BY JACLYN ROSE –
Born in DeQueen, Arkansas, but raised in Wickes, Arkansas, Coach Brad Lyle calls himself a “lifelong Polk County resident.” Upon graduating Wickes High School, Coach Lyle completed two years at Rich Mountain Community College before obtaining his Bachelor’s Degree from Henderson State University. “I realized I wanted to be a coach in the 8th grade. My high school coach, Lindall Martin was my inspiration,” said Coach Lyle.
Coach Lyle met his wife, Linda, in school and they were married in 1997. In 1997-1998, Coach Lyle coached junior high boy’s basketball and football in Dumas, Arkansas, before he was offered a job as a junior high girl’s basketball coach in Mena in 1998-1999. “I went to college to be a basketball coach and I knew nothing about volleyball. When I accepted the position in Mena, they said, ‘oh yeah, you are going to coach volleyball, too. The first game I ever saw was when I handed in my line-up. The first year was tough but I committed to learning the game and that summer the school supported me attending several volleyball clinics. The next year, Coach Mike Hobson, was becoming more involved in administration, so I became the senior high girl’s volleyball coach while remaining the junior high girl’s volleyball and basketball coach,” explained Coach Lyle.
As a young married couple, the Lyles family wanted to make a difference. “Linda’s mom had started in foster care around the time we started dating, so when Linda graduated college and we bought a house, we got into foster care. We were just a young couple with no children who wanted to help and we had no intention of adopting, but the first four children we had, we adopted. Soon after, we found out Linda was pregnant so we literally went from zero to five kids in 380 days,” Coach Lyle explained. The couple went on to have one more child for a total of six; Holly, Robert, Roger, Hope, Gracie and Madi. “It got pretty crazy for a while, with that many kids, which led me, in 2007, to get out of coaching. I was spending all my time with other people’s kids and none with my own. At that time I went straight classroom and taught,” said Coach Lyle.
In the spring of 2012, the volleyball coach position at Mena High School opened back up and Coach Lyle felt the time was right to get back into the game. “Every successful coach I’ve heard talk has said that they don’t get there without tremendous time and dedication and my wife has supported me through the entire thing. There were times she almost acted as a single mom because I was gone so much. When I went to her and told her I wanted to step back, I could tell she was relieved but she wanted to make sure it was the right thing to do. When I went to her and told her I was ready to get back in, she said that she knew it was the right time. She’s my rock, no doubt about that,” explained Coach Lyle.
In the twelve years that Coach Lyle has been at Mena High School as a coach, the volleyball team made it to at least the semi-finals of the state tournament eight times, with three of those visits taking them all the way to the state championship game. However, this team was the first to take it all the way, and clinch the title of State Champions. “I tribute our success as a team to the tradition that started back with Mike Hobson and Janice Whorton, I mean, you can’t take a man who had never seen a volleyball game and think for a second he did this by himself. I walked into a program where kids are expected to be good, because they always have been. I saw a sign at Harding once that said, ‘tradition never graduates.’ I feel like there are little girls walking around Mena, Arkansas that think they need to be good at volleyball and are dedicated to being good at volleyball,” explained Coach Lyle.
“We’ve been close to winning a state championship many times. We have taken trips to the finals but were never really into it. These girls were part of a team that has been there before and that loss was a valuable experience. This year, we were in it. I have coached great teams and great athletes and I don’t want to take anything from them but this group is by far the most unselfish team I’ve ever coached. It was never about individuals or individual stats. I’ve never coached real selfish players but this group didn’t have even a hint of that,” explained Coach Lyle.
“There are a lot of places that claim to be God’s country,” said Coach Lyle. “And I’m sure they are nice places to live but Polk County is such a great place to raise kids. People here are not afraid to keep God in their lives, they aren’t ashamed. I visit a lot of places and they have nice stuff but I always find myself ready to get back home.”