February 27, 2018
Mansa El (right) became the first female to coach boys’ basketball in Cypress-Fairbanks ISD during the 2017-2018 school year, as she joined the Cypress Springs High School staff as a varsity assistant and head freshman coach.
By Yulissa Martinez, Cypress Springs HS
Feb. 27, 2018—Women have played significant roles throughout history and Cypress Springs High School’s Mansa El is another inspirational figure to add to the list.
El officially became the first female to coach boys’ basketball in Cypress-Fairbanks ISD during the 2017-2018 school year, as she joined the Panthers’ staff. She served as an assistant coach for the varsity team while assuming the role of head coach for the freshman team.
El's passion has become an inspiration to society by breaking norms on the roles of women for many.
“I think that people can realize it doesn't really matter if you're a male or female,” said El, a product of CFISD. “It's whatever is in your heart, and if you have what it takes, you have what it takes. It's not important who you are.”
A product of Cypress-Fairbanks ISD, Mansa El was on Cy-Fair’s 2008 Class 5A state championship basketball team and helped lead the Bobcats amass a 113-4 record over three seasons. After coaching stints in college basketball, she returned home and eventually joined the boys’ basketball staff at Cypress Springs High School. (Photo by Jayce Gibson, Cypress Springs HS)
El's passion for coaching started when she played basketball at Cy-Fair High School. She and her coaches recognized El’s talent for helping others when she was forced to sit on the sidelines following a knee injury and ensuing surgery. Despite not playing, El kept her spirit high, and her support for the team grew stronger while she advised her younger teammates from her spot.
El was on Cy-Fair’s 2008 Class 5A state championship basketball team and spent three years on varsity, helping the Bobcats amass a 113-4 record. She signed with the University of North Texas, becoming the only true freshman at the time in program history to start 29 games. El transferred to Tallahassee Community College in Florida, leading the team in scoring, before finding her way to the University of South Alabama.
Multiple injuries and surgeries eventually ended her playing career, but opened the door to coaching. El landed her first job as an assistant for the women’s team at West Virginia Wesleyan College. She joined the staff at the University of Houston as a graduate assistant before becoming an assistant coach the next year.
Then came an assistant job at Canisius College in Buffalo before El returned home again. A chance meeting with her high school coach, Cy-Fair’s Ann Roubique, at a nail salon eventually led to El applying for a job in CFISD. She teaches English, joining the basketball program when the freshman team needed a coach.
Now, El is applying all she knows to a new team, except this time she has four years of college experience coaching, and a new historic title to her name. Support from all directions surrounds her as many look up to her for taking this immense step.
“Well, I'm really excited and honored that she's part of our program, and she is an inspiration," said Cypress Springs basketball head coach Sam Benitez. “Coach Mansa leads by example on a daily basis, and we've really thrived having her with us as part of the basketball family.”
Despite a 15-year coaching veteran, Benitez credits El with helping both him and the Panthers grow and mature. Players note the significant impact El has had on the younger players. Not only are they part of CFISD history, but they’re learning about the game.
Other players, including junior Savion Jackson, note the significant impact of El coaching the younger students. Unlike the more experienced players, the freshman boys will start off with a female coach for the first time in the district.
“Coach Mansa is just as certified as anyone else,” said Jackson, who played on the junior varsity team. “She is a great coach and her starting with the younger group is definitely going to breed them to be better players in the future.”
Even with the magnitude of El’s achievements, she has remained modest as attention has grown on her coaching boys’ basketball. Facebook posts and messages on social media have come from women telling El that they have used her story to encourage younger girls, which highlights her impact.
However, to El coaching will always be the same as it was when she was in high school, cheering on her team and leading them to victory.
“Coaching basketball is my passion and no matter what, I’m still going to be me,” El said. “I’m doing it to help the players, it doesn’t matter if they’re girls or boys. I’m doing it for them, so that’s why I’m always going to do it.”