Viewers of Ted Lasso know the phrase “Football is life.” It’s a mantra for the Apple TV+ show’s exuberant footballer Dani Rojas, who comes to realize the sport is about more than just dedication. When the phrase comes up in conversation with Canterbury School basketball coach Elisha Murray, it resonates.
Since taking the helm at the Fort Myers school eight years ago, the Army National Guard lieutenant and former collegiate athlete has built the girls’ basketball team from a season of four wins to a top team that took second in the 3A state championship in 2019. Canterbury has tapped Elisha to lead the boys’ basketball team next season, and outside of school, he’s created Court Vision, a basketball league that trains young players on fundamental skills. “Obviously, I like being part of teams. And being part of something bigger than myself,” he says.
As a kid, Elisha was a late bloomer. He had always been small and didn’t start playing basketball formally until his sophomore year at Cape Coral High School. “I wasn’t the best, but I would go home and work and work at it,” he says. As he grew taller and his practice started to pay off, his coach and mentor, Darrin Wallace, would drive him to colleges throughout the state to get noticed. After graduation, he played two years at Manatee Community College, before being recruited in 2010 by King University in Tennessee, an NCAA Division II program, where he played guard. In 2015, Darrin brought Elisha to Canterbury.
Elisha teaches his young players skills and the nuances of the game, but he’s also focused on lessons that will help kids succeed off the court. Through Court Vision, he encourages kids to learn from mistakes and set goals. “When you want to be good at something, you have to put time and effort in,” he says. “But also be respectful. If your coach takes you out of the game, you don’t yell or kick—you sit down. When your teammate is doing good, you clap for them.” The holistic approach includes working with parents to look after the general well-being of players, making sure their studies are also a priority and helping to resolve discipline issues.
Those same principles apply to his home life. He has three children with his wife Latima, a member of the National Guard who served in Iraq and is now a school resource police officer at Pinewood Elementary School. Six-year old Alilah and 4-year-old Laila have taken to gymnastics, and 9-year-old Elisha Jr., plays basketball, football and soccer. This year was his first playing competitive ball. “I learned very quickly that I can’t coach him,” Elisha says. “I need to be Dad more.”