Roland Yancy was hired as a teacher and the girls soccer coach at Berkmar after spending the last eight years with DeKalb County schools. (Staff Photo: Christine Troyke)
Roland Yancy is the new girls soccer coach at Berkmar, coming to the school after eight years with DeKalb County, most recently at Miller Grove. A native of Marietta, Yancy is married to a teacher and has two daughters under the age of 5.
In this installment of “Getting to Know …,” Yancy talks with staff writer Christine Troyke about a variety of topics, including his early interest of being an FBI agent, getting into teaching and coaching instead and wanting to tour the country in an RV with his family.
CT: Where did you grow up?
RY: I grew up in Marietta and graduated from Wheeler High School in ’99. After that. I went on to Georgia Southern University. I graduated from there in 2004 with a degree in political science and criminal justice. I had originally wanted to be an FBI agent or a lawyer. I actually interned a little bit with the Atlanta Police Department during the summers when I was in school. I could have gone on to do that, but I started tutoring while I was at Georgia Southern and decided I wanted to be a teacher. After I graduated, I went back and took some extra classes to get my certification.
In 2005, I was hired on at DeKalb County and worked there for eight years as an exceptional education teacher. I don’t like to say special ed.
CT: What got you off one path and on to the other? You got your feet wet on the side of law enforcement.
RY: My grandmother was a teacher. She was very influential in my life. My dad taught a little bit, but my grandmother was a serious teacher. I always admired and respected her and how all her former students would find her and talk about how great she was. I had that background.
But it was the whole idea that I felt I could do more good in the classroom than as a lawyer or a police officer, especially working with kids. It wasn’t easy, don’t get me wrong. I had my ups and downs. I had a lot of downs. There were times where I said maybe I made the wrong choice. But the fact that I’m still here proves I made the right choice. I had to learn, I had to grow as a teacher. I feel it’s made me a stronger teacher.
I started at the elementary level, then I went to the middle level and now I’m here in high school. All those things made me stronger. I’m definitely a veteran teacher. I’m sure there’s a lot more for me to learn, but my experiences have made me a better teacher, a more complete teacher. I’ve been battle tested.
CT: There are probably a lot of people that want to teach, but you need a certain aptitude. Did you discover when you began tutoring that it was something you were good at it?
RY: I did. I worked a little bit at the Boys and Girls Club in Stateboro. And it was just something I realized, because obviously you don’t get into teaching to be rich, it was something I thought I would be good at. I felt it was my calling. I enjoyed being in front of a classroom. I enjoyed interacting with students as they were learning new things. I felt comfortable in that role.
It just bit me and took me from there.
CT: There’s a skill to be able to communicate information in a way that’s understandable.
RY: To be honest, I didn’t even know I had that ability. I was always the shy, laid-back guy. So I didn’t realize I had that ability to relay information to kids. Even on the field, it was nothing I aspired to do.
I woke up one day and said, “This is something I’m good at, this is something I enjoy doing.” I’m working on being the best at it and I definitely will give my all. I could care less about how much I’m getting paid, I just enjoy doing it. It’s something I could see myself doing for the rest of my life.
CT: When you’re deciding on a discipline within teaching, how did you end up where you did?
RY: With my background in law enforcement, it was a nature fit working with students who are, I don’t want to say less fortunate, but students who needed a little bit more TLC, a little more attention. Had I stayed in law enforcement, I probably would have been a juvenile probation officer or lawyer dealing with kids. I enjoyed working with kids that needed that extra. I felt if I didn’t do it, not a lot of people would be lined up to. It hasn’t always been easy, but those are still the students I enjoy working with.
CT: How did you end up progressing through the different grade levels?
RY: I started at elementary and it was just something where an opportunity arose and I transferred to a middle school. I live in Gwinnett County and the commute to DeKalb was keeping me away from my family. Then if you add the coaching on top of it, it was a natural progression to move to the high school level.
CT: When did coaching come into the picture?
RY: I had coached a little bit, just recreation and parks here and there. I didn’t want to be pigeonholed in one field and I played soccer growing up. My family is from Liberia so soccer was the main sport. One day the opportunity was open to coach soccer and I got my certification through Georgia Soccer. I just grabbed the opportunity by the horns and didn’t let go. I coached at Miller Grove High School, the varsity boys, and I was grateful for that opportunity.
CT: Are your parents first generation from Liberia?
RY: Yes, they’re Liberian.
CT: Did they move straight to the Atlanta area?
RY: No, we lived all over the East Coast. Boston, because that’s where they went to school. Chicago. Then back to Boston. Then we ended up down here.
CT: Do you go back there much?
RY: No. Georgia is my home. We still have family there that we visit. And my wife is from Philadelphia. She’s also a coach, a swim coach at Summit Chase, and she’s a teacher at Rockdale County schools.
CT: What was your first date? Did you do something nice?
RY: Yeah. I think we went to a jazz club.
CT: What kind of music do you usually listen to?
RY: I listen to everything. I’ve got it all on my playlist. Right now I’ve really been listening to The Weeknd and Kendrick Lamar. I really enjoy Mumford and Sons, and the Lumineers. And David Guetta and Kanye West. And instrumental.
CT: What sports did you play growing up?
RY: I played football and soccer and ran track.
CT: How were you?
RY: I was good in track. I was an average in football and soccer. I really love track though.
CT: What were your events?
RY: I ran the 100, 200 and 100 relay.
CT: That was at Wheeler?
RY: It was. I wasn’t a star at Wheeler. There were so many good athletes.
CT: What positions did you play in football and soccer?
RY: I was a linebacker and a defender in soccer.
CT: Do you have a system or a philosophy when it comes to coaching soccer?
RY: You want me to give away my secrets?
CT: Well, no. Just in general.
RY: Tough, physical defense. I like finesse soccer, but I really enjoy a good, defensive 0-0 match. Soccer is a flow game and it starts from the keeper. Then you work it up to the midfield and on. Soccer isn’t like basketball or football. It’s not meant to be scored at will. It’s a chess match. You need to be intelligent with your passes, deliberate and intense. Once you have that, the scoring will happen.
CT: You’ve been recruiting players (from within the school)?
RY: I’m spotting players I think will fit into my system that never really played before. We’ve got a good core of returning players and I’m trying to build around that. You never know where you’ll find players. I’ve already discovered some that, without fanfare or flare, are capable of great things. I talk to them at lunch or in the hall. I just want to see what they can do. It’s for varsity and JV. Because to have a good program, you have to build up the JV program.
CT: If you have free time, what do you like to do with it?
RY: I like to spend time with my family. I know a lot of people say that, but one thing I like about teaching is you get to live many lifetimes. Especially at a place like Berkmar, the students are so diverse, when I go home, I feel like I’ve been around the world and around the country.
I just like to be with my wife and kids, rest and relax.
CT: Are there any TV shows you try not to miss?
RY: “The Walking Dead,” “Family Guy,” “South Park” and anything on ID Discovery.
CT: Do you have any favorite vacation spots?
RY: I need to do that more. I don’t vacation a lot. I take a lot of staycations. I’d love to go to Arizona. I don’t know why, I just would. I’d love to go to Brazil and South Africa.
But my dream is to buy an RV and travel the country with my family. I’m not a big fan of flying. You miss out on a lot when you fly. I’d like to get one of those books, the 100 things you should see in the U.S. before you die, and stop at all of them.