Family enjoys success suiting up for Lions

Head tennis coach Brice Bishop connects the ball back when he played for UNA in 1985. His wife, Carol, and his daughter, Mackenzie, played at UNA also while his son, Will, plays on the baseball team.

They say the apple does not fall far from the tree, and the phrase could not be more true for the Bishop family.

Men’s and women’s tennis coach Brice Bishop played tennis, his wife, Carol, ran cross-country, his daughter, Mackenzie, played tennis and his son, Will, is on the baseball team, all four playing for UNA.

“Having four of the five make it to play college athletics is very rewarding and even more rewarding that it’s been UNA,” Brice said. “It’s special because we’re both from this area, so to do it at the same place is great. The fifth one is in eighth grade so who knows yet.”

The Bishop family’s athletic success is due to the hard work put in by each one and not necessarily the genes, Brice said.

“The real story is the amount of time and effort put in to play college athletics,” he said. “We made athletics important because there’s so many life lessons you can learn on the athletic field. You can learn team work and overcoming frustration and more.”

Brice was a four-year letterman tennis player for the Lions from 1982-85. He won back-to-back Gulf South Conference singles championships in 1984-85 and advanced to the second round of the NCAA D-II tennis championships in 1985.

Brice became UNA’s first tennis All-American as a senior.

“Looking back it’s very special,” Brice said about being first All-American. “Back then it wasn’t anything I thought about. I was focusing on winning matches, so it didn’t hit me until several years later.”

Carol ran cross-country for the Lions from 1985-87. She was a three-time All-GSC performer and All-Southeast Region in 1986 and 1987.

She qualified for the NCAA D-II National Championship in 1987 but was unable to run due to injury.

Carol helped UNA win its first GSC women’s cross-country title in 1987 and also won the conference individual championship.

She was unable to run her senior year due to her stress fracture injury.

Brice said he met Carol when he was coaching the UNA cross-country team in 1988.

The two became the first couple elected into the UNA Athletics Hall of Fame. Brice was elected in 2001, and Carol was honored in 2005.

Will, a redshirt freshman pitcher, said the success of his parents made him want to work harder to improve his game.

“It definitely put some pressure because they raised the bar high,” he said. “Whenever you lost, you just wanted to do whatever you can to get better.”

The opportunity to play for the Lions is exceptional, Will said.

“We were always around UNA athletics growing up,” he said. “I just love the atmosphere, so when UNA showed interest in me, I knew that was where I was going.”

Mackenzie played tennis at UNA from 2011-13 and made first-team All-GSC all three years. She was also Academic All-GSC in 2012 and 2013.

After leaving UNA in 2004 to become the head tennis coach and director of women’s athletics at Shoals Christian School, Brice returned to coach tennis at UNA in 2010.

This led to his opportunity to coach his daughter his second year back at his alma mater.

“It was nice because he was always my coach,” Mackenzie said. “The only time he wasn’t my coach was when I was at Lipscomb (University). Having my dad as a coach was a major advantage because we could go hit whenever we wanted.”

Having her father as her coach served as motivation, too, because they were both under the same roof, she said.

Mackenzie left Lipscomb to come to UNA after her freshman year.

“It just wasn’t the right fit there,” she said. “It was a happy coincidence that he came back to UNA. Him coming back to coaching did make the transition a lot easier.”

Brice said coaching his daughter was a blessing.

“She was easy to coach because she was the hardest worker on the team,” he said. “When your best player is your hardest worker, it makes it easier as a coach.”

Brice coached against Mackenzie her freshman year when she was played for Lipscomb.

“It really helped me to coach against her because I found out her weaknesses and how she could get better in those areas,” he said.

Having both his children choose to play at UNA says a lot about the type of school it is, Brice said.

Mackenzie said her father’s All-American status did not phase her.

“The time I hit college is when it finally hit me that he was an All-American,” she said. “But I don’t think it ever intimidated me. I just wanted to work really hard.”

Brice said he does not put any pressure on his children to play sports or talk about he and his wife’s athletic successes.

“Our career has no bearing on their success except for coaching,” he said. “The experience me and Carol have is good, but it’s still about them. I never put pressure on them to play. They just wanted to, but I did pressure them to play the right way. Too may kids are not playing the right way.”