When Dawn Staley was growing up, the WNBA didn’t exist. The game has changed since she was younger, said the former player and current head coach of the South Carolina women’s basketball team because young women will have today’s stars to look up to.
“I often wonder if I can play a part in the development of the game today or not. These super physical, super talented individuals. Most of all, I think this has happened to all of my current players and for their entire lives, they have only knew the WNBA, “she said in an interview with CBSN employee Antjuan Seawright.
“If you’ve grown up playing professional women’s basketball all your life, you have one tangible cause to work hard toward,” she said. “It was probably a little harder growing up with this game because you’re looking forward to college and if you’re lucky enough to play in the Olympics because it was like professional basketball to us.”
After four years at the University of Virginia, the Charlotte Sting drafted Staley with the ninth overall win in the 1999 WNBA draft – three years after the league was founded. The three-time Olympic gold medalist has now been inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame.
Staley now spends her days training the Gamecocks, leading them to a national championship in 2017. This year her team is number 1 in their region in the NCAA women’s basketball tournament.
She sees herself as in top form in difficult times.
“I have the ability to see the big picture, and sometimes people lose each other in a moment. Moments are fleeting. Winning moments are fleeting. Losing moments are fleeting. But when you understand the big picture, you can teach a little better when you are in an awkward situation. “
Likening the WNBA’s influence to the election of Kamala Harris as vice president, Staley said they had shown women, especially black women, that they could pursue higher goals in their pursuits.
“If all the players I’ve coached, if they just saw the WNBA in their lives, if they just knew the WNBA existed, they’ve got something to achieve. Now that Kamala Harris is our vice president, you know “Some political scientists, black students, if they want to stay in this field, they have to achieve something,” said Staley. “Representation is important. It does.”
She doesn’t take her success for granted, advocates racial equality on her platform and pushes for more diversity at the University of South Carolina. Last summer, Staley was appointed to the Council of the Southeastern Conference on Racial Justice and Social Justice, a group that will develop strategies to promote racial justice and equality in college sports.
“I know a lot of people have been hurt for years and these people have no platform. These people have no voice,” she said. “I think I have to be a beacon of hope and a voice for those who cannot share their experience because I see myself as a leader. I see myself as a mentor to young people including the players I coach and myself must help them. ” navigate through this real life because it is very different. ”