181220 Loretto vs Law Co Tn 15

Loretto's Ashley (Rutledge) Helton coaches against Lawrence County during the TimesDaily Classic girl's basketball tournament this past December. Helton manages to juggle her coaching career with family responsibilities. [MATT MCKEAN/TIMESDAILY]

As a senior at Freed-Hardeman University, Ashley Rutledge did not know how much basketball would continue to be a part of her life after graduating from college.

Rutledge didn’t expect to go into coaching, but as an elementary education major and collegiate basketball player, she said God led her on that path.

“As an elementary teacher, I didn’t think I would have the opportunity to coach high school sports,” Rutledge said. “Fortunately, I was able to hire on at a K-12 school.”

Rutledge coached one year at Columbia Academy and then spent 2011 through 2014 at Mars Hill. While at Mars Hill, the Panthers celebrated one area championship and a region runner-up finish while in Class 2A, and a pair of area runner-up finishes as members of Class 3A.

Rutledge said one of her fondest memories while at Mars Hill was defeating eventual Class 3A state champion Lauderdale County twice.

"Even now when I talk to some of my old players, that is always something they mention because we had not done that in so long," she said.

Now, Rutledge is the head girls basketball coach at Loretto where this past season the Mustangs claimed a state runner-up finish in Class A.

Rutledge says one of the hardest parts of being a coach is balancing her time with her team and the time she spends with her family.

She said it is not uncommon to see her three kids at practice, especially her oldest who grew up around the sport.

"I'm not going to lie, there are a lot of times where it is a juggling process, but I am very blessed to have a husband who helps me out and a family who supports me,” Rutledge said.

With all of the success her teams have had, Rutledge said her favorite part of coaching is the relationships she gets to form with her players.

"I get the chance to know these girls because I am their coach, and it really is one of the best feelings," she said.

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