Coach Spotlight: Jeri Porter


Photo by: Abigail Lesley

Porter is an avid supporter of and contributor to the FMU women’s basketball program.

With five previous seasons under her belt at FMU, Jeri Porter, head coach of the women’s basketball program at FMU, has embraced her role as a mentor, established roots in Florence and is continuously working toward a national title. However, with her well-established career and ambition for her program, it is surprising that she never planned to become a coach.

Initially, Porter’s dream was a career in professional counseling; basketball was truly a means to an end. Directly after her senior season at Liberty University, she took a graduate assistant coaching position in the women’s basketball program to help finish out her psychology graduate program. Instead of only helping complete the program, this assistant role revealed her true passion as a mentor for young women.

“I fell in love with the job because I fell in love with the role that I had in the lives of those young women,” Porter said. “I think the role gave me the purpose. The role preceded the vocation.”

Once she found her niche, she wholeheartedly embraced it. She is now in her 28th season of coaching and is still enjoying it immensely. Her favorite part about her job is the impact she has in the lives of young women.

“I have seen my role in all the years I have done this as being a mentor, being a leader, just somebody who has the responsibility of helping to mold young women and advise,” Porter said. “If I can be a good coach and a good mentor to help the young women that I have been privileged to work with to get them ready for going out into the real world; I think I have always felt that was my role as a coach.”

With her program specifically, she focuses on building and creating a family dynamic and maintaining relationships within the program itself and the community.

“In terms of the program, it has kind of put us in the place of almost being family-oriented here,” Porter said. “And as much as I hope that people can see it in the people we have here, I hope they see it even more in those young women that have played here for me in the last five or six years that come back and support us.”

However, family does not simply stay within the bounds of her team. This core family reaches out into the Florence community to help develop relationships that contribute to an enormous extended family outside the program.

“Most of the things we do in regard to community service is related to kids,” Porter said. “One of the things I am really big on is kind of paying it forward. If there are kids right now in our community at the moment that can see something in us that can inspire them to be that in a few years as they finish up high school, then we want to start establishing those relationships.”

And she had been determined to establish these relationships. The women’s basketball program has worked with many local kids programs in the Florence community. They have worked with the Florence Boys and Girls Club, the YMCA and several other youth organizations. This work and these values all lead back to one thing Porter always imparts to her own players: the principle of giving back.

“There is a scripture that is so relevant to athletics: ‘To who much is given, much is required,’” Porter said. “And so if you are that person that has been given that talent and who has been afforded an opportunity to go to school and get an education—I think that it’s something you have to be willing to pass on and be present and available to mentor that next kid who might need it.”

She works to shape her own players and program into a grateful and generous one. With their natural talents and hard work, they were able to reach a place that most can only dream of, and she wants them to acknowledge that fact and help others to do the same.

“We try to step back from seeing it as a right and try to see it more as a privilege,” Porter said.

As the matriarch of this family, Porter’s goal is to keep all her players and the program on the same page. She understands that the life of a student athlete is a difficult one—she was one herself, after all—so she does her best to keep them motivated and inspired.

“I think in our very purest form as coaches, we are all motivational speakers,” Porter said. “I always ask myself: ‘How can I take this thing that we do every day that demands their time and their attention—how can I inspire them to want to do a little bit better, be a little bit better?’”

Porter works every day to stay impactful on her players and the program. She expects much from them, and she has personal goals, as well. She is consistently building, block-by-block, toward a national championship.

“Everyone who I have recruited and brought into the program since I walked through the doors in 2016, I have told unashamedly: ‘I want to win a national championship,’” Porter said.

With these goals in place, the family environment and a humble yet hungry mindset, the women’s basketball program is most certainly moving in a positive, successful direction.