My Story- Sheryl Estes
I am Sheryl Estes, and I was the head coach for the Wayland Baptist University Hutcherson Flying Queens from 1989 to 1996.
I grew up in Mobeetie, a tiny town in the Texas Panhandle. We had a population of about 300, and our school had an enrollment of around 100 students from K-12.
I am the second of four children.
My Dad worked for the Santa Fe, now BNSF, railroad and drove 90 miles to Amarillo to catch the train because my parents wanted to raise their kids in a small town. We lived on a small farm and raised all kinds of animals. We had chickens, guineas, peacocks, sheep, goats, pigs, cattle, and my personal favorite, horses. We had a big garden and an orchard. We always had a lot of chores to do, and I quickly found out the value of hard work.
We participated in all kinds of activities. I showed animals, rode dirt bikes, and barrel raced.
Both my parents played basketball, and I played my first game in the third grade. When we were kids, we always wanted to go to the gym. The coach finally gave my Dad a key. In high school, I played basketball, tennis, and ran track. Our track was a dirt road that went around the baseball field and you had to run around once and then another 100 meters for the 400.
I decided in seventh grade that I wanted to be a coach.
I saw my first college game at the NWIT in Amarillo when I was a junior. I saw the Flying Queens play and that was where I wanted to play. I was recruited by several junior colleges, but I wanted to go to a university. I was invited to a tryout at Wayland, but I was only good enough to be a Queen Bee. I decided to walk on at Texas Tech because that’s where I’d to go to school. I didn’t make the team, so I walked off, but since I was already at Tech, I decided to run track. I ran the 1500M, 3000M, and 5000M outdoors and set a school record for the indoor 1000M. Coach Jarvis Scott offered me a scholarship for the following year.
I missed basketball and decided to transfer to West Texas State (now A & M). I was fortunate that Coach Bob Schneider had just taken the job. I found out very quickly that I knew very little about basketball, and Coach Schneider taught me everything. It was the start of my coaching education. I had a great experience at West Texas and was fortunate to play on a team that was very close. Many of my friends today were my college teammates.
My first coaching job was as an assistant at Canyon High School for Danny Dawson when I graduated from West Texas. The next year Joe Lombard became the head coach at Canyon, and I was lucky to stay as his assistant for the next three years. I learned so much about coaching from Coach Lombard, who is now in every Basketball Hall of Fame!
I was ready for a head coaching job after four years as an assistant, and I moved to South Texas to coach at Class AA Industrial High School. I coached basketball, track, cross country, and volleyball. Our cross-country team finished third at the state meet, and our basketball team got beat in the regional finals.
While working at Coach Bob Schneider’s camp the next summer, I found out that Wayland Baptist was looking for a young, up and coming coach to lead their program. Coach Schneider, Dean Weese (former Flying Queens’ coach), and Joe Lombard were all at the camp and Wayland called to get recommendations. They, along with former Queens’ coach, Cathy Wilson, all recommended me for the job. I was shocked and very grateful. My interview was while I was at camp and I had to buy an outfit to meet with the 12-member search committee and athletic director, Dr. Sylvia Nadler. I remember thinking before I went into the interview that I had nothing to lose. I decided that I would be confident, and my interview would not be the reason I didn’t get the job. To my surprise, I got the job! I had been a head coach for one year, had no recruiting experience, and was 28 years old. I had dreamed of playing for the Flying Queens, and I now had the opportunity to be the coach.
I immediately went to work, and I still don’t remember how I moved from South Texas to Plainview. I lived on campus in one of the dormitories, Owen Hall, for the first month. I had to learn a lot that first year, and I was lucky enough to work with Rick Cooper, the men’s coach, who helped me along the way.
One of my goals was to create a culture where the team cared about each other like family and had quality of character. We also wanted to bring back the traditions of the Flying Queens. We lived by the Flying Queen’s Creed, the freshmen went through initiation, and we learned the traditional Flying Queen’s warmup with the ball-handling tricks. We were so fortunate to have the support of the Hutcherson Family. Mike and Suzy Hutcherson continued to fly our team on three private planes to our away games. Marsha Hutcherson George supported the Queen’s Court, our booster club, and sold t-shirts and souvenirs at our home games. Harley and Wilda Redin were at every game and supported us in so many ways.
I coached the Flying Queens from 1989-96. We competed in the NAIA and played in the National Championship Tournament in Jackson, TN for six years. We played in the National Championship game, losing to Arkansas Tech in 1991-92.
The community of Plainview supported our program. One of my favorite memories at Wayland was the Queen’s Classic. This tournament featured the best eight NAIA teams in the nation along with the best eight high school teams in the area (usually the state) and was played over the Thanksgiving holiday. The Plainview Chamber of Commerce organized and hosted the tournament. We always had the best of competition and incredible crowds.
My assistant coaches at Wayland were a huge part of our success. I hired young coaches that were willing to work all of the time. They were all excellent recruiters and took good care of the players. Jill Willson, LaDale McCallister, and Dana Ewing were loyal and truly cared about the program. I am lucky to still have them as friends.
The players that I coached at Wayland were not only talented players but also quality individuals and top-notch students. I am very proud of our 100 percent graduation rate but even more proud of their accomplishments in their careers and lives. We had eight NAIA All-Americans, six Kodak All-Americans and 11 NAIA Scholar-Athletes. From my teams, we now have five in the Wayland Baptist Hall of Honor.
My final two years at Wayland, I served as the NAIA president. As such, I was on the USA Basketball Selection Committee. This was an incredible experience for me as we selected all of the USA teams, including the 1996 Olympic Team. During this process, we evaluated the best players in the United States. I learned a lot from the experienced coaches on the committee as well as Carol Callan with USA Basketball and Tara VanDerveer, the Olympic coach. The National team went 52-0 and the 1996 Olympic team won the gold medal in Atlanta.
At the Final Four in 1996, the American Basketball League announced plans to launch professional women’s basketball in the United States. Because of my experience with USA basketball and my success at Wayland Baptist, I was hired by the Colorado Xplosion as the head coach. They hosted an open tryout in Atlanta and over 500 women showed up. It was an interesting time as we would watch the players all day then late into the night, we held meetings and literally made a plan, and rules, for the league.
Seven of the 1996 Olympic team signed with the ABL and four players held out for the WNBA, whose season would start the following summer. Olympians were placed on teams that were in the geographic area where they played college basketball. Our team was supposed have Sheryl Swoopes, but she opted for the WNBA. The ABL was an eight-team league the first season. We were one of the teams without an Olympian. We drafted several unknown players, such as Debbie Black, who had been playing in Australia for eight years. We also drafted Crystal Robinson, from NAIA Southeastern Oklahoma, who scored 43 points on my Wayland Baptist team in the NAIA tournament. We were picked last in the Western Conference our first season. We started out 3-8 and completely turned it around with a 12- game winning streak and won the Western Conference. Our second season, we made it to the Western Conference playoffs.
Coaching at the professional level was very rewarding. Not only was the talent and skill level high but the dedication and work ethic was amazing. We had many outstanding players that went on to have tremendous careers in the WNBA after the ABL folded. Many of them are successful coaches at the college level and professional level. I was very fortunate to have an outstanding coaching staff with Dana Ewing and Gail Hook. The talent level in the ABL overall was unbelievable. We had a grueling 40-game travel schedule, and the games were competitive every night. The key to winning was the ability to perform under pressure in the final minutes of the game. We had tremendous fans in Colorado and across the league. Debbie Black, a 5’3” dynamo, recorded the first ever quadruple double by a woman. I have many fond memories of my time in Colorado and I still enjoy the friendships with my assistants, coaches in the league, and many of the players.
My next coaching stop was as head coach at Texas A & M University – Corpus Christi. This was a unique situation. The university was beginning a Division I athletic department in 1998. The university had changed names many times and had sports previously in the 1960’s. The first year, we chose a mascot, designed a logo, built locker rooms, developed a fan base, made a schedule without a conference, and recruited an entire team. It was a whirlwind but a lot of fun. We had to convince players to take a chance on a program that had never played a game. We sold over 1000 season tickets for our first season, sight unseen. The following year, 1999-2000, we competed for the first time with 11 freshmen and 3 transfers. We played a 28-game season against all Division I opponents and had a winning season. We were very blessed to have players that believed in our program and played together. My assistants were instrumental in recruiting the team and training young players to compete. Dana Ewing and Brent Palmer did an outstanding job for the next three seasons. We had a winning season every year. The community of Corpus Christi embraced our team. Even though we played in a cold ice hockey arena, we had good crowds and supportive fans.
We hoped to be in a conference in two years, but it actually took eight years. After four years, I knew that I was ready to start a new chapter in my life and decided to walk away from coaching. One of the hardest things I’ve ever had to do was make the decision to leave the Islander players, particularly the seniors that came as freshman to start the program. I stayed connected to the game and Iscouted opponents for the WNBA for several years. I also continued to have my basketball camps.
When I moved to Corpus Christi, I bought a house on the water on North Padre Island. I love the water and the beach and wanted to stay on the Island. I have always been interested in business and have an entrepreneurial streak, so I decided to try something new. My assistant, Dana Ewing, and I had already started investing in real estate while we were coaching. We got serious about it and started flipping houses for profit and remodeled rental properties. We bought and sold about 35 houses over the next six years. I still have a few rentals on Padre Island and Corpus Christi.
Since coaching, I have tried many endeavors. I always loved riding dirt bikes as a kid and when I got out of coaching, I decided to buy a Harley. The owner of the Harley Davidson dealership recruited me to teach the motorcycle training class that they offered. I really enjoyed this as it combined my love of motorcycles and my passion for teaching. There was a shortage of classes available for new riders, and I saw the need for another training company. I started Coastal Cycle Academy in 2007 and just sold the company in 2020.
When deregulation of electricity began, I was involved in a multilevel marketing company, Ignite. I developed teams in Texas, Pennsylvania, and New York. I became a Senior Director and loved motivating people and speaking at meetings.
In 2013, I was in Midland, Texas, on business when I connected with a friend from Texas Tech, Jane’t Howey. We started talking about business, and the conversation went to shipping containers. We both had been researching and had a mutual interest in recycling and converting shipping containers. We decided to start a company and build shipping containers to be used for tailgating, and boxLIFE was born. Our first project was at Texas Tech where we leased five tailgating boxes during the football season. Since then, our company has done many varied projects with shipping containers including oil field housing, tiny houses, backyard offices, and food trailers. Our main focus has been marketing activations with brands at music festivals, sporting events, conventions, and food & wine festivals. We have been to the Super Bowl with Jameson Irish Whiskey and we had over 40 events one summer with Barefoot Wine. We also build boxSUITES for sports stadiums at universities and professional stadiums. Our business is located in Austin, Texas, and we are still going strong today.
When I look back at my life, I see God leading me from one opportunity to another. I was fortunate to come into contact with so many incredible people that have had a profound influence on my life. I see how having the chance to coach at Wayland Baptist University shaped my coaching career and how that experience has impacted my life. I have been truly blessed, and I am anxious to see what the future holds. I am honored to serve presently on the Hutcherson Flying Queens Foundation Board to ensure others have the same opportunities that I have had.
Long live the Queens!
Note: Sheryl Estes’ record at Wayland was 183-62 (.747). During her tenure, the Flying Queens advanced to the NAIA playoff every year, including the NAIA National Championship Finals in 1992.
Editor’s note: Anyone wishing to write Sheryl may request her contact information from email@example.com.
Flying Queens Coach 1989-1996
Flying Queens Forever!