There’s a New Family in Town Madison Brown, Contributing Writer
Tommy and Shawna Laurendine are the newest additions to the Choctaw coaching staff at Mississippi College. Individually, the Laurendines have a lengthy resume of coaching experience, but Mississippi College is only the fourth university they have coached at together. The husband and wife team spent six years as head coaches for volleyball and football at the Division III school, University of the South in Sewanee, Tenn., before heading to Clinton, Miss.
Athletic director, Mike Jones announced in Jan., that the couple would be joining MC’s coaching staff. Shawna Laurendine is the new Lady Choctaws head volleyball coach. Jones said that the athletic department looks forward to her leadership because she “is very knowledgeable about the Gulf South Conference and knows what it takes to win.” Shawna brings with her 15 years of head coaching experience which includes nine in the GSC. A graduate of the University of Montevallo, Shawna has coached at a number of schools including West Alabama and former GSC member Southern Arkansas University where she was named GSC Coach of the Year.
Tommy Laurendine filled the offensive coordinator position for the Choctaw football team, and brings GSC coaching experience with him as well. Tommy spent time coaching multiple GSC football teams like West Georgia, West Alabama and former GSC member Southern Arkansas University where he coached with current Choctaw head football coach, John Bland. Bland is “thrilled about the opportunity to work with Tommy again” because he is “the type of high-character man we want representing Choctaw football.”
Moving for a new job in a new state was exciting for the Laurendine family, and the transition to Clinton has been smooth so far, but with two daughters, there were still some concerns. The hardest decision for the family to make was whether or not to move to a new house and city, again. Tommy said, “we had built a house where we were living 3 years ago, so just the moving aspect of it was hard. We knew after time though, that it would be worth it.” Because the majority of their coaching experience was spent in small towns, the Laurendine’s feel like they’ve moved to the city. “Our daughter’s favorite part about the move is that we have a Chick-fil-a five minutes down the road” said Tommy.
Aside from the chaos of moving houses, the Laurendine’s are excited for another opportunity to coach at the same university. While never coaching the same sport, Tommy and Shawna both spent time at West Alabama and Southern Arkansas University. Shawna said the transition from Sewanee to MC wasn’t difficult because she and her husband were able to work at the same place. “It creates a better culture for our family if everyone’s on board and we’re all with the same program and supportive of each other” she said. Tommy added that, “it’s been a blessing that we’ve been able to obtain jobs at one university. We’re fortunate.”
The transition to another school was not a new experience for the Laurendine family, but it did take time, and when the position for volleyball head coach became available, it extended the process even further. Tommy had been talking to Coach Bland for a while and arrived in Clinton two weeks prior to Shawna. He said he spent his first few weeks at MC “getting paperwork done and meeting coaches and players.” For Shawna, making the move mid semester was a new experience. She said starting practice and getting their daughter into school has been “a whirlwind, but now I feel like my heads above water and it’s been great.” Tommy said that even though the process did take a while “it was all worth it.”
The biggest challenges for the couple over the next few months will be finding balance and time management. Tommy said “we’ve always done a good job over the years of not taking work home. We rarely talk about football or volleyball at home unless it’s pertaining to our daughter’s playing volleyball.” What they’re most looking forward to is getting to know people, making new friends, and winning football games. We just want to enjoy our job” Tommy said.
Shawna hopes to gain the support of students and the community in the coming seasons. She said, “The volleyball team would love to have fan support in the fall.” She wants to see the bleachers full in A. E. Wood Coliseum next season cheering on the Lady Choctaws. To the football fans, Tommy asks for patience. He said, “I know how the Division II level works, and there’s a transition period, but we have some good coaches and we’ll get things going.” Mississippi College is one of the only private schools in the GSC so it’s taken time to progress, but Tommy said, “We’ll turn the corner here soon.”
Both Shawna and Tommy want Choctaw fans to know that as a family, they’re excited to be here in Clinton, and they’re looking forward to working with Choctaw athletes and coaches over the coming seasons. So, Choctaw fans get excited to welcome the Laurendine’s to the MC family!