“Only Pay Attention to the Dreams in Your Heart” -C. Vivian Stringer

Flashback Friday: A post I wrote after interviewing Vivian Stringer.

photo courtesy of blog.nj.com

Enshrinement Weekend at the Basketball Hall of Fame begins tomorrow in my city, the birthplace of Basketball.

On my way to work, I saw the massive banners being splayed out across Symphony Hall, and the neon sign outside of the Basketball Hall of Fame was blinking more fervently than usual. The local paper has a stunning shot of City Hall steps festooned with mums and Spalding basketballs.

What’s more, the city is particularly a-buzz because Michael Jordan is an inductee this year. But I had the opportunity to chat with another ’09 honoree for an article recently – Vivian Stringer, coach of the Rutgers Women’s Basketball Team.

By many, she’s best known as the coach who took on Don Imus following his unfortunate on-air remarks about her team in 2007. But after speaking with her, I realized that there are so many more notable things to share about Coach Stringer than that one moment in time.

For instance, she sued her school system in the 1960s to win a spot on the then-segregated cheerleading team (and won). She brought her first team at Cheyney State to the finals in 1982, but the win was overshadowed by her daughter’s sudden illness and subsequent life-long health problems. She led the University of Iowa’s women’s team to the Final Four in 1992, and shortly after lost her husband to a heart attack – and all of this was before she ever dreamed of signing on to coach at Rutgers, and beginning the most visible period of her career.

In short, to say Coach Stringer has had a life polarized by triumph and tragedy would be an understatement. This could be why her autobiography is called Standing Tall, and why she seems to so easily articulate some of the more complicated emotions we, as humans, face.

“I believe that the moment when we’re standing in the crossfire is when we really see what we can do,” she told me during our interview – just one of the many honest, straight-shooting notions she left me with. In fact, she said things like this so effortlessly, I found myself digging deeper, not just for the story, but maybe to glean a little wisdom for my own.

At the close of the conversation, it was almost as if she knew this.

“Only pay attention to the dreams in your heart,” she said, as we wrapped. “It’s what we all seek – to know who we are.”

Congratulations, Coach.

Published: Thursday, 10 September 2009

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