Brittany Willis and Her Impact on the Girls’ Basketball Team

Brittany+Willis+and+Her+Impact+on+the+Girls+Basketball+Team

For the 2020 season, the girls basketball program had a new head coach. It was also the first time the players had ever played in an environment threatened by Covid-19. Brittany Willis interviewed for the job when Covid first hit in early 2020. Once she got the job, her goal was clear: to change the face of Clayton girls basketball. 

“Coming in I knew one of the things that they wanted me to do was change the culture and become a competitive program at all levels. Yet also making it an environment where it’s a community and family type environment where girls can grow on and off the basketball court. That was the most important thing to me. It’s more than basketball at the end of the day you know,” Head Coach Brittany Willis said. 

Since her very first game as head coach against Parkway South in 2020, it’s clear that she’s achieved that goal. 

“Working with Coach Willis has been a lot of fun. She has brought a lot of energy and fresh ideas to the program and a new style of playing. She really likes to focus on defense and I’ve always felt strongly that if you have a good defensive game you will end up winning,” Girls Varsity Assistant Coach Susan Murray said. 

Willis has been devoted to the game of basketball all her life. All four years of her high school career, she was a starter on the varsity team at Parkway South. In her last three years at McKendree University, she played point guard as a starter. Over these 8 years, the impact that her coaches had on her inspired her to be the person that she is today.

“It’s scary sometimes when I catch myself saying things that my high school or college coach used to say to me. They motivated me to become a better player individually and a better teammate as well. They really impacted me a lot. I loved how they made me love the game more, talked about putting in the time, taking risks, and not being afraid of a challenge,” Willis said. 

What and who inspired Willis to become a coach?

“Both of my coaches in high school and college definitely inspired me to be where I am today. I never envision myself being a head coach or coaching basketball period,” said Willis on how she got into coaching basketball.

The journey to becoming a coach for Willis began when her college coach suggested she become a student assistant. At this point, she started coaching middle school basketball and fell in love with the concept of coaching. At 25 years old, she started teaching at Ladue Middle School and then a couple of years later became the JV head coach at Ursuline Academy.

With Clayton, I interviewed just prior to the pandemic and was looking for another opportunity. I applied for it, I went through the process and I’m very happy to be here.”

— Brittany Willis

“Ladue did offer me the head girls’ varsity basketball coaching job my first year of teaching, however I wasn’t ready to become a head coach at 25. Once I got into the flow of teaching, I wanted to get back into high school basketball and that’s how I ended up at Ursuline. With Clayton, I interviewed just prior to the pandemic and was looking for another opportunity. I applied for it, I went through the process and I’m very happy to be here,” said Willis. 

Currently, Willis still teaches at Ladue Middle School AND coaches at Clayton, which is ironic since the two schools are rivals. In 2021, the most important game of the season for the Girls’ Basketball team, Clayton vs Ladue, was canceled. After it was originally canceled due to COVID, it was rescheduled, but was yet again canceled due to a snowstorm. For most players, this was their first time playing Ladue. Not only that but it was Willis’ first time playing against the school district she teaches at. 

Clayton took the win 60-39.

While she teaches at two rival schools, Willis sees it as something she is grateful for.

“I feel like I have the best of both worlds being able to work in the top two districts in the St. Louis area. My colleagues give me a hard time from time to time. I do wear my Clayton gear at work on game days,” Willis said. 

Basketball is my getaway, it’s the one thing that keeps me going.”

— Brittany Willis

All in all, it’s clear that Brittany Willis has already transformed the game of basketball for many girls in the program during her short time here.

“Basketball is my getaway, it’s the one thing that keeps me going. I had a good experience playing growing up and that’s something that I want to give to my players coming through this program. That’s the most important thing to me,” Willis said.