Coach Gladys Edwards was born in Morehouse Parish and she played high school basketball at Morehouse High School (formerly known as Morehouse Parish Training School). She enrolled in Grambling College (now Grambling State University) and received her bachelor’s degree. Coach Edwards also received master’s degrees from Southern University and Northeast Louisiana University.
Her first high school coaching job was at Sevier High school in Ferriday, Louisiana. Mr. A.D. Clark was the principal at Sevier High school.
“ I don’t recall what our school overall record was at Sevier, however I do recall that our team made it to the state playoffs and I lost my last game at Sevier when Lincoln High of Ruston beat us in the zone tournament which was held in Rayville, La. in early 1959.
Coach Edwards married Thadeus Edwards following her coaching stint at Sevier. Initially the couple moved to Morehouse Parish where she was a substitute teacher at Morehouse High School and she also coached junior high girls’ basketball.
In 1962 coach Edwards started coaching at Tensas- Rosenwald High School after moving from Morehouse High School. Coach Edwards taught solid fundamental basketball and developed winning teams at Tensas-Rosenwald High School , state basketball titles in 1965, 1966, 1967, and the 1970 seasons. During this time coach Gladys Edwards was chosen Louisiana Coach of the Year Six times.
“I had them believing they could beat the Lakers”, Edwards said of the Tensas Rosenwald team.
“All they had to do was do what I said, and we could get along. I expected them to put their game faces on.”
How long would Tensas Rosenwald High School rule high school girls’ basketball? Fans would never find out because Tensas Parish Schools were integrated in 1970 and Edwards moved to Waterproof High School in nearby Waterproof, La. However, Gladys Edward’s success did not end in St. Joseph.
In her second season coaching Waterproof High School’s girls’ basketball, Edwards guided the Lady Tigers to a “Sweet Sixteen” appearance and returned for another appearance in 1973. She added two more State Championships at Waterproof in 1975 and 1976.
“I really liked Tensas Parish and Waterproof” Edwards said. “I had offers to coach at Grambling, Southern, and Alcorn, but I chose to stay in Tensas Parish. I am a family person and I wanted to stay close to my family.”
As a blacksmith working iron into an applicable tool, coach Gladys Edwards molded her players into squads that dominated in the sixties and seventies. For the molding process she used means and tools outside of the basketball court. “We did a lot of practice on the football field.” Edwards said. “They would pass the ball all the way up the field, and if one of them dropped the ball, they had to sprint back down the field.”
Coach Edwards remembers only having one hour during school to practice basketball. “I let them know that I had only about forty-five to fifty minutes to coach” Edwards said. “I didn’t have any time to waste, so come in with your game face on and be on time. I gave them five minutes to get out of their school clothes and get on the floor. They better be out there.”
While at Waterproof High School, coach Edwards was selected as the 1976 coach for the Northeast Louisiana All Star basketball team. She would later become the first African American female coach to win the LSU All Star Game.
In 1992, coach Gladys Edwards became the first African American female assistant coach at the top 24 Boys Basketball Tournament held at LSU while at Waterproof High School.
As her record shows, her team’s hard work, dedication and discipline paid off. Coach Edwards feels that these qualities and work habits are lacking in some modern-day teams. “I can’t stand an undisciplined team” Edwards said. “I would ask the kids to show me their invitation. You didn’t get an invitation from me. You came here and wanted to play basketball for me.”
After dedicating the majority of her professional life to mentoring young basketball players and teaching not only court skills but life skills, coach Edwards has essential advice for young coaches. “Be friendly, firm, and fair. One thing you are going to have to earn is respect. They are going to have to be disciplined.”
Coach Edwards coached basketball for decades with the same principle that won her six state championships and multiple sweet sixteen appearances: “Give me 100% and you can beat anybody”.
Coach Gladys Edwards’ teams won four LIALO State Championships at Tensas Rosenwald High School in St. Joseph, La. and two LHSAA State Championships at Waterproof High School in Waterproof, La.