A former standout college basketball player is expected to join one of area’s most prestigious sports groups this month. But it has been efforts in teaching and coaching high school students that have nominated her to becoming a name that will live on forever.
On April 13 at Dreamfields in Lancaster County, Rappahannock Coach Ellen Gaines will be one of the next inductees into the Northern Neck Sports Wall of Fame. She will be joining such individuals as James “Jim” Coates, James Calloway “Cal” Bowdler, John Jett and many others that
have played a role in sports and athletics in the Northern Neck.
“It makes me know that I’m old,” said Gaines. “But I just think it’s a great honor. Anytime you do something you love it’s nice to be recognized for it.”
What fascinates Gaines about the wall is how it’s strictly for those who have ties to the area.
“Its just people that have lived their lives here and made an impact on the Northern Neck and I think that is what is special,” Gaines said.
Gaines has been a coach in the Northern Neck, specifically at Rappahannock High School, since 1985 after finishing her collegiate basketball career at Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU) and majoring in physical education. She is also a graduate of Fauquier High School in Warrenton, where she played basketball, field hockey and softball.
Last season she celebrated her 400th career softball win. Currently her record stands at 401-157 after advancing to the state semifinals.
Gaines credited her junior and high school coach Margaret Lowry for inspiring her to become one herself and teach.
“I really like to coach,” Gaines said. “Sometimes it’s the highlight of my day going to practice, having a game or dealing with the kids; and I enjoy staying with the teenagers because it keeps you young.”
Gaines said one of her most inspiring messages came in her first season with the girls’ basketball team. Surprisingly after Gaines arrived at Rappahannock in 1985, she was calm about her team finishing the season with a record of 0-17.
“Even though we couldn’t win, we still had a great time,” Gaines said. “The ultimate goal is to win, but there are times when you will not win and you have to take something away from each of those games whether you win or lose. You have to learn and grow from the losses as well as being happy when you win.”
Sports and coaching career
During her tenure thus far at Rappahannock, Gaines has been a volleyball coach from 1986-1991, and still remains the high school basketball coach. During the 2011-2012 school year, Gaines guided her team to their second region championship. The first was in 1989.
Gaines is a three-time award winning coach of the year in basketball, she has earned two district and tournament championships each. Her record stands at 235-331.
In softball, she has 11 district championships, 10 district tournament championships, six Region A championships with 21 appearances, and been runners-up twice in the state tournament after 10 appearances.
Gaines still holds the record of not finishing below third place in the district since 1987 and has five seasons with 20+ wins.
Gaines is a member of the 2005 CAA Basketball Legends Team at VCU. She scored a total of 827 career points, collected 599 rebounds and held the record for the most free-throws made in a game until 2006.
Gaines is the mother of three to Christopher, Michael and Layla.