by Maddison Johnson
Since 2000 Coach Trenia Tillis-Hoard has led TJC’s women’s basketball team to victory. Recently, she celebrated her 500th win. Tillis said she came to TJC “accidentally on purpose” in early 1996 to be an assistant coach. She never planned to be a coach, but after the University of Arkansas offered her a position she became one. After four years of being an assistant, she got a call from TJC to interview for the head coach position. She was offered the position and figured she would be here “for five years, and 22 years later, I am still here.”
Q. How do you feel about 500 wins?
A. I am the second African American female in the NJCAA to do it… I feel like it’s surreal, really. Because it’s like, I promise you, I don’t feel like 22 years have passed. I don’t feel like 500 wins have passed and with that 500 wins there’s also losses. So that’s a whole lot of ball games. I’m proud. I don’t know, it’s on the backs of my players, my managers, my coaches, my staff, I didn’t do it by myself. But it’s 500 wins of amazing memories. I got the wins, but the memories that go behind the wins, that’s what’s special.
Q. How do you plan on celebrating 500 wins?
A. The first thing I did is I praised God for allowing this because not without him none of this would have been possible. In the end I thank my family and I thank my current players.
Q. What pushes you to continue coaching?
A. I think it’s just the fact that I get the opportunity to impact and influence lives. And I don’t know there’s just a blessing you know, you get to impact and influence, you get to help players channel their strengths, find their weaknesses, to work for what they want to even just grow.
Q. What’s your coaching philosophy?
A. My coaching philosophy is if I can help my players be better today than they were yesterday… We’re getting them here as babies, and this is their first college experience. I want to give them a great college experience, but I also want to give them some experiences that will help them; not just in basketball, because for all these kids they come in for, they’re gonna get about five years of basketball, if they’re lucky most times it’s four. And after that, they’re going to have to go into the workforce. So I try to give them an experience that can channel into the workforce so that they can be better, not just basketball players, but through that little orange ball be better adults, be better humans, be better parents, be better at everything they’re doing. So I think it’s pretty much just utilizing that basketball for them to be better today than yesterday; always striving for greatness. Don’t be late, be a person of your word, be a person of integrity of character, be the hardest working person on the floor. Fight for what you want. Never consider yourself entitled to something just and of all things, being grateful, you know, God gives us this opportunity, every moment and utilizing that opportunity and making the best of it.
Q. How do you motivate the players?
A. I always feel like if I’m the toughest thing my players ever have to go through, their life will be a lot simpler. So if I’m the toughest thing, they can get the worst boss and they can say, “I had Trenia Hoard you’re okay.” An awful husband, “I was coached by Trenia Hoard.” Just anything life throws at them, because they’ve been through the beast of the East, they can endure it. But I do it with love.
Q. What do you believe has helped you all these years?
A. I think the first thing is God’s grace and God’s comedic value. Because you know, with me, I’m like, I never wanted to be a coach. And God said, “OK, tell me..you want to hear a joke. Tell me what you don’t want to be. Bam, you’re a coach.” And I never thought I’d be at TJC for all these years… I just love it. It’s when you go to work and you love going to work. That’s something a lot of people can’t say.
Q. What has been the most difficult part of coaching?
A. The failure is not about losing a game per se. For me, the failure sometimes is maybe I signed the kid that I have to release at the end of the year. Maybe a kid gets an injury and I try to see how I failed them, how I could have helped to make their body stronger. Or maybe, you know, a kid transfers because she doesn’t like my program, or a kid tells me she wants to be a doctor, and she does not get that dream. I don’t know, I just want to be fertilizer for these kids. They’re the seeds and I want to be the fertilizer, so whatever they come in saying they want to do; I want to fertilize it and at least help it start its growth. And so failure for me, and like I said, it’s not about losses.
Q. What adversities have you faced as a coach?
A. Coaching is a male dominated profession, it has been forever, but coaching as an African American female is even tougher, because you’re not a male. So you know, your white male, your black male, all your different males are above you…So you are not coaching from behind, but it’s almost like more obstacles, and so you’re always fighting to be respected. You’re always feeling like you need to elevate yourself and to be at even a higher standard. Because maybe, you know, the pole that you have to hurdle might be a little higher, and it doesn’t come as easy. It’s so easy to be the stereotype and I don’t want to be the stereotypical African American female coach. I want to transcend stereotypes. Instead of seeing me as an African American coach, I just want to be a coach.