Longtime Eagles basketball coach steps away from the game

Cindy Myers has been a teacher and coach at Sage Valley Junior High School her entire career. This year, she is stepping away after leaving a lasting impression on hundreds of former athletes. (RJ Morgan/County 17)

For decades, Cindy Myers has been a familiar face and voice at Sage Valley Junior High School. She has coached and taught thousands of students and athletes while leaving a lasting impression on more than she’ll ever know.

After 33 years on campus, the shot clocked has expired on Myers’ memorable career. She coached her final game just before Christmas break when she led her Eagles into the district championship one last time, and she plans to teach her last class at the end of the semester.

Just like the rest of the 56-year-old’s career, it’s been a rewarding ride. The Eagles brought home one final piece of hardware with the second-place trophy from her final tournament, but more importantly, it brought a successful end to a journey that’s allowed Myers to be a positive influence on so many.

“She is a real asset to Gillette and will be hard, very hard, to replace,” said Kristene Partlow, who played for Myers more than two decades ago. “Coach Myers has coached a lot of great players in Gillette and is one of the reasons why Gillette has won so many championships over the years. When you look at the local basketball history, you have to look at coach.”

Coach Cindy Myers stands with one of her son’s while posing for a team photo 30 years ago. (Photo courtesy of Cindy Myers)

Partlow not only had the opportunity to play forward for Myers, but her daughter, Ella, also played the same position for Myers at Sage Valley a couple years ago.

“She was the kind of coach that made you want to work harder and get better,” said Whitney Fevold, who played for Myers 30 years ago. “She made you love the game of basketball because she loved the game, and it showed.”

It’s the hundreds of former players like Partlow and Fevold who kept Myers at one school for an entire career. They joined dozens of former players of Myers at a surprise retirement party at the final home game of her career.

“The students in the classroom and the athletes in basketball have kept me going all these years. I have spent my career building relationships, and that is what it has been about for me,” she explained. “I spent my career actually having fun going to work. Students and athletes come back and visit, stay in contact with me, and often reach out. That means so much to me.”

The right time

The decision to step away at the best time for her personally wasn’t the easiest decision she’s ever made. But Myers knows the memories are forever, and she can be a fan of the girls she coached.

“I have always had people tell me you know when it is time. I considered retiring last year, but it just didn’t feel like the right time, and I didn’t what the ‘Covid’ year to be my last year. Now, it feels like it’s the right time,” Myers said. “I have had 33 fantastic years, but I could feel my dedication and excitement slipping. I wanted to make sure I got out while I was still ‘on the top of my game’.”

The coaching carousel is a profession that sees most bounce between schools, grades and even sports. For Myers to be an Eagle her entire career, is another milestone all together.

Getting the chance to work with Gillette students and athletes is special to Myers. Campbell County changed her life in many ways.

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Coach Cindy Myers with Amy Gorsuch, left, and Kristene Partlow, who played for the Eagles in the 1990s. (Photo courtesy of Cindy Myers)

Deciding her future

After growing up in Lead, South Dakota, Myers went on to Black Hills State University to continue her studies but was unsure of a career path. It didn’t take long to figure out.

Myers, who is known for her love of crunching numbers and statistics, spent her first year of college in Computer Programming. That career idea was nixed when she decided that she wanted to be in front of a class and not a computer.

“My second year of college is when I knew I wanted to teach,” Myers recalled. “I realized I didn’t want to be behind a computer all day and that I needed to be around people. That’s when I realized I wanted to become a math teacher.”

That decision changed her life forever. In December 1988, Myers earned her degree in Secondary Math Education and was on the immediate hunt for a job.

Welcome to Wyoming

Gillette isn’t her hometown, but Myers got here as quick as she could.

1n 1989, Myers had a temporary job opportunity in Gillette. With a little encouragement, she took the job just to get her foot in the door. It became her home for more than three decades.

“I planned on staying in Lead (South Dakota) to just substitute for the remainder of that year. Lucky for me, a position opened up at Sage Valley about a week after I graduated college in January of 1989,” Myers said of the junior high math teaching spot. “The position was only halftime, and it was only a guarantee for the remainder of that school year. I wasn’t going to apply but my amazing mom convinced me otherwise.”

Mom knows best.

At the end of the 1989 school year, a fulltime position opened for the following school year. Myers re-applied, re-interviewed and landed the job where she remained an entire career.

When not coaching at Sage Valley, Cindy Myers is at Thunder Basin High School supporting her former players. (Photo courtesy of Cindy Myers)

“I’m still there,” she said with a smile. “My experiences at Sage Valley have been tremendous and that is why I never left.”

Myers played basketball growing up, so the game was nothing new to her. However, coaching the sport she loves was new, and again, she jumped at another opportunity in 1989 when she became a fulltime teacher.

“I don’t think I actually knew I wanted to coach until I started doing it,” the coach said. “I started coaching my first year of teaching and I loved it. I never looked back.”

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Myers gained more than a job and career with her decision to relocate to Gillette. She also met the love of her life at SVJHS, Dewaine, and they have now been married 28 years. He coaches seventh grade basketball on campus.

“We have three sons. Derek is 26, and we have twin boys Cory and Logan who are 23,” Myers said. “Derek is actually a teacher also at Wagonwheel Elementary here in Gillette. My twins are both police officers in Sioux Falls, South Dakota.”

They settled down in Gillette where they raised their boys. Of course, with a team full of babysitters, it made living in a small community with no family a little easier.

“Many of my athletes helped me raise my family. My husband and I both coach and teach and Sage Valley, and we coached during the same season. We have no other family in Gillette, so for us to teach, coach and raise a family, there were times we had to ask for help,” Myers remembered. “Our basketball players and parents always were willing to help us when needed. We had the greatest babysitters right at our fingertips. I feel like we always had a ‘family’ when we needed it.”

Though the babysitters are no longer needed, Myers will always have a family-like bond with the hundreds she has coached over the years.

At a surprise retirement party at the final home game of Cindy Myers’ coaching career, about 75 of her former and current players attended. She said one of the players announced, “all the old ladies in the back.” (Photo courtesy of Cindy Myers)

There are a few coaching duties on her resume now, but the one constant is girls basketball which she coached all 33 years at Sage Valley. Myers also coached volleyball from 1991-1995 and again in 2001, as well as track & field from 1990-1994 and cross country from 2010-2014.

There was also a time she stepped in and helped with the boys.

“I even coached for part of one year of the boys’ basketball team, but not officially,” she said. “There was a coach for seventh grade basketball one year that was hospitalized for part of the season, so while he was hospitalized, I volunteered and coached his team.”

One last hurrah

“Until you teach or coach, you have no idea what those relations can be like. Thirty-three years later, and I still have relationships with athletes from the beginning of my career. I will walk away with the greatest memories.”

Myers decided last November that it was time to let her team know the end was coming.

“I wanted them to hear it from me,” she said.

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She touched a lot of hearts during a career that saw six U.S. presidents.

“Coach Myers was one of the best coaches I’ve ever had. She is an amazing person, and I don’t think I would have made it so far this season without her,” said eighth grader Addy Rouse, who played on Myers’ final team this year. “I am very lucky that I had the opportunity to be coached by her. She was really an inspiration to go harder and strive to be better whenever we played. She always made me laugh and it was a pleasure to be coached by her. I will remember her through my entire basketball career. She has made a huge impact on my life.”

Members of this year’s team pose for a picture immediately following the final game of Cindy Myers’ career. (Photo courtesy of Addy Rouse)

Over the course of three decades and hundreds of games, the memories are as countless as the victories. At the final home game, Myers was honored for her time at Sage Valley which was announced as 34 years of service.

“We recalculated all the years and it turned out to be 33, not 34 years. We literally lost count, that’s how long it’s been,” she joked. “This was an amazing night. My wonderful husband planned this surprise, and I knew nothing about it. We figured there had to be about 75 former athletes there, even as far back as my third year, and I coached some of their daughters recently as well. To see them come back and support me was just a feeling I can’t put into words.”

The surprise retirement game brought together decades of her former players to wish her well in what was more like a reunion of Sage Valley basketball players from multiple generations.

“When you see how many of her former players were at that last game, well that tells you everything you need to know about coach Myers. She was loved and respected by all,” Partlow said.

Myers was more than a coach and an educator for young girls, but also a role model.

“She is the type of coach everyone should strive to be like,” Fevold said. “Her impact on your life went well beyond the days of basketball, as evidenced by how many people came to support her for her last game. She was a great coach and is an amazing person.”

The Xs & Os and crunching numbers

“I’ve had many students over the years tell me I was their favorite math teacher, and that is something I’m very proud of. They’ve also told me I made math so they could understand it. I know math can be tough and confusing, but I always want kids to know that they can do it. My goal with every student has been that math doesn’t have to be their favorite subject, but I don’t want them to hate it. If I can do that, I know I made a difference.”

Even though computer programming didn’t work out for Myers, one small part of it she never let go. She loves numbers, and many of her past players and parents know that coach loves her statistics.

“I teach math, so I guess that why I love stats,” she said.

Here are a few of the stats she shared:

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  • “33 years times 10 players and 2-3 student managers equals around 400 players who have impacted my life”
  • “My overall record was 469 wins and 105 losses
  • “My teams played in 31 district tournaments, two years there wasn’t a tournament. In those 31 years, we were champions 20 times and took second place seven times. So, we played in the championship game 27 times out of 31”

Looking ahead

There are still a couple of years before her husband retires, which is fine with Myers. Among the many things she looks forward to, is attending games and watching the development of her athletes at Thunder Basin.

“My husband and I joke that basketball has been our social life. I have the next five years to support the girls and still enjoy that social life,” Myer said.

As for the free time she has coming up soon, she already knows what to do with it.

Sage Valley Junior High School coach Cindy Myers calls it a career. (RJ Morgan/County 17)

“My mornings will consist of coffee and a good book,” Myers said of her near future which will also includes golfing with the hubby. “I also love to scrapbook, but haven’t done it for years. I have a ton of pictures in my basement that I can’t wait to get in scrapbooks. What I love to do the most in my free time is to spend time with my three boys, so I will take time to visit them as often as I can.”

In the meantime, Myers will be a familiar face away from the bench and on the sideline, supporting and cheering on her former players and students.

“I will still have this year and four years following to go and support my former athletes when they play at Thunder Basin,” Myers said. “So, I’m leaving coaching, but I will still enjoy the high school games and support those I coached. I will still look forward to the hugs.”