MEMPHIS, Tenn. — The first woman to coach a boys’ high school football team said it was an honor to be recognized by the city of Memphis again.
The street in front of Chickasaw Middle School in southwest Memphis is now known as Coach Shirley Yvonne McCray Way.
“My living has not been in vain,” McCray said.
In her 30-year coaching career, she changed countless lives. One of her former players, Mark Lesure, said she deserves this honor not just for what she did for young athletes but what she has done for Memphis.
“This woman has done so much for this community,” Lesure said. “Not just this community, but the churches, any organization she has been apart of. She is walking history.”
McCray said she was just treating the kids with respect- something she feels could go a long way to help slow down some of the violence we are currently seeing in Memphis.
“It hurts me to my heart that we are losing so many of us,” she said. “But when children start shooting and stabbing, somebody is wrong somewhere.’
While she is saddened by what is happening with young people, she believes it can be turned around.
“But this is bad, this is bad and we got to get back to teaching and loving and respecting these children and each other,” McCray said. “Start young.”
Lesure, who is now a retired police officer, he lives in the area where Coach McCray Way is located. He said he has taken some of the lessons she taught him to help improve his neighborhood.
“We are starting a non-profit for this neighborhood to try to get these kids engaged, get them away from gun violence,” Lesure said. “Pick up a book. We fought with our pen and paper, we didn’t fight with fists and guns.”
McCray coached at three different schools in Memphis before retiring. She has now started a GoFundMe page to raise money for her old schools and is hoping others will also give.