Everyone in the small-town community of Mountain Pine knows Allison Simmons.
From working in the computer lab to coaching basketball, softball and tee-ball and welcoming students to school each day in the drop-off line, the former Red Devil alumna can be found just about anywhere at Mountain Pine School—and she wouldn’t have it any other way.
“I take a lot of pride in what I do,” Simmons said. “Right now, I serve as a paraprofessional at the school. Last year, I worked with some of our special education students. This year, I taught computer lab for the elementary school. Next year, I will do physical activities with all the kids. Everything that I do for the school and community is for the kids. There’s nothing else I’d rather be doing than helping these kids grow and succeed, both academically and athletically.”
As a student, Simmons, nee Cogburn, served as team captain of the Lady Red Devils basketball for two years, earning All-Conference and All-District honors as well as the prestigious Ms. Lady Red Devil Award.
“For me, basketball was my first love,” Simmons said. “Playing basketball taught me so many more life skills than I think people realize that sports can teach you. As a coach, I strive to lay out those life aspects and skills for these kids and hope that in the future, they have that same motivation in life that they had while playing.”
For the past six years, Simmons has volunteered as peewee basketball coach at Mountain Pine and serves as Vice President of the peewee booster club at the school. In addition, Simmons has played a significant role in organizing peewee football and Mountain Pine’s community softball and tee-ball programs.
“In our community, athletics gives our students an outlet to get off the streets and stay out of trouble,” Simmons said. “I’m a big believer that sports can not only teach you teamwork, but also how to be dedicated and committed to something and to be a better person. When we started our community softball program three years ago, tee-ball came with it. With the number of young children in our community, there was definitely a need for it here. Some of the kids in our community may not be able to afford to travel to Hot Springs or Hot Springs Village to play tee ball, so that’s why we only charge $10 to participate here. This year, we have attracted more than 30 kids—including kids from Hot Springs and Lakeside—to come play tee-ball for us. Our goal is to keep these kids playing together as long as possible so that by the time they reach high school athletics, they’ll be awesome together there, too.”
According to Simmons, the community’s recent boom in athletics has been a vital part of Mountain Pine’s continued regrowth.
“The rebirth of our community has been amazing,” Simmons said. “There was a point in time within the past decade that everything bottomed out when it came to athletics here. I didn’t know if we would ever get out of that slump. However, to see not only myself but other Mountain Pine alumni step up to help to get things back on track has been amazing. Today, you see kids who are proud to go to school here and are excited to be a part of athletics here and are proud to be a Mountain Pine Red Devil again. We haven’t seen that in a long time.”
Thanks to some inspiration from her student athletes, Simmons is hard at work in her spare time in pursuit of her bachelor’s degree in Health and Physical Education with plans to continue her dream of coaching youth athletes.
“One of the biggest obstacles I have overcome is being a single mom to four children,” Simmons said. “For a long time, I was doing everything for my kids by myself. It got to a point where I had to put my schooling and my dreams on hold to support my kids.
When I started coaching at the school, however, I knew that’s what I was supposed to do with my life. While I was pushing those kids to be successful on the floor or on the field, they didn’t even know that they were also pushing me to better myself—both for them and my own children. I’m currently taking college courses at Henderson State University and National Park College to finish my health and physical education degree to become a coach and then will go after my master’s degree. When I’m finished, a large part of me reaching my goal will be because of my students.”
Simmons hopes that her experiences inspire others to never give up on achieving their dreams.
“Babe Ruth once said, ‘Don’t ever let the fear of striking out get in your way,’” Simmons said. “That’s the motto that I live my life by. Life is going to throw many curve balls and bumps your way, but you can’t let them stop you. Keep going and never give up despite the odds that might be held in front of you. If I can do it, you can do it, too.”
Each day in Arkansas, many athletes and coaches are overcoming the odds and accomplishing great things in their community. XZero Sports wants to recognize the brightest stars in central Arkansas athletics by sharing their stories for the world to enjoy. Nominate your XZero Hero today at www.xzerosports.com.