Let’s check out which moms are leading the pack this week…
Keep up the great work, coaches!
Let’s check out which moms are leading the pack this week…
Keep up the great work, coaches!
Head Women’s Basketball Coach Danelle Bishop is in her fifth season at DII Cal Poly Pomona. During her time at the helm, she has led the Broncos to a 100-39 record, two West Region titles, one Elite Eight, and last year’s Final Four. Bishop was named the 2013-2014 California Collegiate Athletic Association Coach of the Year, and was a finalist for the National Division II Coach of the Year award. It’s hard to believe that just five years ago, she considered leaving the coaching profession. “I was fired from my job at California Baptist. I almost got out of coaching… losing my job was hard, financially. It was hard on my marriage… My husband encouraged me to stay in it. I applied at Cal Poly. There were other candidates who were offered the job before me, but a month later I was hired for the interim job. We ended up going to the Elite Eight that season. It was really a story of redemption. I had never seen my husband cry before, but he cried when we cut down the nets.”
Bishop’s husband, Walter, works as an engineer for the Department of Defense. Although his work requires a lot of travel, he has the flexibility to make a lot of trips outside of basketball season. “Sometimes he’ll have local business travel that only lasts three days or so, but most of his trips are one or two weeks long. He’s gone at least once a month when I’m not in season,” notes Bishop. During Walter’s college days, he was involved in athletics as a Sports Information intern and a Women’s Basketball graduate assistant at Alabama A&M. So he understands the unconventional schedule that coaches keep. “He gets it,” Bishop says. “I’ve got six seniors this year so we’re out recruiting more often than usual. This year’s been kind of crazy. But Walter gets all that. He’s very supportive…my biggest fan. And he’s a great dad.”
“I got married at age 30, and became a mom at 33,” says Bishop, mother of two. Her daughter Marissa is 5 and son Walter IV is 2. “It’s kind of weird that I have former players who were pregnant before me, and have kids the same age as mine. It’s a blessing in disguise though,” she laughs. “When we get to visit with former players, our kids can play together.” Both Bishop children participate in gymnastics, for now. “We joke that they need to do it now, while they can. They’ll probably be too big in the future!” Mom and Dad stand at 5’11” and 6’5”, respectively. Together, the couple coached Marissa’s 4, 5, and 6-year old community league basketball team last summer. “My husband was the head coach and I was the assistant. The first practices for that team were actually some of the hardest practices I’ve ever had to plan. We had to figure out what exactly we wanted them to learn, set goals for the 10-week program and try to accomplish those goals all while keeping their attention.” Bishop’s daughter was the only girl on the team, and young Walter watched from the sideline. “[Marissa] cried when she got bumped the first four weeks. But after that she got more and more aggressive. I was worried about my two year old interfering with practice, but he actually loved being on the sideline.”
Although most of the Bishops’ extended family is in Texas and Alabama, they cherish their close community in Southern California. “When we first moved here, we got connected with people through church and our small group [bible study]. We’ve made some amazing friends who we call family now,” says Bishop. Her coaching staff at CPP is a tight-knit group as well. Third-year assistant Reyana Colson was a senior and an All-American on Bishop’s first Broncos team. Assistant Coach Kevin Adams began working on Bishop’s staff at Cal Baptist, and came with her to CPP. Adams’ wife, Nicole, played for Bishop at Cal Baptist, and the couple has two children. “They are like family too. Nicole watched each of my kids before they started going to daycare. Their daughter is 4 and their son is 7 months old. Their kids are like sister and brother to mine.”
So, how does a busy wife and mother of two manage a successful college basketball program that repeatedly contends for titles at the national level? With a focus on servant leadership and relationship-building. “First and foremost, my staff and I want to be servant leaders…because that’s what Jesus did… We are intentional about being involved in our players’ lives. We love on them. We discipline them. Sometimes, they can’t stand you. Other times, they’re crying in your arms… We want our players to leave here as better people, friends, daughters, wives. If we’re not seeing that, we’re not doing our jobs.” Bishop points out that many people believe basketball teammates don’t need to be friends off the court. “I disagree with that. Maybe you don’t need to be best friends, but on the women’s side, you really need to get along. We try to foster that family environment.”
Bishop says her Mom role often comes into play at work. “I would love to write a book on college women and confidence, because that’s the issue they struggle with most… Every year I see some of our girls get down emotionally because they are trying to find their self-worth in others.” In response, Coach Bishop does what any good Mama Bear would do. She gives extra hugs, reminds her players they are beautiful inside and out, and texts them inspirational quotes from time to time. “We have phenomenal young women in our program. It hurts me when I see them let somebody steal their joy. I remind them that they’re the only one who can give someone that authority… several of our players are Division I transfers who were unhappy initially. When I see them smiling it makes my day. I’m thankful that they’re having a great experience now and enjoying themselves playing basketball.”
Last season, Cal Poly Pomona made it all the way to the Final Four where they lost to eventual National Champion, Bentley. CPP’s team included five DI transfers, most of whom had not had good experiences at their previous school. “These were juniors who had the ability to be impact players right away,” notes Bishop. “But we knew that if we were going to be successful, we would have to build relationships fast.” The coaching staff took special care to build their new players’ trust. In the busiest part of the season, they took advantage of team time on road trips to build that connectedness. “It’s the idea that ‘people don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.’ Some players struggled with trials that came with them from their previous experience. But once they understood that we’re here for them and they trusted us, they flourished… February hit and we started clicking. We were tough.”
This year’s team is battling with a taste of success in its mouth and a championship experience in mind, despite facing many setbacks. The Broncos are 13-5 overall, 11-3 in conference play. But they’ve gone about a month and a half with only six players who could practice at full go. Keeping players healthy has been tough. Bishop’s assistant coaches often participate in practice, and she’s now got help from some male practice players. The Broncos have a Leadership Committee, rather than captains, and Bishop recently called that group in for a heart-to-heart. “I told them that if we don’t start pulling it together, there are no guarantees that we’ll make it to the regional tournament. I explained that we really need to start taking care of business and fight to get in.” The team’s response was a 30-point victory over then #25 ranked Humboldt State. “I felt like it was the 1st or 2nd glimpse this season of what we’re really capable of.” The Broncos have eight regular season games left to build on that.
A typical day in the Bishop household starts when the kids wake up between 6:30 and 7am. Some days, Walter has to leave the house as early as 6:30 to get to the office, but other days he helps get the kids’ clothes and lunches ready. Bishop gets her kids dressed, which is no easy task with a 5 year old daughter. “She’s not a morning person. It can be a 10 or 15 minute ordeal getting her clothes on, so that’s fun on game day,” Bishop says sarcastically. After breakfast, she drops the kids off at their daycare/preschool located along her drive to campus. Once Bishop arrives at the office, she hits the ground running. After a day full of meetings, film breakdown, weight lifting and team practice, Bishop and her staff have been out recruiting 3-4 nights a week. “Most of our recruiting is fairly local, with the farthest drive being about two hours. The other night I had a game to watch about 15 minutes from my house, so I picked up the kids, took them home, got dinner going and then handed them off to my husband. When I got home from recruiting I had to do my daughter’s hair. It’s about a 20-30 minute process that I do at night. My husband has gotten better at it, but his hands are just too big,” Bishop jokes. On game days, Bishops’ kids love going to cheer on Mom’s team. “They get so excited for it. They know their friends will be there and they love Billy the Bronco.”
Finding work-life balance happened the hard way for Bishop. “I had my first head coaching experience at age 27. I was young, eager, and I ran myself ragged. I was sick all the time. It took me a good three years to figure it out. If you’re run down, you won’t be able to do your job well.” Cal Poly Pomona plays its conference games every Friday and Saturday. As they get into their season, Bishop gives her team both Sundays and Mondays off. That includes her assistant coaches. “After weekends on the road, we may not get home until Sunday afternoon. So I tell my coaches not to go into the office on Mondays. We might go recruiting that night if there’s a really good game, but otherwise we’re off. My husband and I always have lunch together on Mondays. On occasion, he’ll take off from work and we’ll go see a movie or something like that. I don’t know if that’s good because we could probably go pick our kids up early from school! But I think it’s really important to invest in our marriage and keep that relationship strong.”
Bishop is proof that being an ultra-competitive coach does not have to come at the expense of family. “Trust me, I’m passionate about my job. But it is my job. At the end of the day, I’m a wife and a mom. Those things are more important than anything.” It is with those priorities straight that Bishop is able to lead her team well. Before she and the Broncos start a 4-game road swing this week, she’s soaking up sweet moments at home. “I was on the floor playing games with my kids last night for what seemed like forever and I was so tired. But I just kept thinking, there may come a day when they don’t want their mom to play with them. I wouldn’t miss this opportunity.”
I have heard many basketball coaches lament the fact that we don’t coach in athletic clothing like most other sports. I think secretly, though, we love to don our Gameday Best. Many of this season’s stylish coaches are the same who were highlighted in last year’s WCW, but some new ladies have broken into the mix, too.
The ever fashion forward coaching duo is back at it this season with high style to match some high quality wins over ranked opponents. (Stylist: Shyra Ely-Gash at Styles By Ms. Ely)
Her SoCon style is in a league of its own.
Coach McGraw and her staff always look like champions.
Nobody wears the LBD better on the sideline.
As always, Coach Mulkey’s loud style matches her passion.
Senior Rhema Gardner medically retired from basketball last spring, but she is still contributing to the team. Among other things, she serves as stylist to her head coach. Cori Close’s personal style is starting to reflect her unique program philosophy.
Okay, so Christy’s not currently a college coach. But when this color analyst is calling the game, her vibrant fashions definitely step up the sideline style for Women’s Basketball.
I just love these shots of head coaches Kerri Brinkoeter, Southwestern (DIII) and Ali Jaques, Siena getting after it in their ruffles and skirt!
You know when you’re clothes shopping and you see something really cute so you take it off the rack only to realize you’ve wandered into the Petites section? Story of my life. Or when those designer flash sales come to your inbox but they only include Regular and Petite sizes? Good for point guards. Bad for six footers. If any of you tall ladies have a go-to shopping spot you love, please email me and share it with our group! Check out my friend Kelli’s website called Tall Girl’s Closet where you can browse long-length styles from several different stores, all in one place. And ride the ankle-length pants trend as long as you can…
Good luck to your teams this weekend! Work that sideline, Mama!
Today I’m promoting a wonderful professional development opportunity for you in Minneapolis this spring. The Tucker Center for Research on Girls & Women in Sport (University of Minnesota) is hosting the 2nd annual Women Coaches Symposium in partnership with Gopher Athletics and the Alliance of Women Coaches. It is a one day event on Friday, April 17th at the U 0f M Campus. The purpose of the Women Coaches Symposium is to provide high quality educational programming, an avenue for networking for women, space to build community among women coaches, and to increase and retain women in the coaching profession. Women coaches of all sports and all levels are welcome.
I am very excited to announce that there will be a discussion group specifically for Coach Moms included in the early morning sessions. Call it a meeting of the Mama minds! I would love to have you join us.
The Tucker Center’s Associate Director, Nicole LaVoi, has been hard at work with the planning committee to prepare a dynamite program. Last year’s event sold out so be sure to register as soon as possible! Did I mention that the keynote speaker is Sue Enquist? Learn more about all the speakers here, and check out a working draft of the program below:
“Empowering Women to Lead in the 21st Century”
Friday, April 17, 2015, 7am-4pm
TCF Bank Stadium, Indoor Club Room, University of Minnesota
7:00-8:00am Check In & Registration: Coffee/tea and light breakfast served
These opt-in “bonus” sessions are discussion-based and will occur simultaneously during registration.
7:15-7:55am Pre-Symposium Option A: Book Group Discussion: Daring Greatly by Brene Brown, led by Jody Redman, Associate Director, MSHSL. Coaches who want to participate should buy the book in advance and come ready to discuss.
7:15-7:55am Pre-Symposium Option B: Mother-Coaches Discussion Group, led by Erika Lambert, Creator of Coach Mom, Inc., coachmominc.com
7:15-7:55am Pre-Symposium Option C: Developing and maintaining your digital brand: Tips, Tools, and To-dos for Coaches in a Media-Driven World. With Austin Stair Calhoun, Ph.D., U of M School of Kinesiology, Team Lead, eLearning and Digital Strategy
8:00 SYMPOSIUM OPENS
Introduction and Welcome
Exact times for the following sessions is TBD.
Networking & Engagement Activity
Time TBD Psychology of Sport Injury: What Coaches Need to Know
Diane Wiese Bjornstal, Ph.D., CC-AASP, Director of Sports Medicine Science Lab, Associate Professor, School of Kinesiology, University of Minnesota
Table Talk I
Table Talk sessions are interspersed through the conference to increase discussion and coach engagement. Table Talk will provide opportunity for coaches to discuss the topics together, share insights, ask questions of each other, answer questions posed by speakers, and network.
Time TBD Empowering Women Coaches
Nicole M. LaVoi, Ph.D., Associate Director, Tucker Center, University of Minnesota
Time TBD The Confidence Factor
Linda LeClaire, author, speaker, mental coach
Table Talk II
Break, grab box lunch (included in registration), networking time
Keynote: Competitive Greatness 24/7: “Excellence Never Blinks”
Sue Enquist, former UCLA softball coach, 11-time NCAA Division-I National Champion.
In 2006, Enquist concluded her storied 27-year career as head coach of the UCLA Bruins with a 887-175-1 (.835) record, the highest win percentage among all Division-I coaches. She is the first person in NCAA Softball history to win a championship as a head coach and a player. Hailed a “coaching legend” by ESPN, Sue Enquist’s tenure produced 15 Olympians who represent 30 Olympic selections over four quadrennials (1996-2008). She also produced 65 NCAA All-Americans. You won’t want to miss hearing Sue, a dynamic and highly sought after international speaker!
Table Talk III
Time TBD PANEL I: What Coaches Can Learn from Athletic Administrators
In this panel coaches will gain insight into personal and professional development from the perspective of athletic administrators.
Time TBD PANEL II: Navigating Career Transitions in the Profession of Coaching
In this panel coaches from across all sports and levels of competition will share their thoughts, experiences and insights about navigating transitions in the coaching profession.
Time TBD Engagement Strategies for Women Coaches
Table Talk IV: Call to Action
3:40-4:00pm Closing Remarks, Raffle, & Call to Action
4:00-6:00 pm Happy Hour & Networking. Location TBD
You’re into conference play now. You’re preparing two scouting reports each week for top-notch opponents. Recruiting is ongoing, as usual. Your players’ academic matters are always a high priority. And there are nice folks calling to ask your team to make appearances and such. There’s a lot going on. Staff meetings are crucial this time of year. It may be that you’re meeting with your coaching staff of 4+ on the regular, or perhaps it’s just you and your 1 assistant game-planning in your shared office. Whatever the case, coaches understand that effective staff meetings are necessary to reiterate shared objectives, develop action items and evaluate the wins and losses of our teams.
Is it time you also had a similar “staff meeting” with your spouse?
After all, you two are running an organization of your own at home. Between your two careers, kids’ sports and concerts, doctor’s appointments, science projects and the like, there’s a lot going on. I often find my husband and I saying to each other, ‘We need to talk more about that later,’ or ‘let’s sit down and look at that soon.’ But then life happens and those necessary conversations don’t. Sometimes we can barely hear each other over the noise of our crazy little kids. And often after they go to bed, we have our own work to do or we’re just too exhausted to discuss anything that requires brain power. The television doesn’t help–we gave up cable in order to cultivate better marital communication, but thanks to Amazon Prime shows and the Watch ESPN app, we still get distracted by the tube (if you weren’t playing your own game tonight, did you catch the end of the Duke/Syracuse women’s game? It was a fun one…)
This week, we decided we needed to call a staff meeting and catch up on all the things that have been breezed over lately. I’m talking an agenda, legal pad, iPad and all… Admittedly, we didn’t get through the whole list in one sitting because Item #1 was painfully time consuming (see below). But the idea of an official “staff meeting” led us to be more intentional in our discussion of some things that needed attention and agreement. I think we’ll try holding these meetings the first Monday night of every month. Our hope is that this will help keep things from falling through the communication cracks, as they so easily do in marriage and parenting.
It’s a fun but hectic, exciting but exhausting time of year for basketball coaches. This is especially true for Coach Moms who are taking care of business on the court and at home. Help keep the lines of communication clear by calling a staff meeting with your spouse. And if you have any other tips on how to keep the family circus running smoothly, I’d love to hear your thoughts!
Before I had children, I sometimes looked at other moms and thought, ‘I’ll never let my kids ______.’ Fill in the blank with things like: watch TV before they’re two… play games on my smart phone or iPad… be pacified by a portable DVD player… Now that I am a mom of littles, I laugh at those early declarations. My 1 year old sings the theme songs to countless cartoons, and my 3 year old loves the LeapPad she got for her birthday from Grandma. When I’m in a childcare bind and have to bring the kids to practice or chapel at Bethel, I definitely hand them my phone and let them play The Bible App for Kids to their hearts’ content. I’ll admit, my husband and I are sort of winging it for now when it comes to our kids and technology, but we know that we’ll need to buckle down with a better plan sooner or later. I caught up with a couple other Coach Moms this week to get their thoughts on this topic:
Technology is a blessing and a curse. My husband and I have very specific rules with regards to it. Neither of my kids are allowed to use technology Monday through Friday, because of the school week. We also don’t allow much television during the week if we can help it. Saturday mornings are a free for all while we catch up from the week doing laundry and errands, so we do allow cartoons. My daughter (Kylan) loves her Kindle Fire for games. She occasionally jumps onto my laptop…she is currently addicted to Minecraft. My son (Camden) loves his Tag reader.
We are lucky that both our kids love to read so that isn’t as big of a chore as in some households. My daughter typically reads at least an hour a day. We commit time to reading every single night with both children and have been lucky that they acquired a passion for it at a young age. But make no bones about it, there are some nights I simply want to put them to bed! My daughter who is 9, taught herself to read around age 4 and has been going strong ever since. We try to make reading fun for them by allowing them to pick the subject matter. Kylan is into fantasy so we just finished the entire Harry Potter series together in just over 9 months! Whew that was a commitment! We are now onto The Hobbit, a much tougher read- at least for Mom! I try not to care that she loves the Diary of a Wimpy Kid series- as long as she is reading. My son loves the Tag books that my daughter grew up on so he seems to be developing his own taste for reading.
Looking ahead and through my experiences with our team, my husband and I have already talked about what the future will look like technology-wise. In over a decade of coaching I have seen a lot of changes. The kids that we coach are essentially the same, but the environment around them has changed dramatically. Without question I feel like social media has and will continue to be one of the most toxic things in their young lives. It creates such a false sense of self and of the people around them. I often sit in the stands of high school games and overhear the conversation between both girls and boys about Twitter and Instagram and all the drama it creates. And our children are growing more narcissistic by the year. They may have 2,000 followers but very few real friends. It’s commonplace to post pictures of themselves daily. I am old school to some extent because I have told my children since a young age that the world does not revolve around them. I make them write old fashioned thank you notes to teach the value of a gift they may receive or simply to say, ‘thank you.’ My husband and I have already agreed that our children will never have a television or computer in their bedrooms overnight. We will have a common area or office where they will do homework, but laptops and cell phones will be turned in at their “curfew.” If their homework isn’t done at that time, they’ll either have to get up pretty early to resume their work or suffer the consequences for their procrastination. I think when your kids are growing up you have to teach them hard lessons and hope they stick and help them later in life. My daughter of course has already asked for a cell phone at age 9 and knows not to expect to receive one until at least age 14! But she keeps asking nevertheless!
So far there are no iPads in Kylan’s school but they have already started learning how to use Excel and Powerpoint. I love that they teach them these types of programs but I still think there is a great necessity for free play, especially at the elementary level. I cringe on rainy or snowy days because I know my daughter’s indoor recess consists of screen time in the school. Good ole fashioned playing is how leadership skills are developed and how kids learn to deal with conflict. We see less and less of that these days. Everything is planned and scheduled for them. Even playdates have planned activities for entertainment! It’s no wonder our kids struggle to be self-starters and entertain themselves.
At the end of the day my advice to moms when it comes to technology is to mirror the behavior you want to see repeated. Technology isn’t going away and it’s a vital part of their future, but so are their social skills. And that isn’t something kids can learn from behind a computer screen. Our children are more knowledgeable than any generation before them but there’s an artificial maturity that is being created. It is our job as parents to help guide them through this confusing world and into young adulthood. -Marsha Frese
When my kids were younger, all we had was the home computer. I never bought my older kids their own computer until they went to college. My younger girls [eventually] had laptops at home. But my kids were never the first to have cell phones, laptops, iPads and all that. Nowadays, they are on their phones a lot, mostly texting. I don’t really have restrictions on how often they use their phones. At their ages now, it’s the way teenagers communicate. I know that both because of my own kids and because of recruiting.
My daughter Madison was the youngest of my kids to get a phone. She got a hand-me-down phone from me when I was hired at Duquesne in 2007. So she would have been about 11 at that time. It was an old flip phone and she was constantly giving it to me because people would still call or message that number for me! When our kids started using cell phones, it was a helpful means of communication, especially when they started driving. If they want to go somewhere else after basketball practice or if their plans change, they can easily let us know. We can keep track of where they’ll be. If our kids are driving somewhere, we can ask them to text us when they get there.
When I first started coaching, I wasn’t into the social media world at all. I got Facebook first, then Twitter and recently Instagram. My kids weren’t very young when they first started using social media. But now they have Twitter, IG and Facebook. I follow all their accounts so I can see what they post. It’s not that I see it all the time, but I will look back through their threads occasionally, look at their pictures and everything. I have had to ask them to take things down–nothing major but just some things that could have been perceived the wrong way. It’s the same thing we talk about as coaches with our players. Once it’s out there on social media, you can’t take it back. Anyone can find it. One day when you’re trying to get a job, employers will be looking at your online accounts. That said, social media is a great way to keep in touch. I think it was good for my kids to stay connected with their friends through social media when we moved from away from Minnesota (Suzie made the transition from Minnesota Lynx head coach to the same position at Duquesne in 2007).
When my kids were younger, they had video games and things like that they wanted to play. But I grew up outside! And we liked for our kids to be outside as much as possible too… If things were the way they are now when my kids were younger, my husband and I would have had more standards, guidelines, and expectations for the technology stuff. I’m by no means the perfect mom and I wouldn’t judge other parents’ decisions… but the main thing is to be sure your kids are making good decisions. [With cell phones, social media, etc.] I think it depends on the child too, as far as their responsibility level. -Suzie McConnell-Serio
Do you interact much with your kids’ coaches? I like meeting my girls’ coaches and I try to always tell them good job after games regardless of the outcome, because I understand how much they invest in preparing the team. As a fellow coach I do not want them to think I am trying to interfere with their job. Several years ago, however, I did interfere in my daughters’ coach’s personal business when I introduced her to my handsome single assistant coach. Chalk it up as a win- they are now happily married!
Have your kids ever played a sport you knew little about? Volleyball. It helped me to just be a fan and not try to coach.
What’s the hardest part about watching your kids play “your” sport? I wanted them to be really good at basketball because it’s what I evaluate and analyze daily. The hardest part was that, like most advice, they would rather receive coaching from someone besides a parent even though it is the subject I believe I know the most about!
Any advice for Coach Moms whose kids are just beginning to play sports? Support what the coach says to help your child learn how to respect authority and how to be coachable. Don’t say anything critical about the coach in front of your child.
Which sports do your sons play? Justin (9) played in a developmental basketball league last year for the first time. This will be his first season playing on a team with the same people every week. His games start in mid-December. Jaden (12) tried soccer early on… he played a little basketball… but he’s not really into team sports. He likes to write. Maybe he’ll be an author one day. Or who knows… I didn’t start playing basketball until I was 13 so maybe he’ll be a late bloomer, too!
What’s it like being a spectator at your son’s basketball game? I relish in that time. I get to just watch and be a cheerleader instead of coaching and yelling things out. But I do find myself afterwards asking him (Justin) ‘How did it go? What did you think?’ He’s still young so we don’t get too technical. But I will mention things like, ‘You need to pass more, or that was a good shot you took…” In the stands, I’m just being a mom. But still coaching a little bit–teaching him to be a good teammate.
How have you taught your son to interact with his coaches? I haven’t talked to him about the coaching part but you reminded me maybe I need to do that! He’s pretty good about making eye contact with adults and always being respectful though.
How’s the view from the bleachers? I see it as an opportunity to look at my profession from a broader perspective. As coaches we tend to have tunnel vision because we’re so driven and so focused. We can lose sight of the big picture and not take into account everyone’s perspectives. Watching Bryce play sports reminds me to think about the players’ mindset. And I also gain a better understanding of how the parents are thinking.
Do you have postgame discussions with your son or do you leave that up to the coach? In the car after game, I let Bryce react while I listen. For example, he fouled out of his basketball game the other night. He was doing the typical complaining about bad calls (“That wasn’t a moving screen,” etc) because he was frustrated. I listened to him but then I said, ‘If you really want to improve and learn from your mistakes, wait til your emotions are out of it. Then if you want to talk about it, we can do that.’ He will often bring stuff up the next day whether it’s a move his coach taught him in practice or something that happened in the game. I just try to reinterpret what the coach was saying. I’m always supportive of the coach, never undermining, especially in front of Bryce.
Golf is quite a departure from the sport you know best. How different is it from watching Bryce play basketball? He plays on the U.S. Kids Tour. There are local tournaments every week in the spring, summer and fall. Depending on how he does, he gets invited to different tournaments around the country–so it’s sort of like AAU. Since he’s still young, we haven’t done all the national traveling yet. But in the next year or two, we’ll get more into that. Bryce plays 18 holes now, so his tournaments make for a 6 or 7 hour day. I really enjoy watching him compete, but I don’t know all the technical things like I do with basketball. I just try to provide resources for him and surround him with people that he relates well to. And I do still try to guide him through the mental part of it–making sure he represents himself well and that he’s respectful to his opponents.
Take a scroll through Yolett Mcphee-McCuin’s social media accounts and you’ll quickly suspect she’s not your average basketball coach. There is something uniquely inspiring and refreshingly honest about 32-year-old McCuin’s approach to leading her program at Division I Jacksonville University. In her 2nd season as a head coach, she feels confident that the culture she has worked to create within her team will begin to pay off in the Win-Loss column. The business of college coaching is tough and McCuin is as competitive as they come, but she is very intentional about maintaining a healthy perspective on life. She credits her humble Bahamian beginnings, her MVP husband and her two year old daughter for keeping her grounded in a profession that can make or break you.
The Hero Hubby
McCuin met her husband, Kelly, when she was an assistant coach and graduate student at the University of Arkansas-Pine Bluff. “I was getting my Master’s and he was finishing undergrad. My sorority sisters hooked us up… It was just a friendship but then it led to something more,” says McCuin. “We only dated for one year before we got married.” But she knew he was the one she wanted to share her life with and build a family with.
When the couple wed, Kelly got a crash course in the not-so-glamorous career of college coaching. “A lot of people think coaches just show up to practice with a whistle. My husband was not familiar with the coaching career prior to our relationship. I took him on the road with me and that made for some eye-opening experiences… That’s why we were married for five years before having [a baby]. We had to figure things out and learn how to make this work before that next step.”
“The norm is that the woman in the marriage would make the career sacrifice if need be. But my husband had to do something different because of my career. It has been a huge sacrifice from him,” McCuin recognizes. Kelly works in Student Accounts at Jacksonville’s rival school, the University of North Florida. When McCuin was previously an assistant coach at Clemson, Kelly worked on campus there. “My husband can do a lot of things. But he took this route because of my career. We knew that I might have to move around, so he chose something where he could always be marketable. Talk about sacrifice… he’s definitely the MVP.”
Coach McCuin was the first female basketball player from the Bahamas to get a Division I scholarship (University of Rhode Island). She is the first Bahamian female to coach a Division I program. And she is the head coach of the Bahamian National Team. “Being from a different culture allows me to have an appreciation for things that might be common to others. The Bahamas is not a poor country but it is not the same as the US. When I got my first job where I had my own office, I cried. It was a big deal to me! As a kid, I wasn’t poor and I wasn’t rich. I grew up in a blue collar home where I watched my parents work for everything we had.”
McCuin’s mother was a school principal. Her father is a legendary Bahamian basketball coach. “My dad is big time back home. I grew up in the gym with him. I remember crying with him after a big loss. I get my passion from him,” McCuin says. “I literally watched my parents change lives. My mom took kids from at-risk situations and helped them grow into productive citizens. We always had someone living in our house with us, either from a broken home or a bad environment. We took them in. That’s why my team gives back so much and does so much community service. It’s all I know.” As the daughter of two teachers, McCuin saw the impact of education in people’s lives. Her background has no doubt influenced her philosophy as a coach. “People sometimes just need someone to believe in them. Everything I do is to teach, develop and inspire young ladies. I don’t offer them scholarships. I offer them opportunities to be better people. They have to sign on to that. The commitment is basketball but it’s so much bigger than that.”
Being A Parent
McCuin’s daughter, Yasmine, turned two in September. “She’s an extreme Dora [The Explorer] fan. She’s so smart. She knows her colors and numbers. She’s starting to talk more… we’re working on potty training right now.” McCuin typically drops Yasmine off at daycare in the mornings. Kelly picks her up and will often take her to the team’s practice. In the evenings, McCuin’s time is dedicated to her daughter until she goes to bed at 8:30pm. Yasmine has never missed a home game at JU. She tags along with her dad to cheer on the Dolphins. “She loves popcorn! That’s her deal… Yaz spends a ton of time around my players. I have the team over to my house. I allow my coaches to bring their kids to work. When we have events, I want them to bring their families. It’s so important.”
“When I had Yaz, it totally prepared me to be a head coach. If I didn’t have her, I’m not sure I could honestly sit in a recruit’s home and talk to her parents about what I can offer their daughter, how I can help her, make genuine promises. Not to say other coaches can’t do that, but I just know I’m a different coach because I’m a mom. I look at my players as someone’s child. I am more understanding. I love them differently because I have a two-year-old.”
To say that McCuin has taken professional leaps of faith is an understatement. The rise to her Division I head coaching position has not always been pretty. “At one point early on, I sent out 50 resumes looking for work. I lived in campus dorms my first three years of coaching (at Frank Phillips College in Texas). During my first job, I didn’t even have a car. I had to sell it so I could have some cash. At my second job, I bought a car for $1000… As a kid I was able to see my parents do a lot with a little.” McCuin’s blue collar beginnings and determination to succeed saw her through assistant coaching stops at Portland, Pittsburgh and Clemson before taking the reigns at JU.
As a young head coach, one might think it especially important for McCuin to assert her authority and create wide boundaries between herself and her players. But as a “players’ coach” and a naturally fun-loving personality, McCuin is intentional about being close with her student-athletes. To them, she is “Coach Yo.” She can often be found working out right alongside the girls, inviting them into her home or posting funny team commentary to her Instagram feed. If they didn’t know any better, passersby might mistake McCuin for a player herself. “In order for me to coach my players, they have to know that I love them first… My approach is risky. It makes me have to be vulnerable to my players. But it allows them to do the same. I want to be a players’ coach. At the same time, I want to make them winners. My players know they have to be honest with me. They know I have great expectations for them.”
A former player at Clemson helped McCuin come up with the hashtag that defines her coaching philosophy. “Our job as a coaching staff at JU is to prepare our young women to supercede any feeling or challenge that’s put on them, hence #NoCeilings. If my players finish here and don’t have the confidence to compete for top jobs or go after what they want, I have failed… Our players are Biochemistry majors, Marine Biology majors… they major in whatever they want. There’s just no limit. Why have a ceiling? Why can’t you be a mom, a wife, and a successful coach? Does it take hard work? Yes. But I don’t limit myself and I don’t expect my players to either.”
Much To Be Thankful For
The Dolphins are 1-4 in the midst of a challenging preseason schedule. McCuin’s team has battled against three high-major programs already, one of those a Top 25 team. And although there is work to be done, the team will enjoy a day and a half off for Thanksgiving to rest and recharge. When asked about what she’s thankful for, McCuin talked about these three things:
1) “I’m thankful that God is allowing my ministry to be coaching. I love what I do–to be able to impact lives. Not just my players, but also my coaching staff, fans, the campus community. I want to inspire people.” McCuin’s biggest professional accomplishment is when former players enjoy success in their future endeavors. She loves continuing relationships with them and being a resource to them after their playing days are through.
2) “I am extremely thankful for my family…my husband, Yasmine. They keep me grounded. I do not get to sulk a lot (about basketball) because of them. They give me perspective.”
3) “I’m just thankful to be in the present. People sometimes ask me what my dream job is. This is my dream job, to be a head coach and do things my way. I’m here living my dream right now.”
Just a quick post today to wish all you Mommas good luck this season! It’s too exciting a week to talk about anything other than National Signing Day and your countdown to Tipoff!
I hope you all signed your A-list kids this week. And if you didn’t, may your B-list players surprise you in a great way.
You’ve been weight lifting, running, shooting, practicing and scrimmaging for weeks. And now it’s finally here! The thrill of your team’s first game is so worth the work and the wait. The only thing better than coaching a college basketball game is doing it with your family in the stands. You have the best cheerleaders in the nation. Bring #homecourtadvantage with you wherever you go!
I’m helping out with Bethel Women’s Basketball this season, and the bad news is that we don’t tip off until Tuesday. The good news is that I should be able to catch some great games this weekend! I’ll be watching from my couch under a heavy blanket with wool socks on because it is currently 18 degrees here in Minneapolis…
But it’s always sunny and 70 in the gym. Enjoy!
When her team traveled to San Diego last season for a holiday tournament, NC State Assistant Coach Lindsay Edmonds was not feeling well. “My husband went on the trip with us and I felt bad because I was too tired to go do anything [extra]. Every free minute we had I just wanted to sleep!” she remembers. After picking up two wins, the team flew back to Wolfpack country on New Year’s Eve. Lindsay took a pregnancy test when she and her husband, Ulrick, got home. She ran downstairs to tell him the good news. “I was crying and he was like, ‘What did you say?’…We’re pregnant!”
Lindsay met her husband in 2009 when they were both working in the athletic department at James Madison University. Ulrick is a football coach. Referring to the logistics of a two-coach household, Lindsay admits, “We had some reservations about the whole thing, even just dating. We wondered, ‘Can this work?’ We finally reached a point where we decided to worry about it when we get there and God will make a way for it to work. Nothing is going to happen that we can’t handle.” The couple married in August 2012 and lived together in Harrisonburg, VA for eight months until the first coaching move happened. Lindsay took the job offer at NC State in April while Ulrick stayed in Virginia. The football staff at JMU got let go after the fall season. Then Ulrick began coaching at Old Dominion University, decreasing the commute between the couple to a three hour drive. Lindsay and Ulrick were planning to make the distance work after the baby was born. But shortly before her due date, Ulrick was able to secure a position on the NC State Football staff. For the Edmonds family, it was an answered prayer.
Nylah Gray Edmonds was born on September 2nd. “It’s crazy how fast time goes by. It feels like it was just yesterday,” Lindsay says. “Everyone says you don’t understand this kind of love until you have a child and it’s so true… I never knew my heart could love two people so much and so differently, between my husband and my daughter. My mom used to tell me that once you’re a mother, your heart is beating outside of your chest. I didn’t understand it then, but now I get it. My heart is in this little girl.” Lindsay’s contractions began the morning of her due date–September 1st. But then they stopped, so she dismissed them as Braxton Hicks, or false labor. But when the contractions came back that night, they were the real deal. Lindsay went to the hospital at midnight and doctors predicted a baby by lunch time. So it often goes with motherhood, though, things didn’t go as planned. “[Nylah] didn’t come until 6:10pm. I had pushed for two hours but then I spiked a fever and her heart rate went up. I ended up having an emergency C-section. I felt like I had done something wrong or let her down…all the emotions of that. It’s definitely not what I wanted. Whenever I got asked about a birth plan I said ‘I don’t have one except that I don’t want a C-section.'” Even so, their healthy bundle of joy was born and the Edmonds went home later that week as a family of three.
Lindsay worked with NC State Head Coach Wes Moore to arrange a 6-week maternity leave. “Coach Moore has been great. Having a boss who’s supportive makes a huge difference… People outside our profession think it’s crazy I’m going back to work at 6 weeks. But I feel blessed and thankful for that time.” Lindsay’s coaching staff had visited the hospital to meet Nylah. Her players met the baby at the team’s photo shoot a couple weeks later. Lindsay got a text saying that the staff would be getting some casual photos wearing jeans and a white shirt. “There was no way I could wear jeans two weeks after my C-section!” Lindsay laughs. She found some linen pants that would suffice.
“It was hard not to be there,” Lindsay says of missing her team’s preseason. “But we planned my maternity leave so I would just miss individual workouts and not too many practices. It’s about as perfect of timing as you can get other than April or May.” When it was time to go back to the office, dropping her 6-week old daughter off at daycare for the first time “was the hardest day of my life to date… The first day I went to practice, I wasn’t coaching. We had our DOBO (Director of Basketball Operations) cleared to be on the floor while I was gone. So I was just sitting there being quiet. But now that I’m back on the court, it helps take my mind off [Nylah] being in daycare. It would be hard if I sat at a desk all day.” The Coaches Edmonds are currently navigating the logistics of work conflicts and childcare. This is undoubtedly the trickiest time of year with football season in full swing and basketball games on the horizon. Thankfully, both Lindsay’s and Ulrick’s parents live less than two hours away and are willing to help. Nylah will tag along with Ulrick to cheer on the Pack at home games and at some of the closer contests on the road. “She’ll probably travel with my husband to Carolina, Duke, Wake Forest… We’re going to the Bahamas for a Thanksgiving tournament and I still have to figure out things with Nylah since I probably won’t take her. That will be tough because I’m nursing.”
So far, so good for this first-time mom. But life with a baby is drastically different. “I love sleep,” Lindsay says. “My husband used to joke that we couldn’t have a baby because I sleep so hard! Now I hear everything and wake up all the time. The woman’s body is truly an amazing thing…I’m learning how to operate on less sleep.” Daily routines revolve around Nylah’s needs. And like every mother before her, Lindsay has discovered what a challenge it can be just to get out of the house. “It’s hard trying to get anywhere on time with a baby!” Her priorities have certainly shifted. “At the office, one of my players said, ‘Coach E, I’ve never seen you with your nails not done!” Lindsay jokes. “What seemed important before is less important to me now… Everything is about Nylah.”