Hudson and Yilmaz talk about their arrivals at FAMU


Volleyball has seen strong growth over the past calendar year.

According to the official NCAA website, there are 340 Division I schools that sponsor women’s volleyball in the United States.

Among these is Florida A&M.

Since their inception in 1988, the Rattlers have won 14 conference championships, including nine consecutive MEAC Tournament titles (2000-09) under the Tony Trifonov era.

In 2021, the Rattlers won the SWAC Championship in their first year of membership, beating Jackson State 3-2 to earn a berth in the NCAA National Tournament under head coach Gokhan Yilmaz.

“We created a common goal and worked on it,” Yilmaz said. “It was about bringing in athletically gifted players who could get along to achieve the team’s goal in the end.”


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Arrival from Istanbul

Just 20 years ago, 22-year-old Yilmaz arrived in the United States while pursuing a master’s degree in sports psychology.

Upon arriving in the United States, he coached club volleyball for Eczacibasi Sports Club in 1995-96 and played for the team in 1991-95 with Besiktas Sports Club en route to winning two national titles.

He’s had many stops during his coaching journey, including one at Florida State as a training coordinator and scout before being promoted to associate head coach of the Seminoles in 2013.

“I ended up getting jobs and found my way to Florida State,” Yilmaz said. “It was a fun process signing players and getting the team ready for the season.”

His highlight while in garnet and gold was helping land the No. 3 recruiting class in 2012 and helping win three ACC championships that included Final Four appearances. (2011), Elite Eight (2009) and Sweet 16 (2013) under Chris Poole.

From there, he went on to coach UNC Charlotte for one season and led them to 17 wins (most in eight years) and an American Conference Tournament berth for the first time in five seasons.

In 2016, Yilmaz joined FAMU as associate head coach and succeeded Trifonov as head coach in 2018.

Three seasons later, he was the conference champion.

FAMU volleyball celebrates its SWAC title on Sunday.

“When FAMU opened up, I ended up becoming the head coach,” he said. “Coaching women is like coaching any other sport.

“You have to keep everyone on the same page and give everyone a different responsibility. Not everyone plays as much as the next person, but they can have a different focus which can be valuable for the team. “

Brooke Hudson

A student-athlete/activist

Brooke Hudson has yet to play a set for FAMU, but she has big plans once she gets to the highest of the seven hills.

A junior defensive transfer from Colorado State, Hudson announced his intention to transfer to FAMU in April to join a busy transfer class.

Once the Houston, Texas Circuit entered the transfer gate, Hudson got the idea in mind to attend an HBCU.

“Having been raised as a strong black woman, I’ve always heard about HBCUs and what they mean to black people,” she said. “As an athlete, HBCU previously had bad reputations for athletics and when I entered the transfer portal – especially in the political climate we find ourselves in now, my biggest thing was to go something. where I was no longer a minority.

“I wanted to go somewhere with like-minded people in the area of ​​social justice. What the coach (Yilmaz) is doing with the volleyball program – beating SEC schools and getting to the tournament has me attracted as an athlete and the excellence of FAMU as an institution had already had me.”

Hudson wrote a poem called “The Real World for Black Americans” during her second year at CSU, where she highlighted the black experience and referenced martyrs such as George Floyd, Trayvon Martin and Breonna Taylor.

She also dreams of going to law school to become a civil rights lawyer and connecting with former Florida state attorney Ben Crump once she graduates in political science in 2023. .

“I chose Colorado State because my previous coaches did a good job letting me grow as an activist,” Hudson said. “It was a big thing for me because I know a lot of athletes at the time of my engagement were silenced.

“Volleyball wasn’t my main focus anymore. I had achieved what I wanted in the volleyball aspect in my mind. My mindset shifted to what I want to focus on after volleyball.

“The big thing at FAMU was being in Tallahassee and having people like Ben Crump and the connections that you can make in the world of black social justice is a must. It’s going to be a different kind of activism because that there are so many people who are like me doing a collective blackness in a black space.”

Championship pedigree added

Hudson is a conference champion herself.

In 2019, she helped the Rams win the Mountain West Conference tournament against Denver as a rookie where they placed 10th overall. Hudson also helped the team win the regular season conference title a season ago.

With a few banners to his name, Hudson comes to Tallahassee to help the Rattlers repeat in SWAC and progress in the national tournament.

“I played every game but two my freshman year at CSU,” she said. “We went 29-2, went undefeated in conference, and went to the NCAA Tournament. Last year, we won the conference in the regular season.

“I have two rings and NCAA tournament experience, so I think that’s the biggest thing that’s going to help me in the volleyball aspect. I’ve played in tough situations. The biggest thing what I think FAMU is looking for and why they recruited me is because I have that experience and we want to make waves in the NCAA Tournament and be the first HBCU to qualify for the Sweet 16.”

Title IX is progressing… but can go further

Both Hudson and Yilmaz agree that the NCAA is taking steps to satisfy Title IX.

The transferred student-athlete appreciates this act taking effect, but does not want complacency in building equity through the law.

“The NCAA has made so much progress,” Hudson said. “I’m so grateful for Title IX with its 50th anniversary, but there’s so much more to achieve the title of gender equality in sport.

“We see it during March Madness, WNBA and NBA. Although Title IX has helped us and given us a stepping stone, I think there are many steps we can take as the NCAA and as a society in sports to achieve equality. and equity. There are so many female athletes who are high status. The next step is for them to get credits and have more female head coaches and have more equity in the within the facilities.

FAMU volleyball players pile up to celebrate winning the 2021 SWAC Championship on Sunday, November 21.  They are the first Rattlers team to win a SWAC title.  FAMU joined the conference in July 2021.

With volleyball games being broadcast nationally, Yilmaz hopes progress will accelerate to provide female student-athletes with the same opportunities as their male counterparts.

“This is my 20th year coaching in the United States and the movement is slower than I would like,” he said. “There are definitely improvements.

“The number of viewers of our game is increasing every year. The number of children playing volleyball is playing every year. The International Volleyball Federation has taken a step in this direction and played the final of the League of women’s nations in my home country, Turkey, every official they were a woman and wore equality jerseys.

“There is constant improvement, but from the outside a lot of people don’t think that women’s athletics isn’t a real sporting competition where they don’t have the level of athletes that we have. Once that they will realize it, they will appreciate it more.”

Gerald Thomas III covers FAMU athletics for the Tallahassee Democrat. Contact him by email at [email protected] or on Twitter @3peatgee.


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