"Every Challenge Teaches You Something New About Yourself": An Interview With New Heathwood Basketball Coach Brionna Dickerson Zimmerman

Thursday, April 16, 2020

Heathwood alumna Brionna Dickerson Zimmerman, '05, returns to the Athletic Center this year as Head Women's Basketball Coach after a standout career at the University of South Carolina and several years of coaching AAU ball. In addition to being Heathwood's all-time points leader during her years as a Highlander, Brionna is already a familiar face on campus thanks to her current role as Heathwood's Events Coordinator and Development Associate.

We asked Brionna to share her coaching philosophy, her proudest moment as a player, and what it was like to play at Carolina for current National Coach of the Year Dawn Staley. Here she also explains why she's currently glued to her TV whenever The Voice is on, and why you may sometimes here her refered to on campus as "Coach Mom."


--As a former Heathwood player, what excited you most about coming back to the program as a coach? 

It's exciting for me to be able to come back where it all started. Not only that, but I'm most excited about the chance for my son to see me coach. My family is a basketball family, obviously with a son named after Kobe Bryant and daughters named after Michael Jordan and Skylar Diggins, so the game has always been in my blood. I am grateful for him to see me in my element as a coach. He's even asked if he should call me Coach Mom :)


--What's your favorite thing about coaching? 

My favorite thing about coaching is being able to inspire young people. Being an athlete has a different meaning for everyone who plays a sport, and my goal is always to inspire my team to step outside of their comfort zone and unlock the person inside of them that they didn't know was there. Basketball brings out so many wonderful characteristics in a person...character, drive, competitiveness... and these are all things that you can't teach. It lies in all of us, it just takes the right inspiration to make it come out.


--How would you describe your coaching philosophy? 

My coaching philosophy is based on three key areas that can lead to success...commitment, communication and coachability. These three things will help me build an "All In" mentally. A big part of that is being relatable to my team and having the perspective of someone who has been in their shoes as a former Heathwood basketball player. At the end of the season, I want them all to be able to look back and see growth in themselves as an athlete and as a person.


--You played in college for this year's national Coach of the Year, Dawn Staley. What have you learned from her that you'll carry into your role at Heathwood? 

Coach Staley has been one of my role models since watching her play for the Charlotte Sting in the WNBA. Since the day she stepped on campus her advice to me has always been to never back down and to never shy away from a challenge. She said things may not always go in your favor but every challenge teaches you something new about yourself. That is something that I have always kept with me into adulthood, motherhood, and coaching. 


--What was your proudest moment as a Heathwood player? 

My proudest moment as a player was getting to make the first shot in the Athletic Center when it opened. It was completed my Senior year, and I was injured in an away scrimmage right before our first home game. It was definitely an emotional experience. Now I get a chance to coach in a building that I didn't actually get to play in so things have seemed to come full circle.


--What have you enjoyed most about your role as Heathwood's Event Coordinator and Development Associate? 

I have enjoyed getting an opportunity to work with all the different constituencies at Heathwood, including alumni, parents and grandparents. My role allows me to help coordinate events for them by learning what they love to do and love about Heathwood and incorporating that knowledge into making our events more successful. I'd have to say that my favorite event by far is the auction, and although we weren't able to physically gather this year, our community still made our fundraising efforts a great success!


--What advice do you have for students who want to play basketball for Heathwood next year but are limited in what training they can do right now because of social distancing? 

Although being in the gym is out of our control right now, there are still ways to prepare your body and mind for next season. Ball handling, passing and agility drills don't require having a basketball goal at home and this is a great time to work on maintaining your strengths and improving your weaknesses.


--What's one thing about you that we might be surprised to know? 

I had my cousin sing at my wedding because he is an amazing vocalist. He is currently on NBC's The Voice and has made it 3 rounds already. His name is Camm Wess, and he was on Team John Legend. It has been a really cool experience supporting him and voting on Monday nights to help him win the competition!

You can read more about Coach Zimmerman and her new role in Heathwood Athletics here.