By Malcolm Butler
Gloria Riser never aspired to become a coach.
That is until one day when then Cedar Creek principal Randy Moore made her an offer – and a challenge – she couldn’t or wouldn’t refuse.
Almost four decades later, Gloria Riser’s accomplishments as a coach earned her an induction into the Cedar Creek School Athletics Hall of Fame.
The induction ceremony will take place tonight in between the Creek boys and girls varsity basketball games at the Brickhouse. The girls tip-off at 6 p.m. thus the induction should be approximately at 7 p.m.
“It is an honor because Cedar Creek is the one who gave me the opportunity to first coach,” said Gloria. “I had never coached before outside of coaching (my daughter) Sammi’s rec softball team. I don’t have a PE degree. I was an elementary ed teacher. It was only by chance that (coaching) happened.”
Moore, a long-time educator in Lincoln Parish at A.E. Phillips, Cedar Creek and Ruston High, may not agree it was by chance. According to him, he did his homework before presenting Gloria with her first opportunity back in the late-1980s.
“She applied for a 5th grade teaching position at Cedar Creek,” said Moore. “I did my background on her. Everyone I talked to had unbelievably positive things to say about Gloria as a teacher and person. From parents to educators, everything was very positive.”
However, it was a conversation with then Ridgedale Academy principal Harper McKay that got Moore to think about Gloria as more than just a potential teaching candidate.
“Back then Ridgedale Academy was a hated rival of Cedar Creek,” said Moore. “I called and talked to Harper McKay. Had a long conversation with him. I remember him telling me that the only thing Gloria did better than teaching was coaching.
“I think Harper was familiar with Gloria coaching her daughter’s rec teams because she hadn’t coached on the high school level. But I think he had her in mind as someone he may want to hire as a coach.”
When Moore hired Gloria as an elementary teacher, he asked her to help with the Lady Cougars softball program as an assistant coach. That led to a Hall of Fame career.
“Someone else was the head softball coach when I was hired,” said Gloria. “I was asked to help him, but he wound up leaving in the middle of the school year. And suddenly I was the softball coach. It was difficult at first. And from there is multiplied (to other sports). I have so many memories.”
One of those memories is a conversation with Moore that kick-started her career.
“I can remember trying to get out of coaching the first time when I found out I was the head coach in softball,” said Gloria. “I went to the school’s front office, and I had a message in my mailbox to call a school about a game. I went to the school secretary Ms. Ann and said, ‘You must have put this in the wrong box.’
“She said ‘No, I think you are the head softball coach.’ I thought ‘I don’t know how to do this.’ I had never even played softball. I went to see (Randy Moore) and told him ‘I don’t think I can do this.’ He said, ‘I didn’t know you were a quitter.’”
Those words hit home.
“I told him ‘I’m not a quitter,’” Gloria said. “He said, ‘I guess I will see you at practice this afternoon.’ He knew the key to turn with me.”
Moore doesn’t recall his exact words in the conversation, but said he trusts Gloria’s recollection better than his own.
“I remember she was shocked I was asking,” said Moore. “I probably did say something along the lines of ‘You are not a quitter, and you don’t shy away just because you haven’t done this before.’
“But boy, history began that day.”
Indeed, it did.
Gloria coached softball, girls basketball, cross country and track and field during her time at Cedar Creek, including stints from 1988 to 2003 and 2013 to 2019. She led the Lady Cougars to more than 20 district titles and 20 state playoff appearances, including capturing state championships in 1994, 2014, 2017 and 2018.
She left for Choudrant High School where she served as the coach from 2004 through 2012, winning multiple district titles and helping the 2010 Aggies softball team capture the state title (Gloria was an assistant coach that year and also coached girls basketball for the Aggies).
Gloria’s daughter, Sammi (Riser) Massey, played for her mom in the 1990s and was instrumental in helping the Lady Cougars win the school’s first state title in 1994.
“She is the hardest working person I know,” said an emotional Sammi (Riser) Massey over the phone on Thursday. “She is the most caring; the most driven person I have ever met. And she is the most selfless person I know.
“Over the years just watching her take her teams and bring them together as one has been amazing. She is such a motivational person and is able to get the kids to buy in. She has tons of motivational tools and activities she uses. When you play for her, you know you are a vital part of the team.”
Although it is not surprising a daughter would feel that way about their mother, Sammi’s sentiments are shared by others.
“I could see her commitment to teaching, not just teaching them but motivating them,” said Moore. “She inspired those girls so much. She reminded me of (former Louisiana Tech women’s basketball coach) Sonja Hogg. Her players wanted to be like her. They wanted to be like her, act like her, dress like her. They were infatuated with her. She was a major motivator. She was a goal-oriented person in everything she did. That was one of her strengths.”
Gloria also coached the varsity girls’ basketball team at Creek. She was the head coach from 1989 through 2002 and then came back to help as an assistant from 2013 to 2016. She led the Lady Cougars to multiple district titles on the hardwood and a Sweet 16 appearance in 1996.
Not only do her former athletes posses unbelievable respect for Gloria, but so do her colleagues.
“No one outworks, Coach Riser,” said current Cedar Creek head girls’ basketball coach Gene Vandenlangenberg who coached alongside Gloria for a number of years. “The energy and passion she has for coaching is second to none. She is a motivator who can get players to give their best effort. And her teams were always prepared.”
Gloria also helped start the cross country team at Cedar Creek when her son Ben was in high school.
“I became the cross country coach because I went to ask Coach (Wallace) Martin if we could start a team,” said Gloria. “By son was a runner. I didn’t even know what cross country was really. Coach Martin said there wasn’t really any interest.
“It was a God thing. I opened my big mouth and said “Can I coach it?’ I instantly wondered what I had done. We didn’t win the first year but after that we did. I had to do a lot of research and learned a lot by trial and errors.”
Under Gloria’s leadership, Cedar Creek won 10 girls state cross country championships and four boys cross country state championships from 1992 through 2002. She also became the first female to hold an office in the Louisiana Cross Country/Track and Field Coaches Association.
Gloria added track and field to her resume from 1999 through 2002.
Her honors are just a small result of all of her success. She was named the Shreveport Times Coach of the Decade (1990s) and was the State Softball Coach of the Year in 1993. She was a multiple winner of the Lincoln Parish Coach of the Year award presented by the Ruston Daily Leader. She was inducted into the Louisiana Softball Hall of Fame in 2006.
When asked why she feels she has been so highly successful during the past four decades, Gloria points to a few things.
“We worked hard,” said Gloria. “We outworked everybody. I feel like I’m a pretty good motivator. Motivation and hard work. Those were the reason for our success.”
Tonight, Gloria will be enshrined into the Cedar Creek School Athletics Hall of Fame with her husband Ben and her children, Ben and Sammi, and plenty of grandchildren by her side.
She becomes just the 13th member of the school’s most prestigious club, joining her daughter Sammi who was enshrined as part of the Class of 2021.
“My life is a big miracle,” she said. “God has put me in so many places and opened so many doors. I have had the most wonderful people to work with and the kids have been amazing. I feel very blessed.”
As do all of the students who were fortunate enough to call her coach.
“I would not have been the athlete I was nor had the success I had without Gloria Riser,” said Nicole (Burn) West, a member of both the 1994 state softball title team and the 1996 Sweet 16 basketball team. “She was hands down one of the most inspiring and motivating coaches of my career. In fact, she was the one who first handed me a basketball in sixth grade and taught me to play the sport I love with my whole heart.
“I mean every word. I owe her so much.”
As does Cedar Creek School.
Cedar Creek Athletics Hall of Fame
Class of 2019-20
Jane Ellen Cook
Class of 2020-21
Tommy Joe Eagles
Sammi Riser Massey
Ann Pendergrass Harris
Class of 2021-22
Nicole Burn West
Class of 2022-23