Coaching on wheels
Lakewood's Lady Spartans basketball team has racked up an impressive record this season, winning the Pinellas County Athletic Conference Championship on Jan. 22.
While the girls were playing good ball on the court, Coach Necole Tunsil was wheeling around the sidelines and coaching as her girls rose to victory.
Tunsil has a broken left ankle and two ruptured quadriceps and has been in a wheelchair since October.
The injury happen when she was horse playing with her players. Tunsil had surgery on Oct. 24 and started physical therapy on Dec. 10. Now she is learning how to walk again.
"I'm pretty blessed with not a lot of pain. I feel pain free since I've been released," Tunsil said.
Tunsil's injury could have been worse. She was overweight, borderline diabetic, and she had high cholesterol and high blood pressure.
"It was a thank God moment for me," Tunsil said. "As awful as this injury may look it was a blessing in disguise."
Since her surgery, she's lost 55 pounds and has started eating better.
Every morning Tunsil's son, Tyler Betz, wheels her from their home to school because she cannot drive anymore.
"People know I'm very independent and an outgoing person and now I have to depend on others," Tunsil said
Some of the basketball players help her get around school when her son cannot.
"I broke down thinking about asking people to do stuff for me," Tunsil said.
Tunsil said the injury hasn't affected her teaching because she doesn't need to demonstrate things.
"Basketball is a little more difficult, because I'm not able to walk up to an official during the games," she said.
Tunsil said she depends a lot more on her assistant coaching staff because she cannot show her players different things during practice.
"It doesn't feel different. Her coaching style is the same, her attitude is the same, but she is just less interactive," senior Khai Davidson said.
Senior Siyana Allen said having her coach in a wheelchair is difficult.
"She cannot physically demonstrate what she is saying and you have to understand her words," Allen said.
Whether or not she's in a wheelchair, Tunsil said she still thinks she's positively affecting her students' lives.
"I feel like I'm making a difference," Tunsil said.
The Lady Spartans finished the regular season with an 18-7 record. They then won the PCAC championship and are currently playing in the districts. Their next game is Friday (1/29) at Southeast High School at 7pm.