Coach Leads Team to State Tourney Berth After Giving Birth

Lipan coach back on court 16 hours after daughter born

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    NEWSLETTERS

    A high school basketball coach gave birth between games at a state regional tournament in Abilene.

    Amber Branson, head coach of the Lipan High School girl's team, knew her baby could come at any moment. Branson, 34, had pounded the sidelines the entire season.

    She began to fell contractions on the first day of the tournament.

    "I'd had a few contractions, but I didn't tell anyone, and then Friday during the game I was fine," Branson said.

    Coaching Through Contractions

    [DFW] Coaching Through Contractions
    Basketball coach Amber Branson coached through contractions to guide the Lipan Lady Indians to a playoff championship, she plans to take maternity leave after the state tournament this weekend.

    But later that night at about 8 p.m., the contractions became too strong to ignore.

    She checked into an Abilene hospital, where doctors were waiting for her. By 10:18 p.m., Leslie Telese Branson was born.

    The labor happened so fast that Branson delivered without an epidural or pain medication.

    But her team didn't have to play the regional championship without its head coach.

    Less than 16 hours after giving birth, Branson left the hospital, ready to coach the 2 p.m. championship game.

    "During the game, I was fine as long as I was standing," she said. "Emotion and adrenaline and everything else kept me going."

    She kept up the encouraging words throughout the game, even though the team was losing by 15 points.

    "They made an incredible, absolutely incredible 21-2 run in the last five minutes to overcome the deficit and move us on to the state tournament in Austin," Branson said.

    "Honestly, she is probably my hero," sophomore point guard Rhiana Michou said.

    "I'm just thankful that God allowed me to be a part of it, because these girls are special," Branson said. "They are like my children, and I'm just glad He worked it out where I could be at all three events at the same time."

    Basketball is a family affair for Branson. Her 7-year-old son, Tate, is the team's water boy, and her 6-year-old daughter, Taylor, is the team's towel girl.

    Despite the praise she had gotten for her dedication to the team, Branson shies away from the attention.

    "To me, this week was about the girls," she said. "What happened was obviously pretty cool and pretty special, but we still have more games to play, and that's where we need to focus right now."

    The team will play in the state semifinals at 2 p.m. Friday in Austin.

    Branson said she plans to take maternity leave after the state tournament.