Discipline, hard work: Keys to Edwards six state championships, six coach of year awards

SIX-TIME Louisiana Coach of the Year Gladys Edwards poses with two of her six lady’s basketball state championship trophies.

Gladys Edwards, of Wisner, coached basketball for decades with the same principle that won her six state championships and multiple Sweet 16 appearances: “Give me 100 percent, and you can beat anybody.”

Edwards’ won four state championships with Tensas-Rosenwald High School in St. Joseph and two state championships with the Waterproof High School Lady Tigers.

“I told them basketball was simple,” Edwards said. “I wanted them to believe with hard work, they could make it. Just give me your best.”

Hard work developed a drive to win in her teams, but they were also known for their respective behavior they gave not only to Edwards but other adults. While coaching at Wisner High School after she retired from the Tensas Parish school system, then principal Mike Caldwell asked her a question.

“He asked me how could I sit on one side of the gym, and my players sit on the other side and not move,” Edwards said. “Because I told them not to move. They were on my time.”

Losing was also a factor in her career even with her numerous state championships, Sweet 16 appearances and coach of the year awards. But, Edwards applied additional principles to guide her team through tough times.

“If we lost a game, I would ask them did you give me 100 percent,” Edwards said. “They would cry. I’d ask them what are you crying for? Once we get on the bus, I don’t want to hear you say nothing. Once they got on the bus, they didn’t say anything. They would just go to sleep.”

Early career

A native of Morehouse Parish, she played high school basketball at Morehouse High School, graduated college from Grambling and received Master degrees at Southern University and Northeast Louisiana University.

Her first coaching job came at Sevier High School.

“A.D. Clark was principal there that year,” Edwards said in a Concordia Sentinel interview in 1983. “I don’t recall what our overall record there was, but I recall that we went into the playoffs, and I lost my last game at the school when Ruston beat us in the zone tournament which was held in Rayville in early 1959.”

Edwards married Thadeus Edwards after finishing coaching at Sevier. Initially, the couple moved to Morehouse Parish where she was a substitute at Morehouse High School and coached junior high girls basketball.

Tensas-Rosenwald High

In 1962, Edwards started coaching at Tensas-Rosenwald High after moving from Morehouse. People in St. Joseph soon realized their coach would bring them success on the basketball court as her Tensas-Rosenwald team won state in ’65, ’66,’67 and ’70 seasons.

During this time, Edwards was chosen Louisiana Coach of the Year six times.

“I had them believing they could beat the Lakers,” Edwards said of the Tensas-Rosenwald team. “All they had to do was do what I say, and we could get along. I expected them to put their game face on.”

How long would Tensas-Rosenwald rule high school girl’s basketball? Fans would never find out because Tensas Parish schools integrated in 1970, and Edwards moved to Waterproof High School.

But, Edwards success did not end in St. Joseph.

Waterproof High School

In her second season coaching Waterproof, Edwards guided the Lady Tigers to a Sweet 16 appearance and returned for another in 1973. She added two more state championships in 1975 and 1976.

“I really liked Tensas Parish and Waterproof,” Edwards said. “I had offers to coach at Grambling, Southern and Alcorn, but I chose to stay in Tensas. I’m more of a family person and wanted to stay close to my family.”

As a blacksmith working iron into an applicable tool, Edwards molded her players into squads that dominated in the 60s and 70s. For the molding process, she used means outside the basketball court.

“We did a lot of practice on the football field,” Edwards said. “They would pass the ball all the way up the field, and if one of them dropped the ball they had to sprint back down the field.”

Edwards remembers only having one hour during school to practice basketball.

“I let them know I had only about 45 to 50 minutes to coach,” Edwards said. “I didn’t have any time to wait, so come in with your game face and be on time. I gave them five minutes to get out of their school clothes and get on the floor. They better be out there.”

While at Waterproof High School, Edwards was selected as the 1976 coach for the Northeast Louisiana All-Star basketball team. She later would become the first African-American female to win the LSU All-Star game.

In 1992, Edwards also became the first African-American female assistant coach at the Top 24 boy’s basketball tournament in LSU while at Waterproof High School.

As her record shows, her team’s hard work, dedication and discipline paid off, principles that Edwards feels are lacking in some modern teams.

“I can’t stand an undisciplined team,” Edwards said. “I would ask the kids, ‘show me your invitation. You didn’t get an invitation from me. You came and wanted to play basketball for me.’”

After dedicating the majority of her professional life to mentoring young basketball players and teaching not only court skills but life skills, Edwards has essential advice for young coaches.

“Be friendly, firm and fair,” Edwards said. “One thing you are going to have to earn is respect. They are going to have to be disciplined.”

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