4 Questions: A Conversation with…Sandra Langley


         Sandra Langley has been employed by the Edgecombe County Schools since 1974 and has been on the faculty at SouthWest Edgecombe High School since 1978.

          A graduate of Atlantic Christian College (now Barton) with a master’s degree in education from East Carolina, Sandra coached volleyball for 11 years at SouthWest and is the all-time winningest women’s basketball coach in the state, achieving her 703rd career victory in late December to move into first place. Her teams have earned four NCHSAA state women’s basketball championships and have finished second four other times.   A former member of the NCHSAA Board of Directors, she is also the athletic director at SouthWest.


What are the biggest changes you’ve seen in high school athletics during your career?

The biggest change that I have seen in athletics is the mindset of parents in regards to athletics.  Many parents feel that athletics is their child’s ticket to a scholarship and have lost sight of the other values of athletics. In addition, many parents don’t understand the connection and priority that academics play in their child being able to obtain the athletic scholarship.  Furthermore, there are many outside influences which have undermined the credibility of our high school coaches, such as AAU coaches trying to be an “all star coach” and scouting agencies trying to make money off of our athletes.  

We as coaches need to do a better job of educating our publics about the values of sports and the importance of academics in regards to athletics.  In other words, there is a reason that we call them student-athletes; student first, athlete second.


What is your best memory of high school athletics personally, from your own involvement in them? You have coached some outstanding teams during your great career.

I have been blessed to coach eight teams to the state finals and have been a part of four state championships.  They all hold a special place in my heart.  If I have to pick one, I guess it would have to be the first state championship in 1981.  This group of young ladies was denied the year before and lost a heartbreaker by one point in 1980.  This 1981 team was undefeated going into the state finals.  We played Mountain Heritage, an equally talented team, and overcame a 15-point deficit due to first-half jitters to win, 65-64.

It was an example of why you never give up and why you never quit.  Years later, when we won our third state championship in 1996, I was able to use this story to inspire my 1996 team when they, too, went into the locker room 13 points down because of a terrible first half shooting percentage. 


What is the hardest thing about being your school’s athletic director when you are also trying to direct your own basketball program?

During basketball season, I might be watching film, planning a practice or studying a new offense, etc. and want to be really focused, and invariably something unexpected occurs in another sport area to distract.  It is important to surround yourself with a good support staff. 

Fortunately, with the help of a supportive administration, a good assistant athletic director and our athletic council (made up of parents, including the parents of former athletes at our school), game days are not so stressful with athletic duties.  So the hardest thing about being athletic director and coaching basketball would be juggling the many responsibilities of athletics and coaching basketball.  Time management and delegation are critical in being a successful athletic administrator and coach.


In your limited spare time, what are some of the activities you are involved in away from athletics?

I like spending quality time with my family.  My husband and I enjoy spending time with our two granddaughters:  Olivia and Lennox (ages 2 and 3).  We enjoy being called Pappy and G-Ma.  When I get some free time, I enjoy watching my oldest son, Alex, officiate basketball and my youngest son, Shelton, coach basketball and softball. 

In fact, this year Shelton is in his first year as head varsity men’s basketball coach at SouthWest Edgecombe.   I am excited about having mom and son coaching back-to-back this season.    I also serve as an elder for Pinetops Presbyterian Church.  Playing the electric keyboard is another pastime that relieves stress.