For Larki Parks, Manning High School Coach Karen "Kay" Young will always be "bigger than life."
"She had the persona that it took to be great," said Parks. "She might not have had the greatest players all the time, but she was a great coach."
Young will retire at the end of the 2016-17 school year as a coach and teacher with Manning High School after more than three decades with Clarendon School District 2.
Former students like Parks reached out to The Manning Times in the past week to send their well-wishes to and thoughts of a woman that meant so much to many of them throughout their high school careers.
"She was very straightforward as a person," said Parks. "If you weren't doing what you were supposed to be doing, she would tell you about it. If you didn't straighten up, she'd make you straighten up.
Lindsey Lyles Psillos played tennis under Young for six years and won a state title under the coach's leadership.
"Being able to play for her for six years was by far one of the most fulfilling opportunities of my life," she said. Being able to bring home a state championship title to Manning High School will always be an accomplishment that I owe in large part to her."
Psillos said that Young "always stood by me, believed in my abilities on the court and cared for me as more than just a player, but as a friend."
"Of all the experiences I have in the sport of tennis, having (her) as a coach is one that I will always hold close to my heart," Psillos said.
Lena Williams said that Young "has touched countless lives that have walked the halls of Manning High, including mine."
"I enjoyed our conversations and my attempts at tidying up (her) office," Williams said. "She was always so thankful for it, and I just wanted to give back to her because she worked so hard. She knew y potential before I even began to realize it, and I'll be forever thankful for her presence in my life."
Kim Johnson said that Young was a friend, mentor, inspiration, cheerleader and coach.
"From the ninth grade til this very day, she's always been there to encourage and support us," she said. "While her retirement is well-deserved, we will definitely miss her presence in the halls, on the tennis court, basketball court and behind the wheels driving the bus."
Charles Edward Land III agreed.
"Many people are given the title 'coach,' but very few actually earn it," he said. "Coach Kay was among the few who earned it."
Kristina Richburg said "Momma Kay" was "an amazing woman, inside and out."
"She has truly inspired me to be the person I am today," said Richburg. "From a tennis coach to a (physical education) teacher and everything in between, I always saw Christ radiating through her. Congratulations to her on retirement, and I wish her nothing but the absolute best."
Sonia Wells played basketball for Young and was one of her physical education students.
"She was a tremendous person," Wells said. "She's caring and like a mother bear. When your mother isn't around, she's the one to pickup for you and be there for you. She coached from the heart. It's hard to find teachers and coaches like that now. I think she's going to be missed greatly, and will never be replaced."
John Lesaine was also one of her students and helped coach the junior varsity girls' basketball team with Young while he was in high school.
"She's like an angel, an absolute godsend," he said. "She's one of those people who will do anything that they could for you. She would give you the shirt off her back if she could. She was always that kind of person."
Rebecca Blackmon played both tennis and basketball for Young.
"She was amazing," said Blackmon. "She was more than a mentor. She was almost like family. She was an incredible woman who went above and beyond to help a person improve as a player and in normal day-to-day life. We could go to her just to get advice or to help calm us down. She was like the voice of reason."
Sarah Simon said there's almost "too much to say about Coach Young."
"She came into my life when I was in the seventh grade," she said. "During basketball season and tennis season, she was my second mom. She deserves everything and more. I thank her for motivating me and always pushing me to do more. I love her very much."
Lizeth Amador Hutchings said Young was "the best coach at Manning High."
"I remember those extra laps I had to run; who knew that in life I had to learn to keep pushing myself to finish those laps, but because of (her), I already had a head start," Hutchings said.
Blake Johnson likewise said Young was "an amazing teacher, role model and a friend."
"She has blessed so many lives," he said. "Manning High won't ever be the same. She should enjoy her retirement, as she deserves nothing but the best."
Debbie Parker Pietras also congratulated Young on her retirement.
"What an accomplishment," she said. "She has left such a big impact on so many students and student athletes, including myself. It was always so good to know that we had a second mom or shoulder to lean on if we ever needed it. She should be so proud."
Becky Skelley said that when she thinks of Manning High, she always thinks of Young.
"She is a wonderful example of what it truly means to be a teacher," said Skelley. "Her love for youth is evident in everything she does. She has a special way with people and sees the best in everyone! I thank her for having such a positive impact on our community."
George McFaddin agreed.
"She was always so good to me," he said. "I thank her for making my high school years such a positive experience and taking me in as one of her own."
Catherine Mahoney said Young is one of the reasons she became a physical education teacher herself.
"She taught me so much through the years," Mahoney said. "It is a blessing to have her as a part of my life. She will never know how much she means to so many people, especially me. Manning High will never be the same. She deserves nothing but the best in retirement."
William Mark Ballard said that Young "is part of what makes Manning the place I chose to move to and raise my children."
"Manning High is losing a great part of itself," he said. "She has affected so many and we all wish nothing but joy for her in retirement," he said.
Jonisha Ragin was one of many she said Young took in "as one of her own."
"I don't think I'd know as much about sports if it wasn't for her patience and guidance," Ragin said. "Throughout the years, she remained a mentor, and I hate to see her go. But she has done a great job."
Tracey White said it's hard to believe Young is finally retiring.
"It's much deserved," she said. "She was always there with words of encouragement, optimism and kindness for both Hunter and me. She was such a great teacher and an awesome coach. She made a non-athletic person love tennis. Now, it's time for her to go and relax and enjoy life."
Cecelia Gibbons has known Young since she was in pre-school, being close friends with Young's daughter, Holly McCabe.
"I have so many happy childhood memories because of her, from sleepovers to YMCA basketball to MUMC youth group to birthday parties to football games and everything in between," Gibbons said.
She said one memory that stood out the most was the "fish hook incident."
"(She) kept a scared little 10-year-old girl calm and laughing all the way to the ER after Jeremy somehow managed to get his fish hook stuck in the top of my head," Gibbons said. "Holly and I are always retelling that story and laughing so much."
Gibbons said Young has "had an amazing career and leaves such a lasting impact on everyone of her students."
"I am so lucky to have grown up knowing (her) and I know (she) will continue doing incredible things long after she retires," she said. "Manning High is losing one of the greatest teachers ever."
McCabe said her mother always wanted her students to succeed just as much as she did her own children.
"Even though she never got to teach my sisters or me in school, she did teach us things at home and on the court," she said. "She taught us how to walk, talk, read, cook and, more importantly, to love. Even when her heart was broken, she still loved unconditionally."
McCabe said she was proud that her mother had touched so many lives since joining Manning High School in 1983.
"Our family keeps extending more and more every time she touches lives, because she treats each of her students and players just as if there were a part of our family, and they definitely feel welcomed," McCabe said. "She is such an amazing person, teacher, coach and leader."
McCabe said that God has "truly blessed everyone that has ever met Young."
"I'm so proud of everything she has accomplished, and I hope she knows how much she deserves this and so much more," McCabe said. "She has taught each one of us how to overcome obstacles, look to the good Lord for guidance, always do your best and that nothing is impossible when you put your mind to it and with God on your side. For this, I thank her. She is truly an angel sent from heaven, and I love her so much."