WV Thunder Moms Provide a Great Example of Empowering Women
Oprah Winfrey said “Surround yourself with only people who are going to lift you higher.” In September 2020, my daughter’s AAU team, WV Thunder, won the AAU World Championship. There was a dad of a girl on the team who was gracious enough to film every game of that tournament so that the girls could have it as a memento, or use it to make highlight tapes. I remember watching the tape and seeing a clip in which my daughter, Alexis, gets a steal late in the game, and an “and one” and something caught my eye. The game was against a very good team, and at one point we were down by as many as 13 points. We went on a run late in the game to end up winning by 9. This steal and “and one” took place during our big surge when the momentum was shifting to our team. During that clip, there are some moms of girls on Alexis’ team getting very fired up and excited as they cheered for Alexis in that moment. I remember Alexis and I getting a chuckle over these moms the first few times we watched the replay. We laughed at how animated they were and how funny it was that they were “caught on tape” acting so pumped up.
With AAU season approaching, I began thinking about that clip and about those moms in that clip cheering their hearts out for MY kid. Those moms were focused on the end goal-winning! Those moms were supportive. Those moms were positive, inclusive, encouraging cheerleaders. Those moms are the type of people I want in my corner and the kind of women I want my daughter to surround herself with as she grows up. Those women are empowering. Strong women-may we know them, may we be them, may we raise them.
The interesting thing about that clip is that the daughters of those moms are not even in the clip and some might not even be in the game at that specific moment. Yet, it didn’t stop them from cheering for MY kid. Even more interesting is the dynamic of those three moms. One is the mom of the point guard of our team. The point guard whose primary role, for the most part, is to distribute the ball to other players for them to make plays/score. Her daughter is one of the best point guards I know, and certainly one of the most selfless. The second mom is the mom of a player who can play just about every position on the court and is a phenomenal shooter. Interestingly, she is a woman that I met when our girls were competitors playing on opposing teams that always went down to the wire with each other. But that never stopped this mom from telling me how great it would be for our girls to someday be teammates and not rivals. And the third mom in the video is a woman I met just months before this game. She is the mom of one amazing basketball player who already holds 4 Division I college scholarship offers (3 of which are Power 5 schools) and she is only in the 8th grade! Yet, she was on her feet cheering for my kid. Each of these ladies have tremendous ball players as their daughters. Quite frankly, I could say the same for every girl on Alexis’ team -they are all stellar basketball players, hence why they won the AAU World Championship. What I could also say about each of their parents is how supportive, encouraging, and positive they are to every girl on that team. It’s no surprise that their daughters would be awesome teammates. These women are raising strong, empowering women.
I had someone recently comment to me that they can tell my kids are “coaches’ kids” because they are always the first one to compliment a kid on the court for a job well done, or try to bring up their teammate after a mistake when they are down on themselves. That spoke volumes to me. As a former player and now coach, I am very aware of the two types of players you can encounter. You know the really good basketball player that can do just about anything on the court, that makes a pass to her teammate and that teammate fumbles the ball, doesn’t catch it, doesn’t convert, and hangs her head in disappointment for herself? That really good player comes in two forms: 1- the player that rolls her eyes, or throws her hands up with disgust that her teammate just made a mistake, or 2- the player that gives her teammate five, and a pat on the back with some encouraging words such as “shake it off,” “it’s ok,” “don’t worry about it,” “you’ll get the next one.” If you are someone who is around basketball enough, you know that the second player is the type of kid you want on your team. She is the type of player that will lead your team to win championships, not just with her skill and stats, but with her morale and motivation. That’s the player I want on my team.
I have long been an advocate for youth sports, and all sports for that matter, because of the way they prepare you for the obstacles of life. There are so many different things we experience in our lives that are so similar to my basketball analogy. Life is a journey filled with a bunch of competitions - compete to get the spot on the team, compete to get the scholarship, compete to get acceptance into school, compete to get the girl/guy you like, compete to get the job, compete to get the promotion, so on and so forth. What kind of people do you have in your corner? What kind of support system do you have? Life is short. Life is hard-sometimes really, really hard. None of us are getting out of here alive. We are all trying to do the best we can. Audrey Hepburn famously stated “You can tell more about a person by what he says about others than you can by what others say about him.”
We are all each other’s teammates in life. What kind of teammate are you? Are you the one that belittles others and brings them down? Diminishing another’s light won’t make yours shine any brighter. Are you the kind that encourages and builds others up? You can always tell who the strong women are. They are the ones building another up rather than tearing another down. Do you take pleasure in other people’s failures? Be the kind of woman that fixes another’s crown without telling the world that it was crooked. Do you genuinely get happy seeing others succeed? Her success is not your failure.
Be like those moms in that video. Raise your daughters to be that type of woman. Empowered women, empower women. Serena Williams said “the success of every woman should be the inspiration to another. We should raise each other up.” When others succeed, you should be happy. If they can do it, so can you. The success of others does not, in any way, lessen the chances of you succeeding. If anything, it should motivate you to keep pushing forward. Supporting another’s success will never dampen yours. Be empowering!