When I was a little girl, I dreamed of playing basketball. As soon as it was possible, I begged my parents to sign me up to play. It was my favorite activity in physical education during school. I played basketball whenever I could and I was a Varsity starter for all four years of high school. I went to basketball camps all summer. I played basketball at the rec center and park with my friends in the off-season. I dreamed of basketball while I wasn't playing and I watched basketball when I wasn't dreaming. I love basketball and I always knew that when I was finished playing, I wanted to be a basketball coach and someday I hoped I would coach in the Women's National Basketball Association (WNBA) (2011).
Many young athletes have big dreams about how far their sports talent will take them. Some want to play as long as possible and others want to play and coach. As much as I love playing, my dream has always been to get into coaching after college. More specifically, my dream has always been to become an assistant coach in the WNBA. I want to be more involved in the fundamentals and coach-player relationships so I would prefer a position as an assistant coach. Head coaches have additional burdens related to the business and PR side of the team, and those are burdens I would rather not deal with. I would love to focus on the sport itself, co-managing a team of highly skilled and talented women and helping them to continually become better players and people.
Becoming a coach in the WNBA (2011) is even more difficult than becoming a player. Coaching is a challenging career and even fewer make it into coaching at that level than playing. With only 12 teams and only a few coaching spots on each team, the field is highly competitive and every position I take along the way is part of proving myself as ready. Owners and general managers are constantly on the lookout, critiquing everyone who catches their attention. The first task at hand is to catch their attention and then to excel in every possible way while they are watching. It is also about selling myself and getting my name and information out there. They have to know that I want it and that I'm doing everything possible to prepare myself.
The process of moving up the ladder in coaching, in pursuit of my dream job, is not unlike moving towards my goals of playing college basketball. I dreamed of playing for a team like Stanford University like many young players did. What set me apart from others and led me to Stanford was the work I did to make myself good enough to start 4 years on Varsity, to catch their attention, and outshine the others on the court while being a team player and leader while they were watching. Basketball is really all about the team, especially women's basketball. Besides proving my talent and skill on the court in order to play basketball at a school like Stanford, I also had to prove my excellence in the classroom and my maturity and ability as a leader among my teammates and peers.
At my high school, I was the first (and to this point only) player elected as a team captain as a sophomore. I was re-elected as team captain in both my junior and senior years. Being a team captain was a very natural experience for me. I loved my teammates like they were my sisters and seemed to have the ability to hold them all together. During the 4 years that I was on the team, there was only 1 incident that hurt the team's balance, but my co-captain and I handled it quickly and effectively so as to avoid any breakdowns in team success.
We were a great team, but we were also known for our academic achievements. Most of the team, including myself, took honors and AP classes and made good grades. As a team, we always maintained over a 3.25 GPA. As captain, I took it upon myself to stay aware of all academic needs before they became a problem and also to celebrate significant academic achievements as much as our athletic ones. I also felt it was important to engage in community service projects together as a team. We all spent most of our time playing basketball when not in class or doing homework but colleges want to see a diversity of experience as well as some signs of community involvement so I decided we should do it together and create opportunities that enhanced our camaraderie and allowed us to share our talents with children who wanted to follow in our footsteps but didn't have the resources that we had. For me, it was even better because I started working on my coaching resume even while in high school, which is why I tell this part of my story in describing the pursuit of my dream job.
Pursuing My Dream Job
Agarwal (n.d.), a well-known author and career counselor, says, "To start with you have to have the talent and the skill of playing the game, and then you have to have a thorough knowledge of the game and all the rules and regulations too. Initially most coaches would start at the high school level of coaching and then go on…." (p. 1). One of the reasons that I did not have to start at the high school level is because of the coaching that I did in the community while in high school as well as the 3 years I spent as captain and my high level of skill and talent in playing the game. Balancing leadership, academics, and high achievements on the court is what got me into Stanford and my performance at Stanford in addition to my past resume building and my acquisition of a Master of Science in Sports Management at Stanford, are the components that landed me my first coaching job as head coach at Brooks Community College.
It is fairly unique to get a head-coaching job right out of college but the opportunity came together and one of my assistant coaches at Stanford played basketball with the Athletic Director at Brooks. Being a coach at Brooks means that I had to be prepared to coach players who strive to achieve scholarship offers at Division 1 Universities, particularly schools like Stanford, Tennessee, UCONN, and the like. Some have dreams of someday playing in the WNBA and I have dreams of coaching in the WNBA.
In my first coaching job at Brooks, I gained the necessary experience for receiving a job offer from five different Division 1 Universities with strong basketball programs as follows: University of California-Berkeley (2011), Oregon State University (2011), Texas State University (2011), University of Hawaii (2011), and University of Tennessee (2011). Each of these jobs was an important step in the direction of my dream job. Getting to the University of Tennessee (2011) was my goal because I knew that working there would be the big chance I needed in the college-coaching world to get noticed on the national stage. UT (2011) has an incredible tradition of excellence and victory in basketball and they are known for their well-rounded athletes and performance standards. Getting to Tennessee was just the break I needed to get to the next level. However, performing well at Tennessee was even more important than getting there.
Granger (2007) says, "Many students cannot imagine that they can spend a lifetime working in an area they enjoy and in which they can apply their individual talents and skills" (p. xxiii-xxiv). I value what Granger has to offer to the world of career counseling but most of all I relate to what he is saying. I have always known that I can pursue this life and nothing has ever made me doubt my ability.
From Whiston and Rahardja (2005) I learned that my pursuit of my dream job means I need to constantly be aware of my own performance, my own needs, apply rigorous self-assessments, participate in interviewing where I ask for feedback, and engage in rigorous and strategic personal consultations. Even more importantly, I need to have mentors that I trust and who trust me. I need to have people who have been (or currently work) in the field I desire to thrive within and I need to listen to them and be able to take what they have to say to heart.
Having mentors is the same idea as having role models. Identifying role models in my field is pretty easy and I am lucky enough to have the respect of so many people that I trust and they have so much to offer me. Quimby & Desantis (2006) insist that the selection process of mentors is dependent on finding a…