Words: Craig Allen Brown
Images: Yolanda Moore | Clark Atlanta University Athletics
“I wanted them to believe differently about who they were and the value they have as people first, and as players second, and then to raise their level of expectation for themselves,”
Yolanda Moore’s unorthodox ascent from a small, Southern town to WNBA champion was full of adversity. Now, as the head coach of Clark Atlanta University’s women’s basketball team, she is teaching her student-athletes that championing life skills, not jump shots, is the key to success.
Moore was raised in Port Gibson, Mississippi. The youngest of six children, and the product of a single-parent home, life was not easy for her during her youth. However, she was able to find refuge in the game of basketball.
Despite having one of the most productive careers in the history of the University of Mississippi women’s basketball, Moore was not drafted into the WNBA. However, she was not going to allow that to deter her dream of playing professionally. Her college coach, Basketball Hall of Fame inductee Van Chancellor, advised her not to try out for the Houston Comets, the WNBA team he had recently became the head coach of. Moore did not take heed to her former coach’s advice. Although recovering from a third knee surgery and the birth of her second child only four months prior, she began the tedious process of training for the upcoming season. She successfully rehabbed her knee, and lost over 50 pounds in four months. “Chancellor really didn’t think I was ready,” she said. “But I had been working out and rehabbing my knee. I went to Houston, competed, and earned a spot.”
With a roster that included Moore and WNBA greats Cynthia Cooper, Sheryl Swoopes, and Tina Thompson, the Comets won back-to-back WNBA championships in 1997 and 1998. Unfortunately, knee injuries would continue to hinder her playing career. After two more knee surgeries, Moore’s career as a professional basketball player came to an end.
However, her love for the game was in no way diminished. Equally important to her was an opportunity to provide mentorship to a group of students she felt would certainly benefit from it. Moore concluded that coaching college basketball would be the perfect fit.
After stints at Louisiana State University Eunice and Southeastern Louisiana, Moore heard that there may soon be an opening for a women’s basketball coach at Clark Atlanta University. Although she was anxious for an opportunity to relocate to Atlanta and coach again, she was more concerned about serving in a role that she felt God assigned. “I prayed on it,” she said. “My prayer was ‘God, if this is what you have for me, then put me in the place where you need me to be.’” On May 1, 2017, Yolanda Moore was introduced as Clark Atlanta University’s women’s basketball coach.
Moore has wasted no time in infusing CAU’s program with her winning methodology. To date, her team has already surpassed the win total for last year’s team, with more than a month left in the season. The Panthers are currently tied for first place in their division and in their conference. CAU ranks second in scoring, second in scoring defense, and first in scoring margin in the Southern Intercollegiate Athletic Conference East.
Moore commends the effort her student-athletes have made on the court, but attributes the team’s overall progress to their development off of the court. “I wanted them to believe differently about who they were and the value they have as people first, and as players second, and then to raise their level of expectation for themselves,” Moore said. “Our life goes as our thinking goes. If I could get them to believe in themselves and believe in what they’re capable of, then the results will take care of themselves.”
Moore’s experiences will undoubtedly serve as an inspiration for her players throughout her time at CAU. Particularly because she did not allow life’s adversities to slow her down. “There are no excuses. Because of the things I’ve experienced - being a teen mom, having the babies in college, having the knee injuries in college,” she said. “There were times when I would come home, the lights were off, or the water was off. But I persevered. So, you can’t bring the excuses to me.”
About Craig Allen Brown, Contributing Sports Writer
Craig Allen Brown was born in Ramstein, Germany. After graduating high school, he enlisted in the U.S. Army as a Personnel Actions Specialist. He served for 22 years, retiring in 2014. Upon retirement, he enrolled at Clark Atlanta University, majoring in Mass Media Arts. He will graduate with honors in May 2018.
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