Gordon High School’s new Head Girls’ Basketball Coach Benita Carlton is set to begin the next chapter of her career.
After five years leading the Peaster Lady Greyhounds, a stint which netted more than 100 wins with the program as well as multiple playoff appearances including a run to the Class 3A regional quarterfinals in 2017-18 and most recently a spot in the postseason picture earlier this year with a squad featuring five freshmen and a sophomore, Carlton exits Parker County with plenty of laurels in hand.
However, it is far from only a plethora of wins that Gordon’s new basketball coach leaves behind in Peaster; Carlton has also left a lasting impression on the young women who took the court under her stewardship.
For current Peaster High School student and three-year Lady Greyhound basketball player Reyna Aguilar, Carlton’s greatest strengths were her unwavering positivity in the face of adversity as well as her ability to motivate, the junior said.
“Coach Carlton always had the ability to stay positive during stressful games and encourage us to always work as a team,” Aguilar said.
“She also always took the time to find new ways to make the team better with new custom plays and discover new ways to motivate us.
“One of my favorite things we did this past season was make custom, individual booklets. For example, one page would have our personal goals for the season, and another would have a quote that meant a lot to us on it.”
For former two-year Lady Greyhound Mikayla Fadden, it was Carlton’s trust in her players’ ability to give their all every play and practice and even in other aspects of life such as classwork, Fadden said.
“Coach Carlton came to Peaster at exactly the right time for me,” Fadden said.
“She is a coach that believes in her players’ abilities and does not cut them down when it comes to mistakes. She was confident in me and it allowed me to regain my confidence in myself.
“I felt that she truly cared about each and every player. She wanted us to be our absolute best and tried everything in her power to get us there. She was someone that did not limit her support to just the court. I always felt that I could go to her with anything and she would have my back.”
In the case of Baylee Chapman, another two-year former player for Carlton, the latter’s greatest strengths were her knowledge of the game and trustworthiness, the former said.
“My favorite aspects of the experience I had with Coach Carlton were the moments we spent studying the game,” Chapman said.
“I can remember one tournament my junior year, it was just the two of us sitting on the sideline watching the game before ours finish up. We studied what they were doing and what worked and what didn’t and I gained a much stronger understanding for the game just in that short time. She’s someone that knows basketball in and out.
“I think her greatest strength as a coach would be that you can trust her. That to me is the most important, to know that when you’re putting yourself out there everyday, the person that’s leading you is doing the same and setting you up to succeed in every way possible.
“I would also like to add that her character and the way she conducts herself off the court is by far the greatest thing about her. Sports are more than just a game, having a coach that you look up to and is a role model is very rare. She’s one of those people you strive to be like. I played for her for two years and wished it was longer. There’s just not enough words to say about her.”
In the eyes of former four-year Lady Greyhound Emily Grudt, Carlton’s greatest strength came from her ability to bring her players together to achieve a common goal, Grudt said.
“One of Coach Carlton’s strengths is her ability to form unity,” Grudt said.
“Every year she has a different team but she makes each one feel like a family. I loved playing for her. She made me a better basketball player but also a better person. She encouraged me through life and gave me more than basketball.”
The lasting impressions she made on those that played for her over the years at Peaster is mutual, Carlton said.
“My philosophy has always been put the athlete first, and winning will take care of itself,” Carlton said.
“I think every coach’s hope is that through sports they grow and become successful young ladies in part due to the successful program that we ran.
“When I came to Peaster, there had been a lot of turnover in the girls’ basketball program, and one of my primary goals was to install a program of consistency for our girls all the way through their high school careers.
“During these five years I’ve built some special relationships with the girls and their families. I had the opportunity to coach with my best friend alongside me, and a great junior high staff. When you can surround yourself with people you can trust, and instill our vision from junior high all the way up it’s special. They were a big part of the success in this program.”
Highlighting team dinners with her players and their families, as well as overnight tournament trips and playoff games as some of her favorite aspects during her time leading the Lady Greyhounds, Carlton said while that chapter ending is not easy, the memories and moments she shared with those she came to know and work with during her time with the Lady Greyhounds are ones she will cherish.
“When you’ve been somewhere for as long as I have, and build those relationships, it’s hard to leave those you’ve invested in, really love and care about,” Carlton said.
“My message that I would like to leave for the Lady Hounds present and future [is that] I hope they know I wish them the best and that I love them. They will all hold a special place in my heart.”
As current Peaster High School senior and four-year Lady Greyhound Tori Cast simply put it, “Coach Carlton made my high school basketball career one to remember.”