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The Battalion

The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

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Building a legacy beyond basketball

Joni+Taylor
Graphic courtesy of Pranay Dhoopar
Joni Taylor

So many titles come to mind when referring to Texas A&M women’s basketball head coach Joni Taylor. Taylor wears many hats and has the accolades to complement them. The 2021 SEC Coach of the Year, assistant coach of the 2021 USA Women’s National Team and a phenom to women in sports, are just a few. With her hands full, there is room to wonder how she balances all the other roles in her life as a wife, mother, daughter and mentor.
“Literally when my feet hit the floor every morning I say, ‘God give me what I need for today,’” Taylor said. “I think one of the biggest things is that I really try to be where my feet are. If I’m at work then I’m at work, if I’m at home then I’m at home, if I’m on the road recruiting, I’m recruiting, if I’m with USA Basketball, then I’m with USA Basketball. When I am present you’re going to get all of me and that is how I try to operate.”
The Aggies are near the end of their season and her first in Aggieland, has not been one of Taylor’s best. Having spent the last seven years coaching at the University of Georgia, Taylor is accustomed to successful seasons that end in a run in the NCAA tournament. For A&M, the squad is currently 7-18 overall as struggles this season have stemmed from several injuries that left the team rotating only seven players for the majority of the season.
Despite the disappointing season, Taylor knows the team is simply becoming better. Though all coaches want a trophy, she is determined to prove she knows her purpose and that there is more to her — so much more to her — than basketball. She is building a legacy, one that will empower women and that many will always remember.
“Winning championships, competing and recruiting, the Xs and Os, I mean I am as competitive as they come and I want to win,” Taylor said. “All of that drives me but I have no doubt in my mind that my purpose is to help change the lives of young women and to continue them on the course of their own. Basketball is just my door, it’s my conduit, it’s the vessel that I use but I am ultimately here to change lives.”
Through the trials and tribulations of getting to where she is in her career, Taylor’s faith has only strengthened. She credits her parents, Jonas and Hargie Crenshaw, for building a solid foundation and being her inspiration throughout her life. Taylor grew up in an education-driven home as the Crenshaws were both educators and both played the sport of basketball. Taylor’s mom played in high school and her father played at Natchez College in Mississippi.
“Joni has always been competitive, especially with her brother,” Hargie said. “I put her in all kinds of things growing up to see what she would be good at. She did cheerleading, gymnastics and piano. Well she did piano for two years and by the end of the second year she still only knew how to play ‘Mary Had a Little Lamb’ so we decided to drop piano but she was always athletic. I never thought she would be a coach but she liked basketball so she decided to make that her one sport outside of track.”
For Taylor, she remembers being the only girl in the neighborhood growing up in Meridian, Miss. and as the only daughter, she often found herself trying to keep up with her older brother and his friends. However, it didn’t take long for Taylor to realize that she was talented and when she did she took it seriously.
“I was a tomboy my entire life,” Taylor said. “I had an older brother who pushed me around so when his friends came and played football, I was playing too. Then I realized I was exceptionally gifted and athletic in the fourth or fifth grade. There was this elementary track relay and all of the elementary schools came together at the high school to compete against other elementary schools. I forgot what I was running but I beat everybody from all the other schools and I kind of was like oh this isn’t just me being the fastest at my school, I’m now the fastest in all of the elementary schools in our city and that’s when I kind of realized that I was athletic. So as I started playing basketball I realized again that this was something that can really carry me a long way.”
Although Taylor grew up outnumbered, women empowerment has always been important to her and she is determined to create avenues for women to grow and build their own legacies. Outside of her career in basketball, she has established herself as a pillar for the average woman.
In 2015, Beyond Basketball was created by Taylor when she became the head coach at Georgia. The organization serves as a space for like-minded women to come together once a month over breakfast to have someone speak life into them and ultimately recharge their batteries. Taylor attends the meetings but takes a backseat to allow the guest speakers to motivate, educate and inspire the women to be their best version of themselves while having a call to action and serving their communities.
Taylor is excited to have brought the program to Aggieland in her first year as the coach and encourages women all over Brazos Valley to join the space where they can blossom and find support no matter their career path.
“When you think about women, we are so much for so many,” Taylor said. “We do so much and we are always pouring out to give to others but who’s filling our cup up? We’ve got to bet on ourselves more to trust that we’re going to figure it out, we’re smart enough to do it and that we deserve a seat at the table.”
Taylor often reflects on how things have not always been equal for women dating back to when she first began to play the sport. She said it was hard to even identify with someone who looked like herself in the sport.
“I think about how far we’ve come in terms of gender equity,” Taylor said. “I think for so long there were only so many spots for women in whatever field you look at. In many cases, we were pitted against each other or we didn’t want to share information to support each other because it was either me or you, it couldn’t be both of us.”
In her household, the success of women is not only the center of her world but it is also her husband, Darius Taylor. With Joni being a head coach and Darius being a general manager in the WNBA, it requires a balancing act to make everything work for the family.
“My husband is absolutely amazing,” Taylor said. “He is a great partner to me in terms of both of us understanding our schedules. Right now it’s kind of my season so he is very hands on and then when his season comes, I’m very hands on, so we just kind of flip flop. Then our parents have pretty much put their lives on hold to be in Texas and help us raise our daughters. We have a great support system.”
In the midst of a chaotic schedule, Taylor doesn’t neglect her personal needs and finds time for self-care when few are awake. Her typical morning begins way before the sun is up, and Taylor describes this time as a time to reset and just be Joni.
“I’m a 4 a.m.’er,” Taylor said. “I wake up to have some time to myself and then I workout. I go to the gym most days and if not, I’m banging it out on the treadmill somewhere. So from 4-6:30 a.m., that’s kind of my space because once my day starts it’s not mine anymore. After the gym, I get dressed to drive our girls to school and then I start my day.”
For Taylor, the success in Aggieland will come eventually but that’s not her main focus. She’s more concerned with becoming a better leader to add to the lives of those around her and leave a lasting impression.
“When I think about legacy, sure I think about the basketball things,” Taylor said. “But what I think about most is what the players that I have coached and the staff that I have been around are going to say about me when I am gone. I want them to say that they were certain in my faith, who I believed in and that I helped to make them better. Legacy is passing on and sharing all that you have to help others so that their lives can be better because you were a part of it. That is the legacy that I want to leave for players that I have coached, for the people that I’ve worked with as an assistant coach and as a head coach and for my family and my two girls.”

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