Saint Mary’s basketball coach Danielle Mauldin reflects on transitioning from a Saint Mary’s student athlete to a Saint Mary’s coach, and the lessons she hopes her athletes learn about growth, and commitment.
By Mark Molz
Former stand-out Saint Mary’s basketball star Danielle Mauldin has just finished another year of coaching at the same place she graduated from back in 2014. Mauldin is wrapping up her third year as an assistant coach for the Women’s basketball team, and during her time here she has used her platform to not only address on-the-court issues, but issues off-the-court as well regarding social justice.
Mauldin was born in Vallejo, California, before moving to Benicia, and living all over the Bay Area in her early life. Prior to becoming a coach for her alma mater Mauldin found herself coaching at Diablo Valley Community College a few miles up the road, and up north at Eastern Washington University for a season.
Mauldin has been around basketball since the age of seven and has continued to find passion in the game today. Mauldin attended Saint Mary’s College High School right up the road in Berkeley, and when it was time to choose where she wanted to play next she looked right up the road to Saint Mary’s. Saint Mary’s followed Mauldin during her high school years and since it was close to home it made it an easier decision when deciding where she would attend.
“I wanted my parents to be able to attend a lot of my games and not have to travel all the time to see me play,” Mauldin stated. “Being close to home made it feel like an easier transition.”
In high school Mauldin knew she had a knack for finding the ball, rebounding, and knew Saint Mary’s College had a system she could thrive in. Once arriving on campus in her freshman year, Mauldin would spend her next four collegiate years becoming one of the best players in Gaels history. Mauldin would graduate Saint Mary’s as the best rebounder in WCC history with 1,282 boards, and holds the record for most rebounds in a season with 427. She also holds the record for most free-throws made and attempted in Saint Mary’s history, along with having played the second most games ever with 131.
“I had a good support system around me and I liked how I was offered the opportunity to be able to play a lot of minutes, starting out freshman year.” Mauldin continued, “that helped boost my confidence a little bit, having supportive teammates, to help me be successful really was key.”
Along with being able to play early minutes as an incoming freshman, Mauldin also credits her success to her teammates and support system that surrounded her throughout the years. Having the support from her family, friends, and teammates around her by staying in the bay was key in helping her become a better player overall.
When reflecting on her time as a student, one her favorite memories are the relationships she was able to build on and off the court. Outside of basketball Mauldin was able to get involved in organizations like the Black Student Union here on campus and valued the relationships she was able to build with fellow students. Being able to connect off the court helped her find an identity outside of basketball.
“Giving me that outlet to express myself enriched my experience completely,” Mauldin stated. “And like I said, that's how I was able to meet more people and who I have connections with to this day. You never know when you are going to call somebody or need somebody in the future, so building those connections during that period of time was so awesome.”
After graduating Mauldin wasn’t entirely sure that she wanted to be a coach, or at least so soon after her playing career was over. But, after hearing stories about student-athletes, traumatic experiences regarding mental health, and their athletic experiences throughout college she began to give it more thought.
When reflecting on her decision to coach Mauldin stated, “I want to enhance or make somebody else's experience so much better.” She continued, “so when they reflect back on their years of being coached or being in a space like that, they reflect on those years with the utmost admiration.”
As most student-athletes probably feel, practice is a love-hate relationship. As a player Mauldin always loved the games, but as she has transitioned into coaching her appreciation for the practice has only grown. Being able to see the process and her players grow over the course of a season is something she has grown fond of and is one of her favorite parts of her coaching experience.
“I'd say my favorite thing now is just getting able to work with student athletes on the court and in practice,” Mauldin stated. “I love development, I'd say that's the thing that I've grown to love so much more.”
On top of being able to watch her players develop, Mauldin enjoys being able to build relationships with her players even after she is no longer their coach. Stating that she keeps in touch with a handful of her past players she has been able to coach over the years.
Within the team environment Mauldin also likes to generate conversation away from basketball and focus societal issues regarding race, gender, and social justice. When asked if she has been able to attend Saint Mary’s 44-days event on campus she said she has been unable to due to the time commitment of the basketball season. But, she mentioned she has been leading her team through a nine-month diversity conversation, where each month she invites her team to sit-down and discuss topics of race and gender, giving them an outlet to speak on these issues.
“I know student athletes and just college students in general have so much to say.” Mauldin continued, “it's been nice to hold those means to hear people's voices and what they think and their ideas about certain topics. So that has been awesome.”
Whether the conversations are through presentations from different players that highlight historical black figures in society or just group conversations, Mauldin believes it is important to give her players an opportunity to reflect on the world around them because they don’t always get the opportunity to do so. Mauldin noted that engaging in difficult conversations about social justice in an environment like this is important to bring awareness to all individuals and can enact change now and in the future.
“I think it's so vital, it's important to continue to at least check in or do something once a month regarding this stuff,” Mauldin stated. “Because that's what's going to enact change in the future when you go out into those workspaces and you are aware, I think it's the awareness i’m trying to build in each of us and even myself, like awareness of my biases and my things and my stuff.”
On top of these conversations Mauldin has acknowledged that she has been the only Black woman on her coaching staff more than once which can be difficult to navigate at times. Being the only Women on Color on her coaching staff she notes it can be challenging to not feel alone during certain moments in time. But, along with two other coaches in the country, Mauldin has created a group for coaches to meet and share their experiences, titled Young Coaches of Color.
Mauldin started Young Coaches of Color to create a community of resources for individuals to support one another and build connections with coaches in similar institutions and situations as her. Through her group Mauldin looks to create an environment for coaches to talk with one another and help them feel less alone wherever they may be.
“I definitely see diversity just in general, and especially in the coaching world of NCAA athletics could be a lot better.” Mauldin continued, “I feel like just knowing or seeing that you have somebody who looks like you around just offers a level of comfort in knowing that you can go out and carry out your job.”
Outside of her career and proactive steps into creating a more inclusive environment here at Saint Mary’s and other schools as well, Mauldin hopes to continue to serve in her future, whether that be coaching or not. She hopes she will be able to inspire others, help them grow, and achieve their goals.
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