Texas A&M’s Joni Taylor balances life with gratitude for ‘sacred complications’

Joni Taylor has gone through a lot of changes in recent months.

Change jobs, move from Georgia to Texas, travel, recruit, talk.

But through it all, one thing has remained constant – her 4am wake-up time every morning without fail.

“That’s where I have time for myself. Ideas come to me when I pray, train, run,” she said. “It’s my time to breathe,” Taylor said.

One of his regular prayers during this time asks the Lord to “Give me what I need for today”.

“It’s been my prayer this whole time because if I watch it in its entirety, continuing what I think in the future, it can become a lot,” she said. “So I pray, Lord, give me what I need for today. And He did and I know He will, so that’s how I handled it all.

“It is” the mountain of changes, spectacular opportunities and “holy complications” that have descended on his life in recent months.

Taylor, 43, was named the new Texas A&M Lady Aggies head coach this spring, replacing legendary Gary Blair, who retired after 19 years. Less than two months later, the former Georgia Bulldogs head coach – and 2021 SEC Coach of the Year – was named head coach of the 2022 U.S. Women’s U18 National Team.

Since March, she has started running: juggling with her family, traveling and talking, attending meetings and training, completing her team of A&M coaches, going on family vacations, making official visits and organizing weekends. recruiting ends and coaching the U.S. U18 team.

Taylor handles it all and stays grounded through close ties with an “incredible group of friends, my husband, my family, who are my circle and talk to me about life and pray for me,” Taylor said. She also credits a book she’s read multiple times called “The Circle Maker,” which advocates seeing life’s challenges as blessings and “sacred complications.”

“I always pull the book out when I’m going through a huge transition. It talks about ‘sacred complications’. We complain about things that complicate our lives but then we ask for blessings, well they’re complicated too.

“It’s a matter of perspective. There’s a lot going on and if you don’t have the right perspective, you can see it the wrong way,” she said. “My prayer is Lord, complicate my life. If God complicates my life, it means I receive blessings.

“And with the blessings come more responsibilities and complications, but these are holy complications that I am grateful for. I now have holy complications in my life because of the blessings that God has given me.

A constant presence in her life is her husband Darius, assistant general manager of the WNBA’s Atlanta Dream.

“You could always tell she was ready to do great things as a head coach,” Darius said, recalling they were friends and talked about basketball before they got married. “Obviously to go to Georgia and take on this program and come behind a legend that you knew would be a challenge, but it was something that God prepared her for because she handled it well. People loved her there, she had these relationships and these connections with her players.

Darius Taylor said his wife’s commitment and dedication to her craft has helped her reach the heights she has achieved. “Just seeing the time she’s put in from an x’s and o’s perspective and the most important part, the leadership part, all the things she’s done, the books she’s read, the development professional, to put her in a position to be a great leader, has been wonderful.

“His spirituality also has a lot to do with his success,” said Darius, who served as an assistant coach at Temple and South Carolina as well as the interim head coach at Dream. “She’s a very spiritual person and she’s very intentional in everything she does. From the moment she wakes up at 4am…to ​​everything. It’s been fun to watch her career continue to blossom, everyone has bumps in the road, but she made it through.

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Taylor recently took the time to speak with The following about life on the run, preparing young players for the future, what she thinks is perfect happiness and more.

What are you most looking forward to by taking part in the A&M program?

I think it’s about planting our culture and our way of doing things and serving our young girls and the community. Our job is to serve. It shows in coaching but it’s to serve. This is the ship we are, this is our purpose. I am excited to find ways to serve our young women on the court, off the court and give them what they need. So when they leave Texas A&M – with a degree – hopefully many championships, they are also high-level thinkers and ready for the world whenever the ball stops bouncing. This is what excites me the most, in addition to really having the time to enter the community, to meet everyone and to serve them.

**How ​​do you like coaching USA?

It’s humiliating. Every time you get a call from USA basketball to serve in any capacity it’s humbling because there are so many great coaches they could pick up the phone and ask and so for them to ask me and d ‘to be a part of it and to be associated with it, I’m humbled and grateful. It’s a learning experience for me. The opportunity to work alongside (USA assistant coach) DeLisha Milton-Jones (Old Dominion) is great. And being able to share that space with her and the assistant coach, Terri Moren, is a good friend. Learn from her; and the young women who have been selected to be part of the team I count on all the joy and now our mission is to go and represent our country on and off the ground in a first class way and come back with a gold medal. It’s exciting, it’s an opportunity for growth, and it’s a blessing.

What talent would you most like to have?

I can’t sing. My brother is good that way but I like good karaoke so I would say sing because I like my gospel music. If I had superhero talent, I’d like to be able to read people’s minds. I feel like I’m doing this now anyway, so I would just like to go ahead and have this.

What is your most valuable asset?

It would probably be my grandmother’s Bible. It’s crossed out, dog-eared… my grandmother’s Bible.

What do you consider your greatest achievement so far?

There are many. My biggest so far: I could say two things; being a mother and then the whole process of seeing our young women come in as freshmen and then seeing them come out as seniors and the growth and maturation that happens and knowing that I had something to do with it.

If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be?

I’m very Type A. To the point where it can be annoying. I like things the way I like them, that’s how I like things; It has to stay here every time and if it’s off a bit it’s off and it can be annoying to others. I think it’s a blessing and a curse and that’s why I’m so detailed and organized because I’m like that, but I can also understand how it can turn into a bit of not delegating well.

If you were to die and come back as a person or thing, what would it be and why?

I think I would like to come back as an angel. I go between an angel or like the altar. Anyway I want to be able to intercede for people and angels can do that and also if I come back as a thing I would like to be an altar in a church because that’s where you go for the pray. And so if I am the altar, I hear people’s prayers, I am there and I can intercede on their behalf.

What is your idea of ​​perfect happiness?

I think the pursuit of happiness is something we need to be careful about. We have to be careful with our understanding or definition because sometimes we think things move us, some success makes us happy, and you may end up chasing after the next thing. So my ideal image of happiness, especially with all that’s going on, is a sound mind, being healthy, and having a loving husband, family, and friends who can just sit back and enjoy little moments and enjoying the little moments. Happiness must begin within yourself. I don’t want any material thing or person to bring me happiness.

What is your biggest fear?

Disappointing and letting people down. That’s what motivates me. My greatest fear is to disappoint others, my parents, my family, our young people whom we are responsible for leading; it’s what drives me to do what I do because I never want to disappoint. It kills me if I disappointed someone and that’s also why I find it hard to say no. My other fear that rises to the top of the list in the world we live in is mental health. When we watch the news and see all the deaths that occur by suicide, I fear for the sanity of our country, our young people, our young women, our young black women and it’s a fear that keeps me up at night. night God forbid something happens under my watch.

What do you think of the opportunities that have presented themselves to black female coaches?

I think we are making great progress, but there is still room to grow. Very excited more black women are getting opportunities because we deserve them and representation is important especially when you look at the percentage of women playing basketball the majority are in the minority so I think it’s important that they have someone who looks like them. I remember growing up watching basketball, C. Vivian Stringer was the only black person I saw. She was. And so I think now there are more opportunities for women – look what the SEC did, seven black coaches two years ago, and then this year we have five – I think that tells people that black women can do it. There are a lot of great coaches, but I’m glad we have opportunities in our game.

**Team USA is set to compete for its ninth consecutive FIBA ​​WU18 gold medal at the FIBA ​​U18 Americas Women’s Championship 2022, following an 84-40 semi-final victory over the brazil saturday

Dorothy J. Gentry is a freelance sportswriter whose work can be found in The Next, SLAM, Sports Illustrated, Texas Metro News and more. She is an avid teacher and reader.