For 32 years, Brenda Owens made it cool for girls at Forest Meadow Junior High to play sports. She died yesterday at the age of 69.
When Owens first came to Forest Meadow in 1985 as coach, then later as athletic coordinator, many girls were more interested in dance and cheerleading. Seventh grade Spirit Leader signup and eighth grade cheer tryouts drew big numbers, and classes stayed full at nearby Kitty Carter Dance Factory, Janie Christy School of Dance and Dallas Ballet Center. Owens told those girls, most of whom aspired to be Highlandettes or Wranglers at Lake Highlands High School, that they could also play volleyball or basketball or run track for the Chargers and have fun doing it. They could come together with girls from other elementary schools and form lasting bonds of friendship heading into their high school years.
Some of them learned they were actually good at sports.
While Owens was teaching them the rules of the game, she was quietly slipping in the rules of life. She taught them to play fair, value their teammates and enjoy the game – win or lose.
“Coach Owens loved her kids and had such a passion for coaching,” recalls Leslie Slovak, Richardson ISD’s athletic director. “She made a huge impact on so many. I was a big fan.”
“I met Brenda on the first day of back to school staff development (at FMJH) in August 1998,” remembers Angie Lee, RISD’s director of equity, diversity and inclusion. “I was a first-year teacher and had been hired by Jeff Kane to come to Forest Meadow. I was a 21-year-old small town (green, green, green, and naïve) Oklahoma girl who suddenly landed in the big city of Dallas. Brenda adopted me as her own and not only helped me adapt to the Forest Meadow way but helped me grow into my still developing identity as a young woman. When I think about each day I spent in her office on her couch, every time I made her sit in the car by the tennis courts and listen to my girlish rants, every phone call she answered, and each time I had a meltdown on her doorstep, I know I am who I am because of who she was. And, that relationship never stopped. She has been my life coach my whole adult life. More importantly, she has always been my friend and loved me unconditionally.”
On Facebook today, former students and co-workers are sharing memories of the woman who made an impact with her dimpled smile and constant encouragement.
“Coach Owens was never officially my coach because I left at 9th grade,” wrote Monique Van Hummel, who attended FMJH before the freshman center was built. “She was such an influence on me and I always loved it when she would sub for Coach Leverton and Coach Watts. She was tough yet gentle and kind. She taught us to stand up for ourselves, to work hard and showed us not to give up no matter what.”
“I walked into her gym a young country girl from Whitesboro, Texas in 1990. She believed in my country a**,” shared Julie Campbell, who recalls setting an RISD record in 9th grade discus. “Coach O looked over at me and handed me some wooden metal frisbee looking thing. Pointed to a square of concrete at the end of the track…it ended up that I could throw that wooden frisbee pretty damn well. It was almost 30 years ago. She knew who I was before I did.”
“This is tough,” wrote Shawntel Newhouse Coy, who now teaches AVID at the school. “She was a great lady, friend, mentor and coach. I am going to miss her smile, laugh and talks. I am now walking in your shoes and will continue your legacy at Forest Meadow. Prayers for the family.”
“Bren Bren, I know you’re already up there coaching for a much higher team and rejoicing daily,” wrote Lori Williams, FMJH’s front office secretary. “Rest easy my beautiful friend for you will always be my MVP.”
Due to COVID, no services are immediately planned for Coach Owens.