I am a Scholarship athlete. A women’s basketball player attending a great university and privileged to be in one of the best programs in the country. As part of this assignment I looked back and asked “how did I get here?” There are only a small number of girls coming out of High School each year that get the opportunity to do what I do. I am often asked if I am surprised to really be here in this uniform. In thinking about it I can say I am proud to be here, and happy to be here but not surprised. Why? Because I have believed for a long time I would be here. How did that happen. How did I come to believe that this would be my life and make it come to pass?
When I was much younger, around twelve I think, I had the good fortune and family support to have a private coach introduced into my life. This man was a retired NBA player. He agreed to meet us at a gym and he said he , “Would take a look and see if this would be worth either one of us spending the time.” After a hard and tense hour he said to me and my family, “Well God and genetics gave you the physical tools. I will work with you and see if we can develop the beliefs and mental tools.” He also said, “You will have to learn that anyone can play basketball, some can play well. To be a great player you have to have a physical and a mental game. You have to believe what you want to be or you can never be great.”
I began working with this man every week. After a few months he asked me if I wanted to play on his “Elite” AAU team with his older, high school girls. I was scared and told him so. I told him that they were older and bigger and really good and I was not sure I could play with them. He then told me that he would not have asked me if he did not think I could do this. And then he told me that he understood my apprehension but I needed to consider that if I continued to play ball that no matter what my age there was always going to be someone bigger than me. He then said you have to decide if you believe that just because they are bigger and older they are better. They don’t know you yet. You have the chance to show them you are just a young “wanna be” or that you believe you are as good as they are. I played with that team as a starter until I was to old to play and that happened because I believed in myself that I was where I should be.
The girls on that team went on to play many of the best teams in the country over the next four years and our record was 454 games played, 432 won and just 18 lost. A good record for anyone. Over time the Coach had put the team together with girls that all had the same attributes, excellent physical players and all who believed in themselves and their goal of being a scholarship athlete. I can also say that every girl that played on that team over the time that I was there, all of them, went or are at a university somewhere on a full athletic scholarship. A real accomplishment.
It was during these years that we were in a tournament in Virginia. We were down 20 points at half time to a team we had played and beaten before. We were losing. At the half Coach asked us for a show of hands. He told us to listen carefully to the question. He said we were down 20 points and did any of us believe that we could win this game. Seven of us held up our hands and said we can win this. He asked why and we all told him because we believe we are better than they are we are just beating ourselves. He then told us, “Ok you seven go out there and get it done”. We honestly believed we could and 18 minutes later we had won by nine points.
It was during this time also that our team was at a major showcase tournament in Atlanta Georgia. There were over 150 college recruiters present. We were sitting around between games and one of the discussion topics was the team we were going to play next. We thought they all had a bad attitude and were very cocky and obnoxious. The Coach started laughing. He said girls, this is funny. Have you ever seen yourselves walk into a gym as a group. People think you are the most arrogant, cocky group of players in the country. I know you and I know there is not one of you that has that attitude. What you do have is Belief (that word again) in yourselves and confidence in why you are here. Have you noticed that every time we go to play a game every college scout in the building picks up their chairs and comes over to our court? They do that because of your reputation as winners and leaders. When most of your opponents come into the gym they come to play ball and try to knock off the winningest team in the sport. You come to play and win your next game. You win because you honestly believe the other team can’t beat you. You believe in yourselves. That is why you win. You believe you will and expect to.
In looking back over those years I remember most vividly the games we lost not the ones we won. I am happy to say none of the losses we had were ever repeated by the same team. No team ever beat us twice. We learned from our mistakes.
So now as I stand in my college uniform what do I believe? I believe that I can only communicate with the rest of the world based on the size of my own vocabulary. I believe that at any point in my life I (and everyone else) am a product of all the experiences I have had to that point. I am not the same today as I was yesterday nor will I be exactly the same tomorrow. Most of all I really believe that I am what I believe myself to be.
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