Sports Spectrum Magazine Summer 2021

Former UVA women's basketball coach wins her biggest battle: Bringing her daughter home

In 2018, coach Joanne Boyle led the University of Virginia’s women’s basketball team to its first NCAA Tournament in eight years. Boyle then announced to the press that, at 54 years of age, she was retiring from coaching due to a “family matter” that, in the time since, has become more clear.

Boyle was doing everything she could to make sure the little girl she’d fallen in love with years ago in the country of Senegal — a girl who was her daughter in every way except paperwork — would have her adoption finalized.

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More than a year later, on August 30, South African Airways Flight 207 departing Dakar, Senegal, landed at Dulles International Airport in Virginia, and Ngoty Rain Boyle, now a precocious, vivacious 6-year-old, officially became an American citizen. And Boyle was finally free from countless overseas trips, labyrinthian bureaucratic maneuverings, and the constant fear that something would go wrong that would separate her from Ngoty. Now Boyle got to do what she really wanted: be a full-time mom.

“It’s been really fun to throw myself into her world and be able to take her to school every day and pick her up and take her to the places she needs to go,” Boyle told ESPN in a recent interview. “I’m an older mom. She’s already 7. I want to spend time with her. I’m a taxicab driver. And that’s what I want to be, a full-time mom.”

Boyle’s story intersects with a national conflict over immigration and adoption. International adoptions have plunged to their lowest levels since 1973, from more than 22,980 in 2004 to 4,714 adoptions in 2017, according to the National Council for Adoption. The current average overseas adoption can take 1-3 years to process and cost around $30,000, but Ngoty’s case lasted nearly six years, cost more than $100,000, and could have been far worse had Boyle’s status as a public figure not caught the attention of Virginia’s senators, who offered their help.

Boyle has said she has no plans to coach again following this long ordeal, ending a successful 25-year coaching career. Instead, Boyle is exploring volunteer opportunities in Charlottesville and shuttling Ngoty from voice lessons, to synchronized swimming, to soccer practice and to Victory Church, where she volunteers alongside Joanne.

Christianity has long been central to Boyle’s life. She attended Duke University and in addition to being a letter-winner all four years, she was also active in Campus Crusade for Christ, a worldwide campus ministry program.

“God was preparing me for a stronger walk,” Boyle said in a 2012 interview with The Daily Progress. “God was laying the groundwork.”

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