MVP Moms

By Chelsea Risley

Moms are often their kids’ biggest cheerleaders, and that is certainly true for many of Chattanooga’s football teams. These women go above and beyond to take care of their families and support their kids’ teams in a thousand ways. They handle everything from rides to practice and pep talks after a loss to homework help and pre-game meals, and yet you can find them in the stands on game night with cowbell in hand. Read on for more about how these local MVP moms support their favorite football players.

Mandy Bailey

Soddy Daisy High School

Mandy Bailey

Noah Bailey, Senior

Mandy Bailey remembers dropping her son, Noah, off at his first football practice, saying “It seems like yesterday; I blinked, and now he is in his senior season.” He’s played every year since fifth grade, which means Mandy has seen a lot of wins and losses. “I always tell my son, no matter win or lose, as long as you played as a team and did your best, that’s what matters most.”

Between conditioning and the last game of the season, football is eight months of the year where the players get to form a brotherhood, create memories, and make lifelong friends. “Knowing that my son has had this opportunity throughout his school career makes me incredibly thankful for this football program,” Mandy explains. She shares that she loves watching the team cheering each other on and giving each other advice during games. She also enjoys the anticipatory atmosphere of the first home game of the season. “The band lines the field and plays the Trojan fight song as the team walks down through the stadium,” says Mandy. “The color guard waves their flags, the stands cheer, the team runs onto the field, and you can feel the excitement and school spirit.”

Mandy teaches at Soddy Daisy Middle School, so on game days, she meets the other football moms who volunteer to help her set up the pre-game meals sponsored by local businesses, and the players’ families come together to provide desserts and drinks for this “joyous time where the team gets to have fellowship before the game,” she explains. Many folks don’t know how much behind-the-scenes work it takes to make sure the football season goes off without a hitch – while the team is training hard in the off-season so are the volunteers, who frequently meet and plan for what the team will need and how to pull it all together.

She and her husband, Charley, both Soddy Daisy graduates themselves, are ready to jump in wherever the football program needs volunteers, from the press box to painting the field to selling programs to coordinating parents and providing pre-game and post-practice meals. “Working together with other families, coaches, and the rest of the team is what motivates me to continue volunteering. Knowing that the team is being supported by families and the community and being a part of it with my son are memories I will always have,” she shares.

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Kayse Rigsby

Signal Mountain Middle-High School

Kayse Rigsby

Blake Wolfard, Senior

Kayse Rigsby’s son, Blake, began playing flag football at age five, but “he wanted to know when he was going to be able to tackle somebody,” she laughs. He went on to play football, basketball, and baseball at Signal Mountain Middle-High School (SMMHS) where he’s currently in his senior year. His older brother, Braeden, also played football at SMMHS during his freshman year, so Kayse has spent a lot of time on the field and with the team. She loves watching her kids play, but she also loves the games themselves, especially “the sounds that come along with Friday night lights: the band playing, cowbells ringing from the fans after a good play, the crunch of shoulder pads, the announcer saying ‘a flock of Eagles on the tackle,’” she explains.

As a teacher at SMMHS, she has the flexibility to be present for many of the activities on home game days. After helping set up the pre-game meal, she heads out to help other volunteers with stadium prep by wrapping hamburgers and hot dogs for the concession stand. Once the game is over, students and parents help with field and concession cleanup. Kayse is also an active member of the booster club and plans fundraisers and events as well as helps coordinate volunteers and organize recognition events like senior night to support the team. “I can’t imagine not showing up for the team because that would be like not showing up for my son. My motivation comes from knowing what I do – what all the volunteers do – helps make it possible for the program to be successful, which means the kids get to keep playing,” she says.

There are so many benefits for both the kids and parents. Kayse explains that she’s made incredible friendships with other parents that last beyond graduation, and the players benefit from encouragement from coaches and all the good that comes from learning to be a part of a team. “Blake has learned about the importance of being a leader and mentor from older players – lessons that I hope he is now teaching younger players. I think these are lessons that will not be left on the field, but will be carried with him for the rest of his life,” she says. To a mom whose son has just started playing football, Kayse advises: “roll up your sleeves and get involved because the rewards of helping out by far outweigh the work itself.”

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Julie Wheland Garrett

Baylor School

Julie Wheland Garrett

Carter Garrett, Senior

Davis Garrett, Junior

Though Julie Wheland Garrett was an athlete herself, she didn’t have brothers, so having two football players in the family, Carter and Davis, is a new experience for her. Julie has five kids who are all very active in sports, and she volunteers a lot, explaining, “The window of time you have with your children under your roof is so short that I want to look back knowing I soaked up every moment and every aspect of their lives that I possibly could.” In addition to volunteering with the other team parents whenever help is needed, providing Tiger-themed desserts for tailgating families, and feeding a cadre of players that regularly frequents her home, the Garrett family also hosts players in need of a place to board. Most recently they welcomed in a player from Oxford, Mississippi, who needed a place to stay during practice while the dorms were closed for the summer. “It’s always fun for us to get to meet new kids from all over and take them in as extended Garretts,” she shares. “I want all those boarders who may not have parents that can be on campus or in the stands every Friday night to know that there is someone there that cares for them and is cheering them on!”

One of the many wonderful aspects of the football program at Baylor is the community it creates, even beyond the players and their families. Game days are full of camaraderie and adrenaline. “There’s nothing like sitting in the stands on a crisp fall evening, red shaker in hand, surrounded by some of my closest friends and fellow Raider fans; all of us anxious to cheer on our boys to victory,” Julie says.

Julie believes that being a part of the team has been beneficial to her sons’ sense of discipline, responsibility, and respect. She loves that they have the opportunity to create such strong relationships with their teammates and coaches and is grateful for the coaching staff’s dedication to their players. Some of her favorite memories from last season are the coaches’ speeches during the football banquet. “Each coach had a story to tell about every player on the team, even those that never saw the field! They talked about what essential role each player had added to the overall makeup of the team,” she recalls. Though she truly enjoys football in general, Julie says “Watching a football game where you know practically every player and you celebrate each amazing play or tackle as if it were your own child’s is pretty special!”

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Mary Nunez

Boyd-Buchanan School

Mary Nunez

Caleb Nunez, Junior

Having been a part of Boyd-Buchanan’s football program since her son, Caleb, began playing in elementary school, Mary Nunez has had many cherished memories of the team, but one of her favorites is watching an early morning walkthrough. “One morning after dropping Caleb off, I walked up to the field. It was dark, foggy, and all you could see were 80 of the best of friends and coaches on the barely lit field. It was pretty magical, like something out of a movie,” she shares. Mary believes that the benefits and life lessons Caleb has learned from being a part of the program will stay with him throughout his life, things like “discipline, knowledge, working as a team, and learning to push through the hard stuff.”

Mary always dreamed of being a part of her kids’ sports, so she is very involved behind the scenes with the team. “Every opportunity that arises, I’m there, and I never say no,” she laughs. She’s grateful to the coaching and athletic department staff for allowing her to be a part of supporting the team. Mary helps coordinate and communicate with all the team parents, and along with the other team moms, provides pre-game meals, Thursday morning breakfasts, and special treats at the end of the week. She’s a huge support during football camps and events like the end of the year banquets and has a hand in a lot of meaningful details like event decorations, framing the senior players’ jerseys, and coordinating the players to thank the coaches for their hard work throughout the year. Mary acknowledges how many folks it takes to meet the team’s needs, saying, “Behind the scenes is a lot of work! I’m so thankful for the team of moms and dads.”

On game days, Mary can be found helping with transportation and food preparation, and then during the game, she’s in the concessions stand or cheering her heart out in the stands. She loves everything about having a football player in the family because of the community it creates. “I love watching Caleb learn, grow, and develop into the young man he’s becoming. For us, it’s also about the families – you will hear us cheering for our player, but you will also hear us cheering for every single one of the players.  It’s really special. Our family grows each year by about 80+, and we bleed Blue!”

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Shirley Baugh

Boyd-Buchanan School

Shirley Baugh

Jeff Baugh, Class of 1996

Aubrey Baugh, Senior

For Shirley Baugh, tradition and love for the Boyd-Buchanan football team and cheer squad has motivated her to show up in the stands for 34 years and counting. The Baugh family celebrated when her son, Jeff, made the team in 1989, and Shirley still has fond memories of his time playing. One of her favorite moments is from a game at Sewanee during his senior season when he intercepted a pass and ran toward the goal before getting taken down just short of it. “Someone got a photo of him running that ball. I’ll never forget it,” she shares.

When Jeff and his wife Amanda became parents, they continued the Boyd-Buchanan tradition, and their daughter, Aubrey, is now a senior cheerleading captain. Because of her involvement, Jeff volunteered to take on the responsibility of driving the Bucs trailer with all of the football team equipment for away games. Game days are a Baugh family affair, with Aubrey and Amanda (a cheerleading coach) riding the bus, Jeff driving the trailer, Shirley and her husband, Tom, along with him. “I personally love traveling with the team on away games. Unpacking the trailer and gathering equipment sets the stage for the upcoming game,” Shirley explains. She also loves the home games for their community atmosphere and arrives early to visit before the game begins, since she and Tom have “known many of these people since we were all parents, and now their sons and daughters have brought their children to Boyd-Buchanan as well.”

In addition to faithfully cheering from the stands, Shirley is a huge support to the team in other ways. She participates in the “Parents praying for players” group each year, chairs the Grandparent Campaign for the Buccaneer Fund, and helps with other fundraisers for the athletics department, as well as often providing pre- or post-game meals for both the football players and cheerleaders. She also gifts each player a handmade towel with his number on it to wear on his belt in addition to making flags for not only the football team, but also the cheerleading squad and lacrosse and soccer teams. Gracious acts of kindness like these resulted in Shirley receiving the ‘Heart of a Buc’ award for volunteer excellence in 2021, and the tradition has grown with a new deserving individual receiving the award each year. Shirley is quick to say that she is “just one of many who represent all the hardworking moms and dads behind the scenes over the years.” She sums up her love and support for the school by saying “BBS has kept us all connected, invested in the future, and involved. It is a rare and special place that we love. Go Bucs!”

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Jennifer Chandler

Lookout Valley High School

Jennifer Chandler

Christian Chandler, Senior

With a son, Christian, currently playing football and baseball, a daughter who plays volleyball, and a son who played football before graduating, Jennifer Chandler is no stranger to the sports world. In addition to showing up to every game she can manage, she also serves as the treasurer for Lookout Valley’s booster club. She’s such a fixture in the athletic department that head football and baseball coach Joshua Payne even goes so far as to say he would consider her both teams’ general manager.

Much of her time volunteering for the football and baseball teams is spent doing things like planning and executing fundraisers for the booster club; networking with local businesses to secure support and donations for the team; ordering equipment and apparel for coaches and players; and planning meals for the team’s home and away games with the other players’ moms. “I will always support our community, school, and sports. The players and coaches work hard every day and deserve all the support we can provide,” she says. On game days, you can find her stocking the concession stand in preparation for the crowd, popping by the pep rallies, and then prepping a tailgating celebration before kickoff. She makes sure to acknowledge the other members of her family – her husband, daughter, and mom – for supporting her and helping her get things done.

Though it keeps her busy, Jennifer loves being a part of the team. Her favorite moment of a game is watching the team charge through the signs and out onto the field, and she was thrilled to see one of the graduating seniors pass the Spirit Stick to Christian during the final pep rally of last season. Both Jennifer and Christian have developed long-lasting friendships through their many years in the program – “Christian has gained extra ‘parents’ as well,” she says. She also shares that one of the biggest benefits of being a part of the program is “getting to watch the memories gained by our players and see the smiles on their faces.” She enjoys watching Christian play under the Friday night lights and seeing him develop relationships with players and coaches. When asked what advice she would give to a mom whose son has just started playing football, Jennifer reiterates how much she’s enjoyed it, saying, “Volunteer anytime you can; it will bring you joy just to see the excitement from the players and coaches.”

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Tammy Houston Lawrence

McCallie School

Tammy Houston Lawrence

Carson Lawrence, Junior

Tammy Houston Lawrence explains that football has always been a part of her family’s routine. Everyone gathers together to cheer on multiple teams on Saturdays and Sundays, and now they’ve added Friday night lights to the schedule to support Carson. Her younger son, Tyler, also plays for McCallie’s middle school team, and her daughter, Aaidyn, plays softball and basketball for Girls Preparatory School. “I love watching my children live out their passions and show off their hard work while competing. I am further inspired when the team shows camaraderie for their fellow teammates,” she shares.

One of Tammy’s favorite memories of football at McCallie was the team’s journey to the state championship in 2021 during Carson’s freshman year. The game was actually played on his birthday, and she was thrilled to experience such an exciting game alongside him and the great group of older players that paved the way for the team’s success in future seasons. This idea of building on a moment is something Tammy reminds Carson of when the team experiences a tough loss, saying, “Loss is not a defining moment, but a place to build upon with the next opportunity. Remain steadfast and diligent in the goals set, knowing that the time will come with hard work, dedication, and preparation.”

During a game, Tammy can be found cheering in the stands between the 40- and 50-yard line, but she also supports the team in other ways, including volunteering at the concessions stand with setup and prep. She appreciates the opportunity to help wherever she can and loves being an active contributor to the kids’ teams and schools, she says.

With three multi-sport athletes in the house, Tammy is a seasoned pro at juggling very full schedules with the help of a detailed shared family calendar. “I rely on a vast network of friends and family to operate as my village to support me,” she adds.

Despite the hectic schedule, Tammy recognizes that there are a lot of benefits to being part of the football program, including the relationships players build. “The friends he’s made from football have transformed into a brother bond and created an extended family atmosphere,” she says. To a fellow mom new to football who may be a bit uncertain about it, Tammy offers this advice: “Football requires dedication and discipline. It is a demanding sport with safety risks, though the reward I’ve found is greater than the risk. I’ve learned to accept what comes with football for Carson. Watching his discipline, dedication, work ethic, and consistent performance, I know his love and passion runs deep for the game.”

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