You caught me early, when I was still a young, timid nine-year-old girl, and took me on a twelve-year journey wherein you shaped me into the confident, driven Smith College alumna that I am today. And for that, I am forever grateful. You’ve taught me countless, invaluable lessons and in retrospect you have helped me appreciate the importance and the power of resiliency, work ethic, and leadership.

As a fourteen-year-old, you gave me my first real punch to the gut in the form of adversity. Trying out for the summer state team I felt confident and prepared – I trusted that all those hours I’d spent in the gym with you would get me through to the top tier team – but you had other plans for me, plans that included the second tier team.

Although you weren’t phased, I cried through that whole car ride home from the gym that night. Moving forward, you lit a fire deep inside of me that served as a full year’s worth of motivation. You taught me that failing is a part of learning, that grit and courage are a part of a growth mindset, that success doesn’t unfold in a linear fashion, but rather is a journey filled with ups and downs. The very next summer I tried out for the state team a year above my age group and made the top tier team. I couldn’t have asked for a better example of how to respond to adversity. I think I passed, but I’ll leave the final assessment to you.

From an early point in our relationship, you showed me that we would be by each other’s side throughout this entire journey: the more work I put into you, the more intimate we would become, an intimacy shared with others on a 94 by 50 feet hardwood floor. You demanded a lot from me, and somehow, I always found enough energy and time for you – that’s what good friends do for each other. I’ll forever be thankful to you for developing in me a rigorous work ethic and a commitment to guiding habits that persisted throughout my playing days – those early morning workouts before high school extended into late night sessions on the shooting machine in college – and these habits will continue to be refined long into my days without you.

My sincerest thanks go to you in guiding me to my home away from home for four years at Smith College. You paired me with a team of girls that doubled as my best friends and family; you gave me a head coach and mentor that believed in me from day 1 to day 1460; and most importantly you brought me to a community that allowed me to grow and flourish as a leader. It was here that you really revealed to me the importance of leadership within a point guard and captain. Being a leader was as much about judgment as it was about knowledge. Knowledge as a point guard was about skill and strategy – recognizing a situation and understanding what’s needed to succeed; judgment was much more personal – it was and is about character and knowing what you and your teammates can and can’t do. We grew together. No longer was our relationship just about the X’s and O’s but it was now about using the platform I’d been given to lead with a confidence that inspired and challenged those around me to strive for excellence.

Basketball, you’ve been my vehicle on this incredible journey to becoming the woman of distinction that I am today, and I just want you to know that I’ll be taking you with me wherever I go next.

To read more letters from the NCAA Woman of the Year Top 30 honorees:
Created By