I’m Sherry Stark Braden and I played for the Flying Queens from 1969-1973. I grew up in the tiny town of Quitaque, Texas. From 4th grade on, all I did was play basketball. My dad put up a basketball goal in our driveway and the whole neighborhood played every single day! My family was so supportive. They never missed a game for the 10 years from junior high through college, with the exception of the away college games that were played all over the country.
My dad was my first coach. He studied a book, Basketball for Girls, and underlined all the important things. I still have and treasure that book because he used it to be sure I knew the right way to do everything. Every day when he got off work, I was waiting for him in the driveway. He taught me form and technique and, thanks to his dedication, I was the only 7th grader who could shoot a jump shot.
In my family, it was understood that my 2 younger brothers and I would go to college. But I didn’t want just any college. I wanted to go to Wayland to play basketball. My mother aspired for me to go to Texas Tech and be a sorority girl, but after Coach Redin offered me a scholarship, and Mother saw how very much I wanted to play basketball, she fully embraced my decision. Being offered a scholarship to play for the Queens was a dream come true!!!
My first few weeks at Wayland were not too dreamlike. We had to wear SKIRTS in the dorm lobby and even over our workout clothes on the way to the gym!!! I thought that was really dumb, but just went by the rules. No biggie. At Wayland, freshmen had to wear beanies. For initiation, we had to be “slaves” of the upperclassmen. We had to get them seconds in the cafeteria and go through other “fun” things like sitting on an upright coat hanger, doing exercises until we dropped, and answering the question “How low is a freshman?” There were various answers, but the one I remember is, “So low you could crawl under a rug without messing up your hair!”
Then there was the Flying Queens’ initiation and it was intense!!! Once we were blindfolded and taken way out into the country after dark. We were told that we had to be back to our dorm by a certain time or we would have to do slave chores forever. They had previously taken all of our watches and changed the time forward about an hour. We didn’t realize this so we ran and ran for miles trying to meet the deadline. The only way we knew the direction to return to town was because we could see the lights. Then we had to find the college and make it to the dorm. Only then did we realize the prank they had pulled on us. Looking back, I think the initiation was good for me/us but at the time the Queens seemed so intimidating!!
I had many memorable moments as a Flying Queen and I learned a lot from being part of the team. I learned that one didn’t need to log a lot of playing time to be a pivotal part of a winning team. I had been offered a starting position at a rival college, but preferred to predominately sit on the bench of a national championship team than to start for a loser! I practiced hard each day for 4 years to push the starters to win championships! We won the AAU National Championship twice and narrowly missed winning a third. I also learned that a great coach does not have to yell and scream and be up and seen in order to be a winner. During my 4 years as a Queen I only remember Harley Redin getting mad once. We were playing the Piperettes in Raytown, MO and their coach, Alberta Cox “owned the referees.” The refs called everything imaginable on us in the last few minutes to give them the game. I could tell Coach Redin was about to split a seam, but all he did was stand up and say loudly “Oh, Alberta!” This was Coach Redin furious. I learned that only genuine hard work leads to success and mostly that you get out of something only what you put into it! If I could interact with the current Queens,’ I’d tell them the things I learned and I would also just laugh and share what fun it was to play for a somewhat-famous team. I’d tell them how it was a bit embarrassing to do our tricks to the tune of “Sweet Georgia Brown.” We were the Lady Globetrotters and got a lot of mileage and publicity from the impressive basketball handling drills we had to show off before every game! I’d also reminisce about how much fun it was to be the national powerhouse on the cutting edge of women’s basketball!
Some interesting memories of Wayland in general include: We were required to go to chapel but we got a few free cuts. I used one of mine and went to the Spudnut Shop where I ran smack dab into the Dean of Students; At the end of my first year, they did away with the dress code, and the whole school went crazy wearing peace signs and cut-off jean shorts; We had a woman in my graduating class who was over eighty years old. I didn’t know her, but I admired her because she was finally able to accomplish her dream; Wayland’s president, Dr. Roy McClung, asked to me to be on a panel discussion during Homecoming Chapel. I was so nervous I didn’t know what I was doing. However, another student on the panel was more nervous than I……….we have now been married for 45 years!! My husband Rick and I also had another thing in common—basketball. I’m one of a few Queens to have married a Pioneer. He never lets me forget that while I was flying to all of my games, they had to cram their 6’8” selves into the Blue Goose van and drive.
Wayland was a good choice for me in ways other than basketball. I grew in my Christian walk by observing other students’ behaviors and habits; I made life-long friends, with wonderful, committed, Christian people, with whom, after almost 45 years, I still keep in touch; The education I received was superior, and has served me well in my career. I received so much special attention from the professors, because our classes were small. I grew as a freethinker as professors challenged my thinking and demanded my very best; I experienced first-hand the hard work and dedication that it took to be a winner both in the classroom and on the court. I am a much better person because of Wayland and that comes out every day of my life.
After Wayland, I was a Laboratory Technologist at our local hospital. Then when I entered the empty nest phase after being a stay-at-home mom, I became a
Professional Photographer specializing in Fine Art Landscape Photography. I am just entering my 20th year and I consider my photography and art my avid hobby as well as my profession. My other passion is travel. I have been with my husband to Italy, Africa, Europe, Asia and many islands, and my bucket list is still very long!!
Rick and I have 2 lovely grown daughters and 6 grandchildren, 2 very active boys and 4 girls, including one adopted black granddaughter. They are the love of our lives! I have a bedroom set up so I can sleep with all 6 of my delightful grandchildren at the same time………a king size bed with 2 bunk beds. So far, they still all love to sleep with Gram, so I will enjoy it as long as it lasts!! We also have 4 dogs and 2 cats, and 2 of the dogs sleep in our bed. My parents are both deceased. After losing my dad, Mother moved to Nacogdoches to be near us and she and I have been best friends for the last 16 years. Her recent death has been really hard as she was so influential in the person I have become. And I just miss her!
I would love to reconnect with former Queens and supporters. If we were not 500 miles away from Wayland, we would see friends from there more often. However, we have still managed to stay in touch with many, see each other on occasion, and support each other through the tough times of life.
Sherry Stark Braden
Wayland Grad 1973
Flying Queens Forever!