The way out, the way up

Yvette Cole playing basketball and in the Husky Hall of Fame

Husky Hall of Fame Basketball star launches her life at Washington


That’s how Yvette Cole describes her young life with five brothers and sisters, a single mom, and two strong and attentive grandparents.

“We were poor and on government aid, living in the not-so-prestigious part of San Francisco. With so many kids around, I played any sport that got me out of the house and away from the chaos,” says the 1990 UW graduate, a Husky Hall of Fame member who still stands as one of Washington Women’s Basketball’s all-time highest scorers.

Yvette played with her male cousins and other boys until high school, where her talents quickly became apparent to her coach, Linda Scott.

“She was like my second mother and told me, ‘I think you could go to college with basketball.’ I said, ‘Black people don’t go to college.’ I never had any role models to show me that wasn’t true,” Yvette explains. “Linda’s guidance was what I really needed. I started getting serious about school. I was really excited about the prospect of leaving home, but I was still scared to death about going to college.”

A scholarship from Washington made that unfathomable dream come true.

“When I arrived in Seattle, I was the only freshman on the team and the only black kid on scholarship,” remembers Yvette.

“I was the first person in my family to go to college, and that scholarship made it pretty special. I would never have gone to college without it.”

Her senior year, the African American Studies major took her first social work class. It was a powerful introduction to how she could help “show kids that there was more to life than their own little worlds, just like I discovered.” Yvette returned to the UW and earned a Master’s in Social Work degree in 1995. She’s been a senior social worker at Department of Social Services in Orange County, California, since 1998.

“Sports and the University of Washington changed the trajectory of my life,” Yvette concludes. “That’s where I built my strength and self-esteem. It was a way to clean out the chaos and find direction. Sports gave me my voice.”