'Standing Tall' by C. Vivian Stringer
Introduction

Ten minutes.

Ten fouls.

Every time one of my girls moved, an official blew a whistle. Never mind that the players on the other team were much bigger and more aggressive—they had not a single call against them.

Those refs were seeing fouls because of who my girls were, not what they were doing, and my girls knew it. But they didn't say anything, and neither did I.

That might surprise you. But they were prepared. We'd spent countless hours in practice readying ourselves, mentally and physically, for whatever we might encounter, and none of us was willing to concede that the game was in anyone's hands but our own. We would not let them break our spirit.

The onslaught continued, and yet my team never stopped knocking at the door; their courage was magnificent. You see, my young ladies knew that in order to prevail, they needed to think like champions. That means stepping up, no matter what kind of obstacles life puts in front of you. It means digging deep within yourself and finding the will to fight, no matter how many times you get knocked down. Most of all, it means never taking the easy road out.

It means no excuses, no matter what.

I am the last stop before the young women I coach take their place in society, and it is a responsibility I take seriously. My goal is to give them the confidence to dream big and the skills to overcome any challenge they face, whether it's under the basket or in the boardroom. The drills we run in practice may be designed to condition my players' bodies and minds for competition, but for me, there's always a larger prize at stake than any individual win or season. By the time one of my players throws her cap in the air on graduation day, I want her to know that she is a true winner, in every sense of the word.

As much as I love basketball—and I do, as much as anything else in the world—it has always been a vehicle for me to instill values and self-respect in the girls I coach. For thirty years, my mission has been to create the next generation of leaders. As I always say to my teams, "It's more than a game; I'm teaching life lessons here." My hope is that they will come to share my fundamental and unshakable faith: that each and every one of us has the ability to triumph in the face of adversity, to lift ourselves up and succeed, no matter what trials we encounter.
FROM: Sports Legends Chris Evert, Martina Navratilova and Vivian Stringer
Published on January 01, 2006

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