‘It’s someone else’s turn’: Winning coach retires

After a storied career that includes three state championships and numerous victories, Marmaton Valley High School coach Becky Carlson has announced her retirement.



April 12, 2024 - 1:47 PM

Becky Carlson, coach of the Marmaton Valley High School girls basketball team, celebrates after a playoff win over Crest in early March. Carlson is retiring after decades of coaching. Register file photo

For the first time since she was a child, Becky Carlson no longer has a team to coach.

Carlson, whose hall of fame coaching career netted her three state championships and 529 victories in basketball and another state title in volleyball, announced her retirement this week at Marmaton Valley High School.

“I still have the fire,” she said. “I still enjoy everything about it. I just don’t want to get to the point where I don’t. I figured at 65, it’s time for somebody else to take their turn.”

Carlson grew up in Elsmore and became one of the most decorated athletes in Marmaton Valley history — leading the Wildcats to state basketball tournament appearances in 1975 and 1976. From there she played basketball for Allen Community College before turning her attention to coaching.

Truth be told, her coaching days started much earlier. When Carlson was still in junior high, she earned the right to help coach younger softball players.

“That was probably in seventh grade,” she said. “I’ve been coaching ever since.”

Carlson’s high school coaching career began at Hillsboro in the 1984-85 school year, after she briefly coached as an assistant and then eventually head coach for both the middle school and high school.

Carlson also coached the Hillsboro volleyball team, bringing home her first state title in 1987. “I was so young then,” she said, almost sheepishly.

But basketball was where her passion remained. “I like volleyball, but it’s too slow,” Carlson joked. “That’s what I loved about basketball.”

Carlson led the Trojans to back-to-back Class 3A state championships in 1995 and 1996 before returning to her native Allen County in Iola for the 2004-05 season.

A year later, Carlson’s Iola Fillies squad brought home its first and only state championship.

Carlson coached at Iola until returning to her alma mater in 2020-21, where she remained.

She saved her best for last with the Wildcats as well, leading Marmaton Valley to the Class 1A-I substate championship game in March, the furthest the Wildcats had advanced in postseason play since her days as a player.

Even then the fire remained.

Becky Carlson recognizes the Iola Fillies at an event in 2020. She coached the team for years. Register file photo

Carlson recounted how, after upsetting top-seeded Flinthills in the semifinals, the team bus returned to Moran about 11 o’clock that evening.

She stayed up an additional three hours poring through video and typing up a scouting report for the Wildcats’ next opponent.

“It’s exhausting,” Carlson said. “But “I never want to get to the point that I’m not willing to do that. It’s not fair to the kids.”

CARLSON’S passion was fueled by her relationships with her players, not winning.

She had two simple rules: Be on time, and give your best.

Carlson frequently recites her favorite quote, from famed distance runner Steve Prefontaine. “To give anything less than your best is to sacrifice the gift.”

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