I apologize to my passionate readers for not posting my Next Level blog on Friday, but rather today.
For the five of you, (ha) I hope that today's blog was worth the wait as it is the most challenging trait of them all, PERSEVERANCE.
I am going to give you a quiz, and I want each of you to answer these questions before reading on.
1) If a fan, friend, parent, or coach tells you you aren't good enough, how would you respond?
2) If putting the time in to take your game to the next level would lose your best friend's friendship, what would you do?
3) If you didn't have anyone to navigate for you, or should I say, have someone to set the example on what you would have to do, how would you train?
4) If it was your senior year of college and tore your ACL 2 games into your season, how would you repsond?
5) If you wanted to play professionally in the United States, but you had to have double knee surgery a week before the tryouts, would you quit?
6) If you had one chance to make it in the WNBA by playing in the WNBA draft camp, but had a third degree sprain a day before the camp, who would you blame?
7) You finally make it to the WNBA but get cut in the middle of the season, would you believe that it is unfair?
8)If your coach signed another player at your position, do you believe the coach is going to play her?
9) If you believe you should be playing, but are sitting the bench, do you complain to your teammates & bad mouth your coach?
10) Who do you want to be in control of your future?
So now that you have read through these questions and attempted to answer how you think you would respond, I am going to give you my answers to these questions because those are questions I was forced to answer... and this is my story.
1) My parents, brother and sister have NEVER told me I couldn't do something. They have always believed in me. I have had college coaches tell me that I was too short to play collegiate basketball. I obviously didn't sign with them.
2) I had some challenges in high school with my friends as I passed up a lot of "fun" time to shoot hoops in my driveway. My best friend and I went through a spell when I was put on the varisty and our circles began to change. We matured a great deal in the process and found out that we were pretty good friends if we both supported each other's dreams. I will warn you though, there are people out there who will be happy for you to stay where you are, never helping you to move forward. I always say it's easy to stay at the base and look up. Few will be committed enough to climb.
3) I didn't have a college or professional athlete to look up to growing up. I lived in a small town and played in my first college game before I actually saw one. I think that was actually an advantage for me as my only tool for navigating was to work as hard as I could and never give up. I played 1 on 1 with my older brother daily in the driveway to challenge myself. I never once beat him but I kept going back for more. Everyone's story and challenges will be different, but you WILL have them.
4) Injuries were a major part of my career. The longer and harder you play they are just bound to happen. The ACL tear was the first major injury I had to overcome, and I will admit it wasn't that easy to work through. Mentally I had to deal with an identity crisis of finding out who I was without a basketball in my hands. Physically I had to work to get back to the level I had left off on. We all want to push ahead, but sometimes you do have to take a few steps back. In hindsight, I think the ACL tear brought my first love for the sport back to a new beginning. It was probably the best thing that could have happened for me to compete as hard as I did for eight more years.
5) I had planned on trying out for the ABL (a professional league that started before the WNBA), but had to have double knee surgery. That was the first time my mom said anything about considering hagning it up, since I looked like "Robocop." She was concerned like any mom that one day I wouldn't be able to pick up my kids. Instead, I was stubborn like I have always been, had the surgeries, and found an agent to play in Australia right after my rehabilitation was over. The ABL folded and the WNBA began its first season as I finished my 2nd season in Australia.
6) Those who have someone to blame will flat out stop climbing. I had my first sprain ever playing open gym at Boise State the day before the WNBA draft camp. My foot swelled up like a balloon. My doctor, physical therapists, trainer, family, friends, all made an impact on me that day. With MANY prayers and support, I flew to Illinois for the two day camp that ran from 8:00am to 8:00pm and didn't think about my ankle once. I couldn't walk on it for a week after, but I got selected by the Utah Starzz in the third round.
7) I want to initially say, if you expect life to be fair, then go ahead and settle for being less than your best. You have to fight, and sometimes you get knocked down. A month into my second season with the Utah Starzz I got called into my coach's office during warmups. On my way there I saw my "replacement" in the locker room suiting up. He told me they were going another direction. Ouch! But two weeks later the Cleveland Rocker's starting point guard Suzie McConnell Serio broke her ankle and I got the call and ended up on the team that won the Eastern Conference two years later. I can take a little humility to end up on a championship team.
8) It doesn't matter. If you're good enough, you will find a way to get on the court. My second season with the Cleveland Rockers, our head coach Dan Hughes (2008 Coach of the Year with the San Antonio Silver Starzz) drafted another point guard. That made three of us, and more were invited to our training camp. Three years later Coach Hughes told me he couldn't cut me because I raised the level of competition in practice every day. I ended up playing some two guard on top of the point to find some time on the court.
9) The hardest part of my professional career were the games I didn't get in. It was a role I wasn't used to, but I found a way to work through it because I cared about my team and respected my coach so much. I found some teammates who were in the same boat to workout with. We kept each other mentally and physically ready to step in when our opportunities came, and they did. My dad and husband, however, might have had it even harder than me as those were the people I would call to vent to.
10) Pay attention to this question. If you can work hard at everything you do, and not WORRY about the things that aren't in your control, you will be a winner. As you can see in my story, I didn't plan on a lot of these things, but many opportunities presented themselves that weren't initially in the cards because of my PERSEVERANCE.
For me, strength lies in my Faith. Whether or not you share in this, remember last week's blog about being an optimist. Either way, the ability to persevere begins with your heart.