Webster breaking down barriers on the court

Ashley Webster is living her dream and breaking down barriers at the same time,

The 27-year-old Zephyrhills High School coach just wrapped up her first season at the helm of the Bulldogs JV basketball team. Women coaching men’s sports on the professional and collegiate level is expanding greatly, but on the high school level, it is a rarity.

Webster made history at ZHS becoming the first African American woman to ever coach a boys’ sport. Dee Dee Castro was the first woman to coach a boys’ sport when she coached the Bulldogs’ boys’ soccer team from 2009-2013.

Webster’s talented JV squad finished the 2022-23 season with a 7-5 record.

“Some days you leave the gym and wonder if it’s worth the headaches and you think about the path that your making for the girls coming behind me,” said Webster, a 2014 Pasco High grad. “I feel I’m doing something great. I’m trying to change the culture in this area.

“Hopefully young girls see me and think they can coach and give back to the community.”  

Webster initially interviewed for the JV coaching position and was the second choice, but quickly a situation came up and she was handed the reins of the squad. She was fortunate to be coaching under varsity coach Mike Novak and the legendary Alan Reed.

“Coming from coach Reed to welcome me in is a humbling experience,” Webster said of her approval from one of the winningest coaches in Zephyrhills history. “Getting approval from someone of his stature and who he is, is amazing.”

Reed paid Webster flattering comment. “He said, you remind me of a young me.”

“Just knowing coach Reed has faith in me gives me power. Someone who has been around the game like him, and sees something in me. Having a man like that take you under his wing is a humbling experience.”

During Webster’s last three seasons at Pasco, the Pirates went 67-16 overall. The 6’1” center was a force in the paint averaging more than 10 points a game and nearly 10 rebounds.

After graduating, she went on to play at Thomas University in Thomasville Georgia. After college, she returned to Pasco to coach where she met Saint Leo Men’s Basketball coach Lance Randall. The following season, she became an assistant coach under Randall.

“I was flabbergasted when he called and asked me to coach with him,” Webster said. “I learned everything I could.”

All of that basketball knowledge brought her to the school that was once her rival and is now her home.

She wasn’t alone when she arrived at Saint Leo. Her young son Aiden was in tow. He by mommy’s side and he took his first steps on the basketball court at Saint Leo.

“He has been a huge part of my success,” Webster said.

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