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#TGW: Hard Corps

Sept. 2, 2014

By Jon Cooper
The Good Word

Deja Foster personified toughness and dedication in her four years as a player for Georgia Tech women’s basketball. In that time, she showed she’d go to any lengths to help the Yellow Jackets and her teammates succeed.

That’s still the case, only now it’s as an assistant coach for MaChelle Joseph. To that end, Foster went to Parris Island in South Carolina last Wednesday, Thursday and Friday to take part in the inaugural WBCA (Women’s Basketball Coaches Association) Assistant Coaches Leadership Workshop.

“Basically they teach us about leadership, leading a team and then grooming leaders within a team,” said Foster. “We learn about the principles of the Marine Corps, how they take their recruits and teach them to go from civilians to marines and to try to incorporate that into your program.”

Don’t let your imagination run wild with visions of Full Metal Jacket or other movie portrayals of Marine Corps training. There were drill sergeants and physical demands asked of the group of more than 30 coaches, mostly from around the Southeast, who showed up at Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island every morning at 5:30 a.m., but everything was done within the framework of character-building and with a specific purpose.

“One of the drill sergeants made us line up like we’re recruits and kind of gave us the same type of deal they would have given people who would come to enlist in the Marine Corps,” Foster said. “We did a couple of obstacle courses in a team environment. You had a leader, and you had to figure out a plan and if that plan didn’t work, obviously, you had to adjust under pressure in order to succeed in combat.”

Foster found common ground in the way Marine Corps officers interacted with recruits and how she and other coaches might with their players, even when that meant occasional stern treatment.

“He said, ‘That’s how we have to be. We have to correct the things that they’re doing wrong so they don’t think it’s okay,'” she said. “I understand if I’m like that as a coach as well. It’s pretty interesting in that there are a lot of parallels between athletics and the Marine Corps.

“Basically everything that they’re saying, I’m like, `Yeah, that’s true,'” she added. “`It’s about we, not me. If the recruit next to me fails then I fail because we’re all together in it.’ It’s the same thing on the court. If I’m not pulling my weight, if I don’t show up one night that means that someone has to pull down more rebounds. It’s the same thing on our coaching staff. If I’m not pulling my weight and whatever my responsibilities are, someone on the staff suffers and has to work that much harder to cover up my slack.”

Foster said there was a reason a lot of the principles rang so true to her during the seminar. She’d heard them before at Georgia Tech.

“A lot of the same parallels that I’ve learned and things that Coach Jo instilled in me are the same values they instill in the Marine Corps,” she said. “They lead by example, courage, never lie, steal, cheat, those types of things. I think a big part of it is realizing that it’s universal.

“It’s a culture, where you set a standard of excellence. There is no option to fail here,” she added. “You’re going to be better, 10 times better than you were when you got here. Just trying to correlate the way of the Marine Corps. They fight for our country. They give their lives. They’re pretty inspirational people.”

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