July 18, 2007
NORMAN, Okla. -- The Mission Statement of the University of Oklahoma Athletics Department includes the well known credo, "Inspiring champions today and preparing leaders for tomorrow."
When your team racks up 21 straight semesters with a cumulative team GPA of 3.0 or better, you are certainly preparing your student athletes for life away from the court.
That has been the case under OU women's basketball head coach Sherri Coale during her 11-year tenure. The former English teacher, with continual assistance from OU's award winning academic services department, has always emphasized the books on the same level as the basketballs.
"One of my favorite parts of gameday is seeing our former players," said Coale. "I love to share our success with them and feel their excitement for our program.
"But that pales in comparison to the pride I have in their personal successes. We have so many former players who are doing tremendous things in the community and too many times their public story ends on the sports page when they leave the basketball arena. These ladies should be celebrated for the first class ambassadors of this institution and state that they have become."
With those success stories in mind, SoonerSports.com is beginning a summer feature series that will bring to light the professional ventures of several former Sooner stars:
Phylesha Whaley came to Oklahoma in 1996 as Sherri Coale's first collegiate recruit. Whaley became the most prolific scorer in Sooner history and is credited by Coale as a vital piece in the program's success since 2000, a span in which OU has won five Big 12 regular season and four Big 12 tournament titles.
Whaley ended her career at OU in 2000 with an impressive list of accomplishments and a degree in sociology. After graduation she decided to give coaching a shot, heading to her home state to take an assistant coaching job at the University of Texas at San Antonio.
After two years at UTSA, Whaley decided to see a new side of the game and took a job as the Director of Basketball Operations at Oklahoma State University.
She only wore orange for a year before going back to coaching, taking an assistant position at New Mexico State. After a year at NMSU, Whaley came to the conclusion that coaching was not her calling.
"When I first graduated I didn't think I would make coaching a career," said Whaley. "But I knew I wanted to give it a try."
After her run as a coach, Whaley came back to the University of Oklahoma and began the path towards a nursing degree.
Fourteen months later Whaley had her bachelor's in nursing and was a registered nurse.
"I love nursing," said Whaley. "I would not change what I am doing for anything."
Shortly following her graduation from nursing school Whaley joined the United States military and began serving a three-year stint as a nurse.
"I had thought about joining the Army after high school, but then I played ball instead," said Whaley. "It is not something I plan to do for 20 years, but I am enjoying it now and what better way to give back to our country?"
Whaley is currently stationed in Augusta, Ga., and working at the Dwight D. Eisenhower Medical Center. For now, her plans are to stay in Georgia; however the chance of deployment is always present.
"I would be scared if I was deployed," said Whaley. "I won't lie about that. But it would also be a great feeling to be able to go over there and take care of the soldiers that have worked so hard. If I could help bring another soldier home safely it would feel good."
Whaley's time in the army will end in September 2009. From there, she is unsure of where her nursing career will take her, but one thing is sure, she will continue to care for people.
Other WATN Features...
WATN-Dionnah JacksonWATN-Shannon SelmonWATN-Caton Hill WATN-Stephanie SimonWATN-Elissa Walker-CampbellWATN-Michele Workman