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A Visit with Ole Miss’ Yolett McPhee-McCuin: An Exciting Coach and Exceptional Person

A Visit with Ole Miss’ Yolett McPhee-McCuin: An Exciting Coach and Exceptional Person

OXFORD, Miss. — Head coach Yolett McPhee-McCuin came to Ole Miss in 2018 and has since made quite a name for herself, not only as a winner who has turned around the Rebels’ women’s basketball program, but also as a motivational coach with a heart for her family, faith, and making the world a better place to live.

Her charisma and vitality for life and the sport of basketball are apparent, and players and fans gravitate toward Coach Yo with confidence in her abilities and curiosity about what she will accomplish next.

Family life

Coach Yo’s parents were blue-collar workers who taught her what leadership entailed. She grew up in a structured home with a mother who was a typewriting teacher who later became a high school principal and a father who was a high school boys basketball coach.  

A typical day consisted of early morning workouts and then heading to school.  Growing up in the Bahamas meant fun times with friends, hanging out at the beach, picking mangos straight from the tree, and enjoying all the island’s beauty.

Growing up in a Catholic household gave Yolett McPhee-McCuin a firm foundation for her faith. The Bahamas, when she was growing up, was highly known as a Christian nation with a culture of attending church and expressing one’s faith. It is a foundation that has seen Coach Yo through different periods of life. 

It’s really brought me peace and helped me center and focus, because you can get easily lost in this new era with social media.  It (faith) has allowed me to be grounded and helped me focus on being my best self.  The only way I could do that is by activating my faith.

Ole Miss head coach Yolett McPhee-McCuin

Coach Yo met her husband, Kelly, while she was in graduate school at Arkansas Pine Bluff. Some of her sorority sisters encouraged Coach Yo to give Kelly a shot, and the rest, as they say, is history.  The couple has two daughters, Yasmine and Yuri. 

The family has a hectic schedule with all hands on deck, and Coach Yo says finding balance is the key to making life work for them.  She explains, “Luckily, in non-conference play, we don’t travel a lot. When we do, it’s during the holidays. So, most times, my family can come.”  

Coach Yo’s parents are retired and help out when they visit, but even when they are not around, she tells us, “We’re moving and shaking. My husband is huge in all of this, and thanks to charter flights during conference play, we aren’t gone that long. We do our best to try and balance and make it work“

Yasmine and Yuri are both active in school and extracurriculars. Yasmine plays soccer, and both girls take gymnastics. Coach Yo says she does not have a desire to coach her children. “My husband is into that, not me so much,” she remarks. “I enjoy watching them figure out what they like to do and explore.”

Team building

Recently, the Ole Miss team paid a visit to Coach Yo’s home for a cookout before taking a break to spend time with their families before classes begin. 

Their season is a two-semester sport, making it even more critical for a healthy balance of court time and time away. Taking the time outside of the sport to let the team bond is essential.  

Being together with the team and learning more about each other is beneficial to team dynamics.

You’re willing to do a little bit more for each other if you understand each other’s ‘why.’ So, that’s something we talk about, and they get to experience being away from the basketball court. They get a deeper and more in-depth level of who they are, what is important to them, and what they are about.  It spills over onto the court.

Coach Yo

No Ceilings with Coach Yo

Coach Yo began the No Ceilings with Coach Yo Foundation because she wants to give back on a large scale. The foundation focuses on helping women and youth involved in sports. 

The foundation also reaches out in times of crisis to help others, such as when Hurricane Dorian destroyed parts of the Bahamas. Additionally, the foundation funds both professional and personal development opportunities.

Part of the attraction one feels toward Coach Yo is her inspiring nature and ability to be a motivator — not just for her team but for students on campus and others in general.  

Her story naturally brings inspiration because people see, as she puts it:

“…A little girl from the Bahamas who migrated to the United States and is now living the American dream. I think that, for a lot of people, that’s just inspiring within itself. I just try to speak from the heart, try not to talk about things that I’m not willing to do myself, and be pretty authentic. I share failures and accomplishments. I share both, and I think that’s what allows people to humanize me…I’m relatable. If I don’t mean it, I don’t say it.

Coach Yo on the inspiration of her story

Recruiting and the world of social media

When on the recruiting trail, parents ask Coach Yo about various topics.  One question that often comes up deals with the state of Mississippi. People still bring up the past, the Rebels’ head coach says. “I have to educate them on what it’s like to be in Oxford, MS, and the family environment,” she explains. 

Parents want their daughters to be safe in a supportive environment that promotes physical and mental well-being. The parents also want to hear Coach Yo’s vision for their daughter and what that looks like from an academic, social, and athletic standpoint.

Coach Yo tells us that social media is a necessary tool in today’s world.  She equates it to how owning a business and not using social media to promote it would be unwise. 

Recruits follow social media, so a program needs to promote itself, but there is a right way to do that.  Being an example for her team and educating the players on the best use of social media is something Coach Yo practices daily. 

We try to teach our young women how to utilize social media because at the same time I think it has a lot to do with depression and all of the other factors like anxiety and mental health issues because of the negativity linked sometimes with social media. We try to promote a healthy balance. 

Coach Yo on promoting social media in a healthy way

In terms of modeling being proactive and realizing the negative side of social media, Coach Yo gets off social media once the team enters conference play.  “I do that for peace of mind, and every time I do it,” she says, “I come back feeling refreshed with way more focus on what I have in front of me – my family, my team. I just try to live by example.” 

She also reminds her players they have a brand to promote, and they need to be careful when it comes to social media.

Women’s Basketball and NIL

A point of interest that often goes unnoticed is on the national level, after football players, women’s basketball players are the highest grossing players in the NIL arena. 

That may be surprising to some, but Coach Yo explains it. “You have to remember that women are marketable,” she says, “and women naturally know how to market and present themselves.”  

Women’s sports are on an upward trajectory in Oxford. Ole Miss women’s athletics have accomplished a great deal as of late, with the golf team winning a national championship, women’s basketball reaching the NCAA tournament for the first time in 15 years, softball playing in the NCAA tournament, and volleyball and track and field making great strides.  

We are all pushing the narrative that women’s sports compete for championships. I think having Shakira Austin in the WNBA helps. Every time she scores, they say, ‘Shakira Austin, Ole Miss.’ Putting us on the national scene has made a difference for us. 

Coach Yo

Hopefully, increased NIL opportunities for Ole Miss female athletes are just around the corner.

Title IX

Women’s athletics still has a long way to go. However, when you think about it from a historical perspective, it was not that long ago that women were not even allowed to play sports. 

Coach Yo educates her players on the history of Title IX and its impact on the sport they love to play.  One thing she is wary of is that Title IX is not linked to NIL.  

Title IX has protected and allowed for the advancement of female athletics, keeping women’s athletics moving forward.

The rules of NIL do not require a business to sponsor the same number of women as they do men.  Sponsorships go to the athletes the businesses choose, which means women’s athletics must market their programs even harder so that companies will want to invest in the name, image, and likeness of a program’s players.

Next Game Up

The next-game-up mentality is what Coach Yo holds to, which means she focuses on only the next game the team will play. Right now, that game is set for November 7th when the Rebels face Kennesaw State in The Sandy and John Black Pavilion.  

When asked if there is a particular rivalry that sparks her competition mode to kick in, Coach Yo replied, “I’ve learned to have an appreciation for the Mississippi State vs. Ole Miss rivalry, and I really get into it.” 

Coach Yo laughs a little as she says, “I rile the MSU fans up; they don’t like me, maybe because I push some buttons. I understand and respect it. I realize it has a history. It’s the oldest rivalry, and I have respect for history and what that looks like.”

Message to fans

If she could send a message to the fan base, Coach Yo would tell Rebel fans the following: 

Everyone wants a winner.  Everyone wants to celebrate. Well, in order to do that, what’s going to be important is fan support.  I think about how much fan support there was in Omaha….If people in Oxford want their women’s basketball program to be successful, we need fan support. We want people to take an interest in our student-athletes, whether it’s from a name, image, likeness standpoint or season tickets.  When we bring recruits, they want to know they are going to come into an environment where they are seen and supported.

Coach Yo’s message to fans

Ole Miss is fortunate to have Coach Yolette McPhee-McCuin leading the women’s basketball program! She is not only driven to win basketball games, but also to improve the lives of all the people she comes into contact with and beyond. 

Coach Yo’s charisma and spark make for exciting times in the world of women’s basketball.  Get ready, Ole Miss fans! This year’s season is less than three months away!

Donna Sprabery

Donna Sprabery

Donna Sprabery is a former teacher, graduation coach, and academic coach for boys basketball. She graduated from the University of West Alabama with a major in business education and from Arkansas State University with a MA in Educational Leadership. A native of Meridian, MS, Donna enjoys traveling, gardening, writing, volunteer work, and cheering on the Rebels.

About The Author

Donna Sprabery

Donna Sprabery is a former teacher, graduation coach, and academic coach for boys basketball. She graduated from the University of West Alabama with a major in business education and from Arkansas State University with a MA in Educational Leadership. A native of Meridian, MS, Donna enjoys traveling, gardening, writing, volunteer work, and cheering on the Rebels.

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