For Yancey Little, being a coach was the plan from the start.
“I always wanted to be a coach,” Little said. “I watched my dad coach men’s fastpitch softball through the years, learned a lot and it intrigued me. Then, when my oldest brother Marty began coaching high school, my desire to coach grew.”
And as that growth continued, Little became successful in multiple sports. He coached basketball, softball and baseball at Blue Eye and Ozark, generating a career coaching record of 681-289 (.702) in four sports.
He did his best work on the hardwood, winning 197 games in nine seasons as the girls head coach at Ozark. And in 2005 and 2006, he coached the Tigers to consecutive Class 4 state championships. For all of those reasons, the Missouri Sports Hall of Fame proudly inducted Yancey Little as a member of its Class of 2023.
Little wasted no time in positioning himself to be a successful coach. He had a plan.
“Once I figured out that I was going to coach, the only question left was what was I going to teach?”, he said. “I knew I would need to be marketable. So, I earned my teaching degree which included Physical Education and Science. Good thing, I utilized them both.”
Settling on being a science teacher first ended up being, in many ways, the secret to his success.
“I spent 20 years in the science classroom,” Little said. “Teaching science was key. I was able to move to Ozark in 2001-02, accept a position as a science teacher, then volunteer on the Ozark softball staff for three years and baseball for one.”
His stint as a volunteer coach with the softball team eventually led to 13 seasons as head coach. He led Ozark to 290 victories, winning 20 or more games 12 times. His teams twice reached the Final Four, and though he never won a state title in softball, his teams came about as close as possible.
“I know we didn’t ever win a state championship in softball,” Little said, “but with a few breaks, we might have won a couple. The 2006 team lost 1-0 in the state semifinals. The 2012 team was exceptional. Our path to a title ran us right into four-time college All-American pitcher Paige Parker (at Oklahoma) during the championship game.”
In basketball, Little finally got his hands on a state championship.
He guided the 2005 Ozark girls to a 24-8 record, downing Lincoln Prep, 34-31, in the finals. The Tigers were picked to finish ninth in the conference at the start of the year.
In 2006, Ozark repeated as the Tigers posted a 25-6 record, defeating Lee’s Summit in the finals.
“The grit and toughness displayed by various players over those years was pretty memorable,” Little said. “It didn’t matter if they were starting the game or seldom played, it was a tough dedicated group. I could truly say something positive about every one of our players. They did what they had to do to make the team successful. That is pretty exceptional.”
After spending four seasons as an assistant baseball coach, Little moved into administration, becoming Ozark’s Athletic Director in 2017.
Giving up coaching wasn’t easy.
“I knew I was going to miss that relationship piece of coaching kids,” Little said. “That’s why I got into the profession to start with.”
His diverse background in coaching made the transition to administration an easy one.
“I feel that my experiences have helped me relate to all of our programs here at Ozark,” Little said. “I believe that I have a great relationship with our coaches. I hope they trust my judgment and advice. I have been through the challenges of coaching. I work to allow that to guide me in assisting them.”
Like any successful individual, Little didn’t reach these lofty heights on his own.
“I have been blessed with the ability to be around great coaching in my life,” he said. “My family’s support and understanding were essential to sustaining the profession I loved.”
In his more than 20 years at Ozark, Little has had numerous opportunities to sit in the audience and watch other inductees give speeches at Missouri Sports Hall of Fame events. Now, it’s finally his turn.
“I feel honored, blessed and thankful to the committee who felt like I was deserving of such an honor,” he said. “I feel this recognition is not only for myself but for all my fellow coaches, former players, and family who sacrificed and worked tirelessly to make this happen TOGETHER!”