New coach inspires change in girls basketball

Erma Bryant hired as girls basketball program director, plans to build winning program

Callie Hawkins

For the varsity girls basketball team, with a new season, comes a new coach. In the past four years, the team has had three different head coaches, preventing the seniors this year, who have been part of the program throughout their entire high school career, from forming a strong relationship with the coaching staff.

This year, the athletic department welcomes Erma Bryant as the girls basketball program director and varsity head coach.

Senior and varsity captain of the 2022-2023 girls basketball team Madison McCloud has experienced the disarray of the basketball program all while playing at a higher level on a select team.

“I have had three different coaching staffs throughout my four years in high school, and it affects the team,” McCloud said. “Every year [we had] a different set of expectations given to [us], a different system [we] have to buy into, a different coach you have to learn and try to connect with to have a successful program. It was also harder for me because I also had AAU.”

The Amateur Athletic Union for basketball is a time-consuming select team. Having a steady team and coaching on her AAU team allowed McCloud to focus on her school team and act as a leader on the court each year.

[My goal is] building a strong culture. I want them to be able to trust me and know that I’m going to be committed to them.

Erma Bryant

“Being in the AAU I have to spend countless hours in the gym, practicing 2-3 times a week and 4-5 games a weekend,” McCloud said. “[I have committed to this team] my whole life…and I appreciate all of my coaches…and how they have made me grow not only as a player but a person. [One of my coaches] and I were so close and he would call me his daughter because he watched me grow up and was with me the whole way; he was like my second dad.”

With the hiring of a promising new coach, the team looks forward to their season, and the seniors have hope for their final year.

“Seeing as though [coach Bryant] has already come to one of our volleyball games because [some] of her starters play volleyball, I see that she is a very supportive coach,” McCloud said. “My hope for this season is that she…has a team-first mentality, pushes us to grow more and helps us be as successful as we can be both as individuals and as a program.”

Bryant played basketball at Ben Davis High School in Indiana from 1990-1993 and was recruited to play in college at Liberty University in Virginia from 1993-1998. After college, she became a flight attendant but was not satisfied and became a coach. In 2001 she received her first coaching job and has been coaching at different schools within the Texas Association of Private and Parochial Schools and the AAU ever since.

“I knew about ESD even though they don’t plan TAPPS, and I knew that they played in the Southwest Preparatory Conference, and I was familiar with the program,” Bryant said. “I know the school is really a great school, so I thought I would apply and see what happens. The interview went really well, and I just loved all the people I met here…so when they offered me a job, I felt like this would be a good fit.”

The process of selecting Bryant as the new head coach was precise and extensive; a collective decision not only by the athletic director but the entire department.

“Coach Bryant brings with her an impressive resume of competitive and coaching experiences, but what made her truly stand out throughout the process was her personal authenticity and professional passion,” athletic director Dan Gill said. “From the moment we first connected, it was quite apparent why she was the right fit for our program.

Gill said that Bryant has the enthusiasm for cultivating relationships, developing student-athletes and teaching the game of basketball.

Bryant hopes to build a strong culture, and the athletic department is hoping to create and build a stable program with her in charge.

“While each situation is uniquely independent of one another, I think it’s important to recognize that coaches are increasingly becoming mindful of the importance of an institution’s culture when navigating their own respective search process,” Gill said. “The more we can do to create and sustain an environment where coaches feel supported and valued allows us to continue to recruit and develop the best that we possibly can.”

Bryant met with some of the members of the team a couple of weeks ago to preemptively get to know them. Helping her out as an assistant coach is middle school English teacher Jason Snipes.

“I was just really excited to see a coach that seemed like she was happy to be there, coached private school girls previously and been successful at her other schools prior to ESD,” McCloud said. “Seeing as though we are bringing back all of our starters and [other new players], I have high expectations, and plan to be one of, if not the top, seed team going into [the SPC tournament].”

Bryant is also confident in the team’s abilities based on who she has met and what she has seen. She, along with the team, looks forward to this season and future seasons.

“[My goal is] building a strong culture,” Bryant said. “I want them to be able to trust me and know that I’m going to be committed to them. And then on the achievement part. I know they finished second…last year, and I do think that we can have a good strong [team] and that we could possibly finish first…There’s a lot of experience on this team, and we want to capitalize on that.”

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