During the National Senior Games one woman towered above the rest, only she wasn’t on the court, she was on sidelines coaching ladies half her size and 3 times her age. Simone Edwards, 6’4”, a.k.a. Jamaican Hurricane of the Seattle Storm 2004 WNBA championship team, coached the NOVA United team and spoke on behalf of the National Senior Women’s Basketball Association.
“Every night I heard my mama crying and praying over me and my 3 brothers. We grew up so dirt poor in Kingston, we couldn’t afford new shoes,” Simone said. “I stuffed paper in my old ones to fill the holes. I swore that if I ever make it outta there, I’d help Mama and the kids back home.”
Simone, who never played basketball in high school, would go on to create the Simone4Children foundation to assist economically disadvantaged children in Seattle and Jamaica.
Spotted at a track meet by a scout, Simone was offered a scholarship to play at Seminole Junior College in Oklahoma. She recounted how bizarre it felt for a black girl to be living in the “land of cowboys and Indians.” One day when she walked out of the gym, she fell to her knees thinking that the world was coming to an end.
“Mama, the Lord done had it now. He’s shooting at us from heaven! I’d never seen hail before.”
Simone left the Wild West and moved to the cornfields at the University of Iowa to play for Vivian Stringer.
“I won Kodak All-American honors, and when I saw the award, I said ‘you gotta to change the name. If Mama see this, she gonna kill me. I’m not American, I am Jamaican!’”
Simone also went onto play overseas in Israel, Italy, Spain, and Hungary.
“I love teaching the game,” said Edwards. “I was given the opportunity to get a scholarship, play basketball and learn from the best coaches in the world. Now, I take the knowledge I gained throughout the years and give back by teaching the game.”
Over our dinner at the National Senior Women’s Basketball Association social, the former assistant coach at George Mason, confided in me, “I love coaching these ladies best. It’s not like coaching young girls that think they know it all. These women never had a chance to play growing up; they want to learn.”
Simone’s link to NOVA United was through one of the most unassuming connectors of all, Helen White, co-founded NOVA United Senior Women’s Basketball Association a nonprofit organization that promotes senior women’s basketball in Virginia, Maryland, Washington, DC and West Virginia. White was selected as Humana Hero Athlete of the Month last April; however, she prefers to spotlight her teammates. In Cleveland, Helen coached NOVA United’s 70+ team to a third place finish in the AA flight. Her 60+ team won a silver medal in the AA flight. She played in Women’s 60+ Pickleball Singles tournament and earned a silver medal as an unknown underdog and came through the loser’s bracket to meet the #1 seed for the gold.
But for all her athletic accomplishments, White is best known for her selfless promotion of the game and fitness for seniors. For an encore, she completed her master’s degree in sports management with emphasis on senior sports and fitness at George Washington University before her sixtieth birthday. And now White will also be remembered for connecting the Jamaican Hurricane – the NOVA United ladies self-proclaimed worst nightmare and biggest fan – to the NOVA United Team.