DAWN STALEY … HEAD COACH, WOMEN’S BASKETBALL, TEMPLE UNIVERSITY, 1999 PRESENT … USA BASKETBALL FEMALE ATHLETE OF THE YEAR, 2004 … OLYMPIC GOLD MEDAL, WOMEN’S BASKETBALL, 1996, 2000, 2004 … USA BASKETBALL FEMALE PLAYER OF THE YEAR, 1994 The important thing in the Olympic Games is not to win but to take part; the important thing in life is not the triumph but the struggle. BARON P IERRE DE COUBERTIN, modern Olympic games founder DAWN STALEY 83 THE CHALLENGE I was never chosen for the first game in the playground. No matter who picked the teams, I was not perceived to be good enough and it was a source of great early motivation for me. Maybe it was because I was a girl or thought to be too small. But whatever the reason, I was left out and seething. CONFLICT Tara VanDerveer with USA Basketball and I just combusted. I was on the national B team and she challenged me. She asked if I thought I would be called up if their starting point guard on the A team broke her leg. I said yes, and she fired back in front of the whole team, No! You turn over the ball too much. It would not have been as bad had she not done this dressing-down in front of the whole team,.
I accepted it because it wasn’t personal, it was about basketball, and I knew I could be a better ball handler. I came back the next year a better ball handler, just to prove her wrong. The result was that I was a better player and was wrong to want to prove anything to her. She saw I could take that type of challenge and threw it out there. She was on my side all along. What happened to me then is something I take with me today as I coach at Temple. HIGH POINT My first gold medal was the most important feat I’ve accomplished. It was just a dream come true. I was coming off a great college season and thought I could hold on for the title on the world stage. It also helped that we were in front of the home crowd in Atlanta. RESULTS Too many times I get people who are so into the results that they forget about effort. It’s effort that will get you where you have to be.
I always look for the hustler over the natural talent. Now, if I can get a player who combines both, I have a true superstar and a leader. 84 IT’S HOW YOU PLAY THE GAME LET’S HEAR IT FOR THE BOYS Playing with the guys helped me with my quickness, my toughness, and my aggressiveness; few were ready for it when I brought my game to the girls’ side. My mistake was not having patience with the girls when I saw their game was lacking. Now I push effort over perfection, creativity, or anything else. Give me a player who hustles or a teammate who’s trying and I guarantee I’ll get results. WHY SPORTS IS MY LIFE Sports to me are the last place we can count on a level playing field. The work you put in equals what you’ll get out.
There is no knowing the right person, making the key phone call, or paving the way because of someone else’s influence. The message I send to my players is: put your life and destiny into your own hands. MY WRAP Dawn is the standard for American point guards. In terms of toughness and leadership, there is no one better in the world. She never asked for any favors and almost everyone who’s seen her play demanded more, which helped make her great. Like soccer stars Julie Foudy and Brandi Chastain, Dawn learned toughness playing against the boys. So few leagues provide that opportunity today. DAWN STALEY