Before I ever thought of becoming a University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB) Blazer, I was a University of Tennessee Volunteer… well, in my mind I was.
I saw powerful images of a Warrior and knew that UT was the place where I could shine. I couldn’t play a lick of basketball, but you couldn’t tell me that I wasn’t going to meet Pat Summitt on campus while walking to class one day. Try denying it, and I would emphatically defend that fantasy until you were a believer.
The Big Orange glow lured me into the graduate school application process years later when I decided to become an educator. I applied to both UAB and Tennessee. My grandmother was sick and I decided to stay in Birmingham. My letter from Tennessee came a few days after I confirmed my graduate journey as a Blazer. Somehow, I knew it would happen that way.
Nevertheless, I felt a strong connection to Knoxville because of one person. An unapologetic Shero that seemed to radiate from my TV screen each time I saw her. I could feel her fire and touch her tenacity. She was a lifter of those around her and you could see it in the eyes of her Lady Vols. For me, “The Summit” (as I called her in my mind), was a cataclysmic collision with athletic machismo. Her hand claps sent shockwaves into decades of prejudice and discrimination toward women and her stare would make any referee, coach, or player rethink their behavior.
In light of the news of her passing, what did I learn? What did I hear before bed last night? One lesson.
You can’t argue with excellence.
In the beginning it was a factor, but later… after sowing sweat and sincerity, it didn’t matter that she was female. Her excellence superseded her gender. In the end, she understood that either you be great or you go home and come back ready to be great. That’s all you have to choose from. You do the work behind the scenes and you eliminate the opportunity for inferiority and self-doubt to halt your drive. Sure, I could go down the statistics and accolades, but I’d like to point out the less-than-shiny ones.
Driving the team van
$250.00 per month of earnings
This is greatness. This is excellence at its finest. It starts at the bottom; it starts with service. With every perceived act of smallness, she exuded exponential positivity with a side of moxie. She was a powerhouse before anyone acknowledged that she had the juice… and she didn’t wait for them to figure it out. Her consistent investment in others yielded residual dividends.
100% graduation rate of her players
First women’s coach to earn more than $1 million in a season (2008-2009 season), trailblazing a path for other women to earn competitive coaching pay
Inspiring thousands of women to play like a girl and be proud of it
The Summit” yelled. She passionately pressed her players without apology. She paced across the attic of America’s glass ceiling with her 5’11” frame and dared anyone to say she couldn’t back up every seed she had sown. Her brand was excellence, and she trusted the product she poured into others. Whether or not the sexists acknowledge her equity, she was definitely not outworked. Her determination put more wind in my feminist cape to keep flying above gender stereotypes. Now, she has gone in the same fullness in which she was came.
I’m grateful that she was great before she went home.
Each quarter, I challenge my first-term students to engage in “15 Minutes of Fame.” This is where they find an emotionally-safe spot (closet, car, bathroom, etc.), turn on their favorite song(s), and absolutely lose themselves in the music. No pressure to dance or sing, just the dropping of caked-on inhibitions for a few minutes in order to refuel the soul. Well, I clocked in my 15-minutes this week… and then some.
For 55 minutes, I danced my heart IN
after pouring much of it out for the last few months
and I loved every second of it.
It began with an invitation to participate in a “Dancing In The Dark” party with my writer’s group. Just the thought of it made me excited to attend. The energy was loving, encouraging, and full of camaraderie when I walked in. We wore what we felt was comfortable and the care for body-type was null and void. After a round of laughs, a few photos, and a quick rundown from our facilitator and it was lights off-music on.
The mix of audible goodness fertilized our eagerness to let go of the day’s demands and celebrate our group founder’s birthday. Immediately, my arms flew up and my eyes adjusted to the un-need to close them. I had moves that made the angels blush. They probably covered their faces with their wings. It was great. I was alive and electric. No one could see each other, but everyone could feel their own light shining in the room. We screamed, chanted, and sang our way to liberation in the middle of a workweek. It was a fantastic relief. My body was sore, but I didn’t care. The moment was about me, not what happened to me physically, spiritually, or mentally.
If you had the honor to peek into our session,
you would have seen the weight of social roles breaking around the room and shattering like glass shackles on the dance floor.
For almost an hour, we weren’t wives, mothers, employees, supervisors, etc. We were all-shades-of-woman gaining control of our existence. It was evident on our faces when the lights floated back on and we resurfaced from our pools of freedom.
I began the evening with the thought of “I’m going to dance my heart out.” I said it to myself, but stopped at the word heart and instead of saying out, I heard in. I was determined to dance my heart IN that night. It reminded me of Proverbs 4:23 –
“Watch over your heart with all diligence,
For from it flow the springs of life.”
Everyday I pour my heart into the things I do, because they are extensions of who I am. I teach, tutor, sing, dance, serve, and speak because it flows from my heart. It’s not a bad thing, but it does take a toll if I don’t refuel and regroup. In my freshman orientation course, we discuss “who you are” versus “what you are.” Easy is the road to becoming engulfed in the roles you play in life without filling up the bucket of what makes you awesome.
Pouring into multiple vessels can only occur if your “who you are” bucket is full; otherwise, you’ll end up still trying to pour with a cantankerous pail from a barren well.
God is pretty cool at this task. Fill up with His view of you. You’re an awesome creation with beautiful springs of life. I encourage you to refuel with your own “15 -Minutes of Fame” some time. You could do it in your living room, but there’s something special about being in good company as you disrobe your soul. SOL Dance Exchange is the perfect segue way to unravel the ropes of personal and social constructs. Say hi to Laura and enjoy.
Go for it. Dance your heart IN and let me know how it goes. *smile*