She first dribbled a basketball when she was 18 months old, or so she's told.
Her father had just started the first girls rec basketball league in their hometown of Marietta, Ga., and was coaching her 10-year-old sister's team.
Basketball would become a life for Theresa Gernatt, better known as Coach Tag.
"Basketball is a tool God has given me," Gernatt said. "It's afforded me so many opportunities. It's given me the opportunity to lift God higher."
Gernatt will speak Feb. 22 at the Providence Presbyterian Church women's retreat, "The Power of One," on Hilton Head Island.
'NOTHING MADE SENSE'
Gernatt's family roots come out of Savannah.
Her grandfather, Henry, owned Gernatt's Creamery, which was on the corner of 41st and Montgomery streets in Savannah before it closed in the late 1960s.
Her father graduated from Benedictine Military School in Savannah and signed to play football for the University of Miami. A knee injury his freshman year prompted him to transfer to Georgia Tech, where he met Gernatt's mother.
Gernatt is the seventh of nine children and grew up in a Christian home. At age 14 she made a personal profession of faith when Charles Collins, the team chaplain for the Atlanta Falcons, spoke to the Fellowship of Christian Athletes club at her school.
Just a month later, her father suddenly died.
"Nothing made sense," Gernatt said. "Instead of running from God, that thankfully catapulted me deeper into his heart."
Her father left behind lessons that would shape Gernatt's life, having taught her to always use the gifts God had given her and to follow his calling. Gernatt and her three sisters were all different -- a dancer, an artist, a stay-at-home mom and a basketball player in the mix -- and Gernatt said she was always encouraged to be herself.
"He really allowed us to be who we were designed to be," Gernatt said. "I was so grateful because he never made any one of us be like the other."
There is a conversation they had, just before her father died, that is blazed in her memory. Gernatt asked him if he thought she could get a scholarship to play basketball. He responded, "If you work harder than the hardest-working person you know, and put God first, anything is possible."
"I tell young people that all the time," Gernatt said. "He was my first coach. I had a good one."
'POWER OF ONE PERSON'
A high school standout, Gernatt earned a scholarship to play at Georgia Tech. There she received the Georgia Tech Total Person Student-Athlete award, the program's highest honor.
From there, she went on to hold coaching and recruiting positions at women's college basketball powerhouses such as Wisconsin, Mississippi State and Florida State.
But after 35 years of basketball, Gernatt walked away.
"Being at that high level for so long, I'd lost focus of what was most important to me. I'd lost perspective," she said.
She was the top assistant coach for Florida State's women's team, and her oldest nephew, who is also her godson, was getting married. But the demands of Gernatt's job would cause her to miss the important family occasion.
"We'd just lost a game in overtime and were under so much pressure that I didn't go," Gernatt said. "Of my regrets in life, that is one of my greatest."
As a single woman, Gernatt knew her family had to be her priority, and she realized she was being blinded by the glory coaching Division I basketball promised -- a glory she knew wouldn't fulfill her.
"I did not touch a basketball for a year, wondering if I would ever get back into coaching," Gernatt said.
After taking a break from coaching in 2004, Gernatt founded Tag Team Management, a consulting firm providing leadership training. She began slowly making her way back home to Marietta, returning to assistant coaching in 2007 with the Troy University women's basketball team and then Oglethorpe University in Atlanta.
She was the head coach of Mount Paran Christian School in Kennesaw, Ga., just north of Marietta, for four seasons. She stepped down in 2012 when her next basketball adventure presented itself: announcing.
Gernatt is now an ESPN3 color commentator for Kennesaw's women's basketball team. She keeps busy with speaking engagements, volunteering and working basketball summer camps. This year, she coached her nephew's seventh-grade basketball team.
At the Providence Presbyterian women's retreat, Gernatt will speak about the power that woman have to inspire change and the strength they must find in Christ.
"You know how it is when one person says something to you and it really changes your perspective," Gernatt said. "Just the power of one person, especially women who have their identity come from the word of God rather than from the world."
Follow reporter Laura Oberle at twitter.com/IPBG_Laura.
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