Taja Edwards is an assistant coach at Loyola Marymount and is a member of the Women of Color Coaches Network.
1. Why did you get into coaching?
I got into coaching because I wanted to pay my success as a student athlete forward to the next generation of athletes.
2. How many years have you been coaching?
I have been coaching now for 10 years. This is my 9th coaching season at the Division 1 level.
3. Who has been your biggest influence in coaching and why?
My biggest influence in coaching has been Beth Burns (former HC-San Diego State) current associate strength and conditioning coach at the University of Louisville. Coach Burns has been my biggest influence in coaching because she is a true pioneer and trailblazer for the women’s game. She is a woman, coach and mentor who has dedicated her life and career to fighting for what she believes in. Coach Burns has added an infinite amount of value to my life not only as a colleague but also as a mentor and friend.
4. What do you enjoy most about coaching and why?
What I enjoy the most about coaching is the success the student-athletes see on and off the court. Watching, aiding and guiding these young women along their journey to success has been my greatest enjoyment in coaching.
5. What has been one of the greatest lessons you have learned about life through coaching? Please explain.
One of my greatest lessons I have learned about life through coaching is how to be adaptable. The game of basketball has some of the greatest life lessons you will ever learn, especially surrounding adaptability. Within the game of basketball, you often have to figure out a way to win when things are not going your way and the same goes for life. When you’re on your way to work and get a flat tire, how do you still win the day? How are you able to bring your best self to environments that appear to not be in your favor? You’ve got to adapt and find a way to win!
6. What is your ultimate goal in coaching?
My ultimate goal in coaching is to leave a legacy and lasting impact on those I meet and interact with. I want to build high quality relationships with people, while winning and teaching the game of basketball. I aspire to be one of the greatest coaches to coach the game not because of the championships or gold medals and wins I will obtain but because of the impact I will have on people’s lives and the impact they will have on mine.
7. What has been your greatest lesson as a coach during the pandemic?
My greatest lesson as a coach during this pandemic came after my grandfather passed away in April from coronavirus. I have been fortunate enough to explore my identity outside of coaching throughout this pandemic and what I have learned is that I need to share who I am with the world.
8. What has been one of the toughest lessons you have learned through coaching. Please explain.
One of the toughest lessons I have learned as a coach is that blame will get you nowhere. It is not always easy in sports to take responsibility and ownership especially when the ego is involved. It takes humility and grace to own what is yours and move forward. Meeting yourself and others with vulnerability instead of blame is the truest form of courage.
9. As a minority coach, what do you feel has been the biggest challenge for minority coaches in the profession?
As a minority coach the biggest challenge for me in this profession has been feeling culturally misunderstood by the majority. Often times my passion has been mistaken for anger, my privacy has been mistaken for mischievous behavior and my drive to fight for black student-athletes has been mistaken for too self-expressive. I have worked, sacrificed and turned down jobs for not wanting to be boxed in as a “recruiting coordinator” and though I am proud of who I am today, I know that cultural misunderstandings will always be an uphill battle when differences are uniting.
10. Tell us something about yourself that people would be surprised to know about you.
Most people would be surprised to know that I absolutely love short films and series. Short films and series have a way of captivating you and drawing your attention in for a short amount of time and I love it!