As a two-time WNBA Champion, author, and empowerment speaker, Yolanda’s real life story of overcoming adversity to reach the pinnacle of her sport – professional basketball, inspires everyone from at-risk youth to struggling college students to stay-at-home moms to corporate executives. As the product of a single parent home in a poor rural Mississippi town, Yolanda experienced the pains of growing up without a father and the need to feel validated. She used basketball as a way to fill that void and as her vehicle out of a life of poverty and destitution.
One of the top 15 high school female basketball players in the country, Yolanda was highly recruited by every major women’s college program in the country. Expectations were high for the 3-time high school state champion and 1992 Mississippi High School Player of the Year as she stepped on the campus of the University of Mississippi on a full athletic scholarship. But like most young black females with no male guidance and support, Yolanda became pregnant at the age of 18 and gave birth to her first daughter during the summer following her freshman year.
Despite what some saw as a setback, Yolanda came back her sophomore year and became the second leading scorer on her team and was selected 2nd Team All-SEC. By the time she finished her career, Yolanda earned two first team All-SEC selections as a junior and a senior, an Associated Press All-American Honorable Mention, and was named team MVP her junior and senior year after leading the Lady Rebels in both scoring and rebounding in both her junior and senior campaigns. She currently ranks 9th on the Ole Miss Scoring Chart.
After enduring a third knee surgery at the end of her senior season, Yolanda became pregnant and gave birth to her second daughter in January 1997 just four months before the beginning of the inaugural WNBA season and even though her former college basketball coach (and soon to be professional basketball coach) tried diligently to persuade her not to, Yolanda tried out for one of four remaining spots on the Houston Comets 1997 roster. Yolanda beat out more than 200 women – after giving birth just four months earlier. She went on to play four seasons in the WNBA winning two championships with the Houston Comets in 1997 & 1998 and she also played in Europe and Asia. Yolanda was a radio analyst for Q93.7 FM covering Ole Miss Lady Rebel Basketball during the 2002-2003 season, a TV analyst for Fox Sports covering SEC women’s basketball in 2005, a post-game radio analyst for the Memphis Grizzlies, a columnist for Mississippi Sports Magazine. Yolanda has appeared in several national magazine publications and has been a guest on radio shows throughout the country.
Yolanda is living proof that dreams do come true. A member of the National Speakers Association, Yolanda is the President/Chief Empowerment Officer of Yolanda Moore 33 LLC – a personal development firm that serves young girls/women/entrepreneurs in the areas of Public Speaking, Personal Branding, and Career Development through workshops, keynote speeches, and customized training programs. She also conducts athletic recruiting seminars, academic success workshops, and career planning seminars for student-athletes and high school and college students around the country.
Yolanda was inducted into the Ole Miss Sports Hall of Fame in September 2010 and was honored as an SEC Great during the 2012 SEC Women’s Basketball Tournament. In May 2011, Yolanda became the first African-American head coach in Class 3A in the history of the Mississippi Association of Independent Schools (Formerly Mississippi Private School Association) when she became the head girls’ basketball coach at Heritage Academy in Columbus, Mississippi. She was also the first African-American head coach in any sport in the 48-year history of the school.
She is the author of the inspirational and empowering book “You Will Win If You Don’t Quit” that teaches readers how to map out a plan for overcoming adversity and achieving their dreams.
Q&A with Yolanda Moore:
BS: What type of child were you growing up? Have you always had an interest in sports? In addition to basketball, did you play any other sports?
Yolanda Moore: Growing up, I can say that I was sort of an introvert except when it came to sports. I grew up in a single-parent home and didn’t meet my biological father until I was 18 so I had some unexpressed anger issues. For the most part, however, I was a typical teenager. I became interested in sports in third grade when the junior high school coach introduced me to the game of basketball. I wasn’t very good when I first began playing. In fact, after I won my first WNBA Championship with the Houston Comets in 1997, my former high school coach told me that when I first started playing that he thought I was the worst basketball player he had ever seen. I loved playing sports. I also ran track in high school and won state championships in the high jump and 4×100 and 4×200 meter races. I also won three high school state championships.
BS: What made you continue your basketball career after having a child in your freshman year of college? Did people criticize you for making that decision?
Yolanda Moore: One of the things that motivated me to continue was the fact that my mother agreed to help me with my daughter if I promised her that I would graduate from college. The other thing was that I knew the alternative of me not staying in school. My basketball scholarship funded my college education so there was no getting around not playing. I could have transferred to a college closer to home but that wasn’t what I felt was in my best interest. I didn’t really face any criticism for continuing my basketball career after having my first child my freshman year. The criticism came after I had my second child at the end of my senior year in college. People, family members included, told me that I needed to let basketball go and think about my children. What they didn’t realize was that for me, playing basketball was my way of taking care of my children. To them, playing basketball wasn’t a real job unless you were making millions of dollars like NBA players and that wasn’t happening for women in professional basketball. I knew what I needed to do and so I decided to pursue a career as a professional basketball player and I am so glad that I did.
BS: What were some of the challenges that you faced while playing in the WNBA, Asia and Europe while being away from your family and two children? How did you overcome those hardships?
Yolanda Moore: Obviously, I missed out on a lot because my older girls were so young at that time. My family didn’t like them traveling all over the world because that life was so unstable, so I did what I had to do. I took them with me when I felt it was best and when I felt it was in their best interest to stay with my family I let them stay. It was tough emotionally as a mother because I was away from them a lot. I did what I could to stay present in their lives by calling every day and when I came home I spent all of my time with them. Nothing could make up for what I missed but I made sure they knew that I loved them and that they were my first priority. I explained to them that basketball was my job. They understood.
BS: How did growing up in a single parent home in the South, without a father affect you throughout the years?
Yolanda Moore: It affected me because I looked for that affirmation that you can only get from a father in all the wrong places. I thought there was something wrong with me because my father didn’t want me. I had a hard time loving myself and I had a lot of anger. Growing up in a single parent home in Mississippi was obviously tough but it was my normal. There were a lot of hard times but there were a lot of good times as well.
BS: What inspired you write your book, “You Will Win If You Don’t Quit”? What type of effect would you like it to have on readers?
Yolanda Moore: I actually wrote the book six years ago as a way for me to heal from the emotional pains and scars suffered from a previous relationship. My life has obviously taken a much different turn and I have had so many good and bad experiences since then that I include in the book. I see so many young girls who have given up on their dreams because they had a child in their teenage years or women who have had failed businesses and just don’t feel like they have enough in them to give it another try. I felt like now was a good time to tell my whole story about all that I endured and how I was told that I was nothing but another statistic but I rose above the negativity to achieve success. I want readers to see themselves in my story and know that one mistake doesn’t mean the end.
BS: Who are some of your role models or people you look up to? Why?
Yolanda Moore: One of the people I look up to them most and hope to work with someday is Tyler Perry. I consider Tyler Perry my role model because of the way he stuck with his dream despite many obstacles. His plays and movies made him a millionaire and he revolutionized the movie industry by building his own studio and creating his own content; but there was a time when no one was coming to see his plays and he was struggling to make ends meet and he was homeless. He gives me hope as to what can happen if you are committed to finding that one thing you were created to do and sticking with it until it produces for you what it was meant to produce. He is a true testament as to what can happen when you refuse to quit. Another person I consider a role model is obviously, Oprah Winfrey because of her commitment to ownership. She has proven that the key to wealth is ownership. She is such a savvy businesswoman and her passion for improving the lives of others is contagious. Finally, I absolutely consider President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama as role models. President Obama is the epitome of class. No matter how negatively people talk about him publicly (and by people I mean politicians and other public figures who oppose him) he never retaliates. He always addresses the necessary situation and pays little to no attention to the trivial opinions of others. He maintains a standard of excellence at all times and I love that. I love all that Michelle Obama represents. She makes no apologies for being who she is.
BS: Who has impacted you most in your career and how?
Yolanda Moore: The person who had the most impact on my career as a professional athlete was my coach who told me that there was no way I was going to make his WNBA team. My quest to prove him wrong actually showed me how resilient I am and resilience is necessary in this life because you have to be able to withstand the trials that you will inevitably face.
BS: Tell me about your proudest achievement.
Yolanda Moore: My proudest achievement outside of my children was graduating from college. I left college to play in the WNBA before I finished my degree; so when I stopped playing in the WNBA, I went back to school at the age of 28 and completed my college education. I graduated with two undergraduate degrees from the University of Mississippi, which is something that I was told would never happen. I went on to earn a master’s degree and am currently pursuing an Educational Specialist degree and a PhD. I am so proud of my education because it affords me the opportunity to be and do anything in this world I choose to do. My education is my greatest asset.
BS: Despite many adversities, you continued to defy the odds. What is the secret to your success?
Yolanda Moore: I don’t know that there is a secret to my success. I will say that I am a woman with a vision and a plan to carry out that vision and I no longer see failure as a bad thing. I realize that when things don’t go my way that nothing is happening to me but rather so much is happening for me in that I am learning and growing and developing into the person I was created to be.