Back in the game: Love of hoops lures Lefevre to Grand Lake

Published 2:00 pm Thursday, May 23, 2024

When Helen Lefevre coached her final high school girls basketball game on Feb. 27, 2020, she said her coaching days were over.

But while she was supposed to be retired, the game she had loved for decades found a way to draw her back in.

Lefevre, who went 825-346 over 36 seasons at three schools, recently decided to return as a Coaches Education Certification Program coach at Grand Lake High School under new head coach Tate Savoie.

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“I was enjoying retirement, then this opportunity came,” Lefevre said. “I live a mile from the Cameron (Parish) line. I live in south Lake Charles. It is literally a 5-minute drive to Grand Lake High School. So when the opportunity came up, I thought it would be fun.”

The ball started rolling again a few years ago when her grandsons wanted her to coach their youth basketball team. It took some adjustment for the seasoned coach who was more accustomed to working with teenagers. Recently she took the task of coaching the Grand Lake Little Dribblers Senior Girls team, leading them to a state championship.

“I had to step back and realize what age (they are),” Lefevre said. “It was tough at first.

“One of the biggest things I enjoy about the game is the teaching part, teaching the game. I am definitely doing that with fourth-, fifth- and sixth-grade boys. I have really had to step back and teach the game again, so I have enjoyed that.

“This past year, while I was coaching the little boys, there was an issue where the senior girls didn’t have a coach and they were three weeks away

from the state tournament, so I took over the senior girls for those three weeks. They did a great job and they ended up winning state. Things started building from there.”

Eventually, Grand Lake High School came calling, but Lefevre said she wasn’t interested in getting back in the driver’s seat. Then Savoie, who scored 2,000-plus points in his high school career at Grand Lake, asked her to help him build the program as a CECP assistant and work with the junior high program.

“When Grand Lake offered me the position of head coach and I turned it down, they said would you consider the CECP position,” Lefevre said. “I said that, ‘If whoever you hire wants me to come in and help, I would be happy to come in and help.’”

Even though Lefevre retired in 2020, she hasn’t been sitting in a lawn chair enjoying the scenery. To say life has not been relaxing would be an understatement for Lefevre. Months before she retired, the world went into lockdown with the COVID-19 pandemic. Then came the 2020 hurricane season that destroyed her home while caring for her aging parents.

“So actually the first couple of years of retirement was kind of a blur because I was having to rebuild,” Lefevre said. “The first couple of years were kind of hectic. I was caring for my elderly parents, living in a two-bedroom, one-bath little house I could find until I was able to rebuild. It was a crazy time like everybody else in Lake Charles at the time.

“I just feel like in the last year or so, in a new home again, that this is retirement. I didn’t feel like that for the first couple of years. My father had dementia and he passed away, so I am caring for my mother. She lives with me and I care for her. I am enjoying being able to do that, which is the reason I retired because both of my parents had reached the point in their life and health that they needed me there.”

During her coaching career, she led Starks to a Class C state championship in 1987 and runner-up in 1988. She led her alma mater, LaGrange, to the state semifinals in 1989 and Sulphur twice (1998 and 2013).

While she stepped away from the high school ranks for a time, she said she’s glad to have the chance to break down film again and see players grow.

“I totally enjoy breaking down an opponent’s film, putting a practice plan together, a game plan, then watching it unfold on game day to see if we put the right plan in,” Lefevre said. “I enjoy the game strategy. I missed that part of it, the scouting. I don’t miss the bus rides. This gives me an opportunity to go back and get involved in that aspect and to just help Tate.”

Lefevre said she aims to bring stability to a program that has seen multiple head coaches in recent years.

“Coach Savoie and I are trying to figure out our roles right now,” Lefevre said. “This is their third (head) coach in three years, so I would like to try to get some stability in the program. We are starting from the bottom. Again, we are teaching basic fundamentals. I would like to see this program take the next step up because the girls out there are willing and working hard.”

“We had tryouts last week, and we have actually started practicing. We have our first camp game (today) at Barbe. I am totally enjoying being back on the floor teaching the game again. It is not a bad situation. I just show up in the afternoon for practice.

“I am fortunate they hired Tate Savoie, a young up-and-coming coach. He is working hard, and I am thankful that he has given me an opportunity to do this.”