Black coach wants to win because ‘everybody is watching’

Yolanda Bronston
Courtesy of Hudl

Yolanda Bronston’s simple goal as a coach is to improve each day. She is in her fifth season as head girls’ basketball coach at Saint John’s Country Day, a small private school in suburban Jacksonville, Fla. (Orange Park).  

Bronston was a featured speaker at Hudl’s Swish ’21 virtual event in September. Her 10-minute presentation on creating a championship culture was impressive enough that the MSR reached out to her to further expound.

“I want to be part of a winning program,” noted Bronston. “I’d seek out those coaches that I see are very successful. I’ve read everything that the late great coach Pat Summitt wrote, and I’ve tried to implement a lot of those things in everything that I do as a coach.” 

Bronston also follows Dawn Staley as the second Black woman to win a national championship and first Black woman to win an Olympic gold medal both as a player and head coach.

“Hopefully one day I’ll get to meet her and talk to her,” continued Bronston. “Dawn Staley has been like an idol of mine since I was 14 years old [when] she was playing at the University of Virginia. I learned from her as a player and as a coach as well.”

Bronston played Division I basketball (Central Connecticut State, 1991-95) and coached in college (Norfolk State assistant, 1996-98). But she admitted that she really didn’t see herself in coaching.

“I grew up in Blacksburg, Virginia—greatest small town in the country,” she said. “I just wanted to make money because I didn’t grow up with a lot of money.

“When I left Norfolk State, I got married and moved to Jacksonville, Fla.,” she noted. But soon thereafter, she realized that coaching was a part of her. “I looked around and tried to get [back in] coaching, but nothing panned out. I really wanted to get back into coaching, because I just loved it.”

When her youngest son started playing basketball, his coach asked Bronston to help out. Then she started coaching other youth teams “for a few years” while she was working at her day job—Bronston has an MBA. But a sudden change in her life became a wish fulfilled.

“I got downsized,” she recalled. “I called my husband and I was so happy. I knew that day I wanted to coach.”

The Saint John’s job “landed in my lap,” said Bronston, the school’s business office associate. “I started out as an assistant for the boys’ team (2016-17), and then ended up that very next season with the girls. This will be my fifth season with the girls.”

Her first season was the school’s first winning campaign in a long time. Bronston credits the change in attitude along with using Hudl technology, which is used by high school coaches around the country.

“I wish every team used Hudl because it makes it so much easier when we can exchange film,” declared Bronston. “That saves us time from having to go and watch games [in person]. Each of my players has their own login. Not only do we watch film together, they watch film individually.”

It’s more than basketball for Bronston. “It’s very important to me that I am an example for my players. Not just my African American players, [but also] for my players from other races. I may be the only Black woman that they come across every day. So, the example that I set for them is extremely important to me, because I know everybody is watching.

“When they leave me, what do I want them to leave with? That [Black women] are very capable of managing and running programs. I feel like that’s doing my part to change the world.”