To Be” – New Eaglettes’ Basketball Head Coach Keisha Jarrett Talks First Month on the Job

Noah Maddox
Posted 7/1/24

The Shelbyville Central Golden Eaglettes' new head basketball coach, Keisha Jarrett, had a roller coaster first month on the job, but she is encouraged in the limited time she has had with her team about their future.

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“I Feel Like This Is Where I’m Supposed To Be” – New Eaglettes’ Basketball Head Coach Keisha Jarrett Talks First Month on the Job


Shortly after the Shelbyville Central Golden Eaglettes lost to Coffee County in the Region 5-4A semifinal to end their season, Kyle Turnham stepped down as the head coach. This opened up an opportunity that Keisha Jarrett is taking full advantage of after she was hired at the end of May. 

“I feel like this is where I’m supposed to be. I’ve coached before, I played at a high school level, played at the collegiate level, but I just never would have thrown myself out there to actually be a coach,” Jarrett said. “I feel like I have the knowledge and the tools and all the mentorships that I need to be a great coach.”

Jarrett played at Clarksville High from 2002-06 where she finished her career 6th on the all-time career scoring leaders list. She still holds that spot today with 1,364 career points. After graduation, she went on to continue playing basketball at Cumberland where she was voted as the Senior Team Captain and was a four-year letterman.

Jarrett truly believes that her time playing college basketball has best prepared her to be a head coach. She has experiences to draw back on – and remembers how difficult the adjustment was – so she can help get her players for the next level as well as winning in the high school ranks.

“When I went to college, the conditioning was totally different. If the girls want to be able to play at the next level, I want those girls to have an easy transition, and I know what it takes and looks like to be successful at the next level.”

Keisha Jarrett (21) played at Cumberland University from 2006-10.
Keisha Jarrett (21) played at Cumberland University from 2006-10.

Conditioning is a massive part of a team’s success, but if she was going to have the same kinds of numbers on the team like last year, conditioning would only get her and the team so far. With only 8 girls on the team last year and at least three graduating, Jarrett knew she had to get to work in spreading the word to come out and try out.

“Coming into it I already kind of knew the odds against the team, but I didn’t want that to get in the way with what I wanted to build,” she explained. “I came in thinking I definitely needed to recruit the hallways and get the word out. Just come try out, come see me and see how the vibe is.” 

Fortunately for Jarrett and the Eaglettes’ program, the work she put into spreading the word worked. 

“Went to tryouts and I expected maybe 10-12 people,” she said. “Luckily I was blessed enough with 18 girls that came out. I also had some girls reach out that they wanted to come out and were not able to make it, so I am also holding another tryout in the fall.”

It really seems that Jarrett’s style and approach meshes well with the students at Shelbyville Central. Some of that probably comes from her time in the school systems in Rutherford County already. She has the basketball experience of course, but she also seems to have a certain relatability with the kids that can be hard to determine from just an interview. She is infectious with energy – during our interview, she was extremely upbeat about how her team performed and how the future of the program looks – which usually bodes well for someone’s job performance in general, much less working with and teaching kids every day.

Jarrett says that her friend was actually the one that found the job opening, and even encouraged her to at least apply and go through the interview process. Principal Charlie Pope, along with a few others, conducted the interview, and what left an impression on Pope would be something that, on the surface, might not seem like a big deal. 

“She was the only person to say ‘I want to be here at Shelbyville Central’ and that was refreshing,” Pope said in his previous statement. 

As it comes to actual play on the court, Jarrett has a plan for that as well, and her motivation is exactly what you would want to hear.

“I've played all my life,” Jarrett said. “Since I couldn't play the game anymore, it was always about being able to mentor and give back my knowledge to the younger generation.” 

She is a stark contrast compared to her predecessor, at least in terms of coaching style. Nothing against past coaches of course, but the difference in style might come as a breath of fresh air to a program that is working to find a way back to the heights it enjoyed over 20 years ago. Jarrett brings a clear vision and direction to help develop this program not just for this season, but for the future as well.

“I definitely want the girls to have fun. I want us to be united as a team. I want us to be able to play structured basketball but also want them to be skilled enough to be able to read the defense and recognize those things in game, building up their basketball IQ. Defense-wise we want to be aggressive, be the type of team to be able to run up and down, and also switch defenses, zone, trap, and full court man,” she explained. “With me wanting to do these things, I can't just play with five girls even with as much conditioning as we can give these girls.” 

“If we want to win games, it’s going to be  a team thing and not just the five girls on the court.”

In the second to last week of June, the Eaglettes went up to Murfreesboro to compete in the summer camps on the campus of MTSU, playing eight games over the course of three days. 

“We were together for maybe three weeks before the camp,” she said. “It’s a good time for me to see what we’re really good at and things that we are not so good at. I really didn’t think we were gonna do as well as we did. I feel really good about going into the season, and if we continue to work on these things we can compete at a high level. It’s also them believing in themselves and having the confidence to play like I would like them to play.”

Of the eight games the Eaglettes played at MTSU, they lost just twice. Both teams they lost to made either the state sectional round or the state tournament last season. Even though the summer camp games aren’t always about wins and losses, winning six of the eight games played after being together for only three weeks with a new coach and teammates says a lot about the kind of players Coach Jarrett is working with.

“The level of intensity and aggression that they played at was very fun to see,” she said. “It was fun seeing them respond to me and them trusting me enough to lead them to excellence.” 

Of course, a bigger goal of the summer camp games is to play as many players as you can to not only see how different players react to different in-game situations, but see how certain players react to being put on the bench at various times. It goes both ways. With that many games in such a short period of time, it’s inevitable that you will be forced to put some lineups out there on the floor that do not have a lot of chemistry or time together.

“Varsity and JV, everybody was able to hit the floor and be exposed to the game,” Jarrett continued. “I was able to see some of their character as well as their skillset.”

Of those 18 players previously mentioned that went to summer camp, only five of them are returning players. Throw in the fact that there will be another tryout held in the fall, and the Eaglettes could end up fielding almost a completely different team. There will already be major rotation changes, but if Jarrett can get the girls and the school to continue to buy into the program, it seems like they may get their mojo back. A youthful and energetic coach bringing a fast and frenetic but high basketball IQ style of play should do wonders as it comes to filling up Rick Insell Gymnasium in the coming years.

Keisha Jarrett (21) played at Cumberland University, graduating in 2010 as a Senior Team Captain.
Keisha Jarrett (21) played at Cumberland University, graduating in 2010 as a Senior Team Captain.

Keisha Jarrett, Shelbyville Central Golden Eaglettes