WBC coach Carol Halford is an icon of perseverance

From Williams Baptist College

This summer is just like most summers for Carol Halford. Halford, the head women's basketball coach at Williams Baptist College, is in preparation for her 27th year coaching the Eagles.

Halford holds a prominent place in Williams athletics. She won the ­only National Championship in school history in 1993, when her teams claimed the National Christian College Athletic Association title, and she has 407 career victories at Williams.

However, one summer day in June of 2004 Halford experienced a trial that would test her will and leave her in a fight for survival. She had an accident on her family's farm near Malden, Mo., when an all-terrain vehicle flipped on top of her.

Ironically, the day before the mishap, her young niece had played a prank, calling 911 emergency services. When the sheriff's office called back to see what the emergency was, Halford explained the situation and apologized. At that time the sheriff's office told her they did not have the residence registered in their system. That day they registered her parent's address for the emergency records. The next day was the accident. Halford describes it as "divine intervention from God."

When the accident happened, her friends and family were close by. She credits her life to the immediate reaction of those around her, noting, "They knew not to move me and they took all the necessary steps to insure that I had the best chance of surviving. It's probable if they tried to move me, I would have been paralyzed."

Halford was immediately airlifted to a hospital in Cape Girardeau, Mo. Upon learning that her condition was too serious for the hospital to handle, they airlifted her to St. Louis. Her injuries included eight broken ribs, a broken shoulder, a collapsed lung, and a broken T-11 and T-12 vertebrae in the spinal cord.

She spent six hours in surgery. Next, she went to the intensive care unit for one week. No one was certain of the outcome. However, Halford's fighting spirit and will would persevere "I just kept telling myself I was going to make it. Self-talk is so important in these situations," she says.

Halford also credits the many emails, notes, and letters she received from friends, family, and churches across the country. She remembers, "My mom contacted her prayer chain the day of the accident. I know it reached a church all the way in Albuquerque."

Doctors told her the best outcome would be if she could walk with a cane or a walker. However, they believed she would have some paralysis. This is where the competitiveness and will kicked in for the coach. "I just knew I wasn't going to let myself not walk again. It's just not how I was going to live," says Halford.

She remembers telling herself that she was not going to be stuck in the wheel chair her whole life or with an assisted walker. It would not be an easy road to recovery, but she knew she would walk without assistance again. She credits God, friends, self-motivation, self-talk, and encouragement throughout the rehab process.

Also, she credits Andy Shatley, who was in charge of her rehabilitation at HealthSouth in Jonesboro. He would not let her give up. "He just kept pushing me and staying with me every step of the way," she says. Whether it was taking a 10 yard walk down the hallway between bars or standing up for the first time, he inspired her. She believes without his motivation, there would have been a different outcome.

Halford remains active to this day. She works out with free weights, does a pool workout, and takes walks among other daily activities.

Her players draw inspiration from seeing what their coach has been able to overcome. Brittany (Foley) George was entering her junior season at Williams when the accident occurred. She remembers a lot of uncertainty of whether "Coach" would be on the sidelines for the coming year.

George adds, "Probably the greatest lesson I learned from Coach is perseverance. In times when you are tired and wanting to give up, we must persevere and work through the tough times and work through the experiences as a team dedicated to each other."

Several players mentioned their love for their coach's sense of humor. They speak of how they rarely found things as funny as Halford found them, but now they look back at that time and laugh at the humor their coach provided.

How could one of her players ever give up knowing what all she went through to be able to walk, much less coach again? She will be on the sidelines again come November for her 27th year leading the Lady Eagles onto the court.

Throughout her life, Halford says she has held strong to her belief in God, family, friends, players, and herself. Whether learning how to walk all over again or trying to beat a rival, she will always hold close to her will and perseverance.