A Coach’s Calling

At first introduction, East Communities youth sports coach James Yancey is a bold presence. Coach Yancey towers over most, standing well over 6 feet and boasts a powerful voice to match. Although his stature introduces himself before he speaks, a single conversation with Coach Yancey reveals that his passion for volunteerism speaks the loudest.

“I started coaching at the Y in 2002,” Coach Yancey said. “The Y’s program is really organized, teaches great character values, and personally speaks to my value of hard work, a positive attitude and respect. I’ve seen those same values every year and I love what I do.”

Coach Yancey credits his drive to volunteer as a youth basketball coach to the experiences he had with his own high school coach during his teenage years in Round Rock, Texas. “I didn’t have any coaches who tried to grow me until ninth grade,” Coach Yancey said. “He drilled our team on hard work, sportsmanship, positive attitude, teamwork, and respect. This was a stepping stone for me. All the things he taught me, I applied those lessons to the real world.”

After high school, Coach Yancey continued his passion for service when he joined the Austin Fire Department in 1980. Even in adulthood, he pulled inspiration and advice from a coach who imprinted upon his life and character development.

“When I started in the fire department, I applied my coach’s practices. I realized I wanted to do even more. I got to East Austin and started coaching kids, and it was then that I realized this was my calling. So many coaches paved the way for me, so when I got the opportunity, I wanted to give back.”

Coach Yancey spends his evenings and weekends volunteering as a coach and mentor to boys and girls at the East Communities YMCA. As a resident of East Austin himself, he recognizes the significance of serving the community around him and believes that he can make a difference in children’s lives who may not have a mentor at home or school.

“Something in my spirit tells me that it’s important to give back to people who are less fortunate than I am,” Coach Yancey said. “I want to develop that same type of spirit in younger people. I try to instill that in my athletes. They might not end up playing professional ball, but they will be good citizens. I feel like I give these kids that foundation.”