Dawn Staley writes Players’ Tribune piece asking why women’s basketball lacks more coaches of color

Photo Credit -- Kim Klement/USA Today Sports

The lack of black coaches within the ranks of basketball is a glaring issue within the sport that has been mentioned time and time again.

Dawn Staley, national championship-winning coach at South Carolina and also coach of the USA Basketball women’s national team, is one of the few coaches of color the sport has. She wants to see greater diversity within said coaching ranks as she wrote in a piece for The Players’ Tribune.

She began by giving readers a vivid picture of what it was like growing up in northern Philadelphia, including having to paint the lines of the basketball courts that existed in her neighborhood. Staley then mentioned how media emitted images of what success and poverty looked like – and how race played a key role.

What culture did at the time, intentionally or not, was tell me that to have those things, you had to look a certain way. The haves and have-nots on television were divided by skin color.

–Dawn Staley per The Players’ Tribune

Staley also mentioned how one of the teams she played against growing up was a team from the more affluent Philadelphia suburbs that reminded her of the Hart family from The Brady Bunch. She also talked about how she experienced lots of culture shock while at the University of Virginia.

At that time, even most of the coaches at major programs were white. Coach Ryan was great – so were my teammates – but there just weren’t a lot of options to play for someone who looked like me.

–Dawn Staley per The Players’ Tribune

She wrote she is well-aware of what it means to be coaching in Columbia, South Carolina – a city and state that have very tumultuous racial histories. She knows that being not only a black coach, but a black woman coach that she is held to a higher standard – and that she holds herself to a higher standard as well given other young African-American girls that may want to pursue what she has achieved will look at her as an example to follow.

I think I create an option for young black women, and I hope for more representation of all ethnicities in head coaching positions.

–Dawn Staley per The Players’ Tribune

I’m very aware of what my success represents. I’m also very aware of what my failure would represent…There are stereotypes we have to navigate – like being the angry black woman – even on the sidelines.

In her closing words, she connected her history with South Carolina with her mother’s – who she wrote left the state because of its racial issues. She knows that what she is doing as coach of the Gamecocks goes beyond stepping on the hardwood.

If I never won another championship but my legacy was that – to have changed the face of opportunity and united communities – I’d take that over most other things in this world.

–Dawn Staley per The Players’ Tribune

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