Success as a two-sport student-athlete at Hinds made Celeste Bryant Bramlett (2000) want to help others achieve the same – so much so, that her Hinds success influenced her change in majors. “I wasn’t initially going into education,” Bramlett said. “I was going for pre-med/physical therapy at first. My direction in teaching and coaching was because of the coaches and administration at Hinds. I wanted to pour that into others like it was poured into me.”
She does that on a daily basis now, as assistant athletic director at Madison Central High School, where she has worked since 2015 after a 12-year run at Brandon High School. Her experience on the playing fields at Hinds prepared her for the success she’s enjoyed in her working life.
“We were extremely competitive and had great coaches,” she said, referring to longtime softball coach Terri Black and her assistant coach Patti Johnson, who was Bramlett’s head coach on the soccer team. “They challenged us to be great athletes and to be outstanding people after we left Hinds.”
Greatness for the Lady Eagles soccer team in 1998 and 1999 was an understatement, as they won state and regional championships both years to cap off a pair of undefeated seasons in region play. The first was Bramlett’s first year on the team and also the first year when Hinds fielded a women’s team.
“Patti was the main recruiter and (then-assistant coach) Doug Williams was the technical guy,” she said. “Both were knowledgeable about the game of soccer and helped us get better, even though many of us had been playing a long time.
“Patti had this resilient, highly competitive personality and was an extreme motivator. She could push us better than we could push ourselves at the time. But, she truly loved you and would go to bat for you. And she’d make us run laps for anything other than an A. She held us accountable in every aspect – grades, behavior, other habits.”
Coach Black, who was inducted into the Mississippi Community and Junior College Sports Hall of Fame in April, was another “tough-but-loving” figure for whom Bramlett has taken examples into her own career.
“Terri held us accountable,” she said. “She would get the most out of you. She would have the team over to her house and treated us all like we were her children. She was sure to say, ‘You’ll only be an athlete for so long, but you have to be a good person forever.’ They both put the person over the sport. And I hope I’ve passed some of that on to players here.”
Black likes to recount the story of her husband, Jerry, going in for bypass surgery during the 1999 softball season and calling a team meeting to announce her temporary absence from coaching the softball team. “I noticed Celeste and another girl weren’t there,” Black said. “Turns out, they were already at the hospital visiting with him!
“My husband and I looked at our players like they were indeed part of the family,” she said. “She was a leader on our team and has been a tremendous representative of Hinds athletics. I’m very proud of the young lady she has become.”
After Hinds, Bramlett earned a degree in health and human performance from the University of Southern Mississippi. She returned to Hinds for one season to assist her former soccer and softball coaches before going to Brandon in 2003, teaching science and eventually rising from assistant to head girls soccer coach and winning a state title in 2012.
Bramlett has brought some of that rarefied air of a title run with her to Madison Central, as the Jaguars have won state titles in eight sports and have won the 6A All-Sports Award three times, most recently in 2020-2021.
“I impress upon student-athletes here to be competitive but disciplined,” she said. “All of that transfers into every area of life. Some days are harder than others, with some days being 100 degrees outside for practice.
“But as a player, you knew it was all about more than just that day in practice. It was about making sure every person on the team feels valued. All my coaches did that. The entire Hinds athletic department felt like a family.” Bramlett currently lives in Madison with her husband, John, and her daughter, 9.