Life Lessons from America’s Winningest High School Basketball Coach

All this coach does is win.

Late last year a new champion earned the title of Winningest High School Basketball Coach of All Time—and she’s a 73-year-old Texas grandmother named Leta Andrews. In the midst of both March Madness and Women’s History Month, it seems only fitting to celebrate Coach Andrews and her Granbury Lady Pirates by gleaning some life lessons from her winning ways:

Do what you love. Andrews originally got her degree in elementary education, but knew right away that being just a teacher was the wrong fit. She missed the sport she’d grown up playing and needed to find a way to incorporate basketball into her career. After going back for a second degree, Andrews was able to teach and coach on the high school level. Forty-nine years later, she still hasn’t thought about retiring.

Adversity will make you stronger. Over the course of her career, Andrews has encountered more than a few male coaches who have marginalized both her success and women’s sports in general. Andrews lets their snubs roll right off of her like beads of sweat on a player’s back. “They have to deal with it, not me,” she told NPR’s Michel Martin. Instead, such slights make her work even harder to ensure her players believe they deserve as much success as any man, on and off the court.

There’s no I(phone) in team. On bus rides to away games, Andrews confiscates her players’ cell phones. Texting, she says, interferes with teambuilding, and you can’t win without a unified team that knows how to communicate with each other. Socializing is an important ingredient to success, and when we focus on ourselves (or our electronics) rather than others, we miss out on valuable connections and experiences.

Winning is everything. It just depends on how you define “winning.” For Andrews, victory on the court is the logical result of lots and lots of hard work and preparation. She believes in tough love to get her players focused on playing their absolute best, individually and as a team. While a winning season is the immediate goal, ultimately Andrews hopes all of her players will carry the values inherent in team sports with them long after graduation. (This is how one basketball fan became friends with Charles Barkley.)

Focus on the here and now. A few years ago, when Andrews became the winningest girls basketball coach in history, the town of Granbury mistakenly touted her as the winningest coach, period, on the local water tower. Instead of correcting the tower, the town left it in error as inspiration. Andrews claims local pride didn’t make her feel any pressure to reach the next level any more than her age and accomplishments lead her to consider retirement—who has time for such distracting thoughts? As always, she’s too busy thinking about how to win the next game.


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Originally Published in Reader's Digest