NORMAN, Okla. -- On a September evening, Mo Anderson journeyed southbound on Interstate 35. As she neared her destination, a lump began to form in her throat. The road signs pointed to her exit and the towering edifice of Gaylord Family – Oklahoma Memorial Stadium peered above the horizon. Her stomach tightened.
Her gut reaction similarly matched many who travel the route to face Sooners in the same stadium on fall Saturdays. Although Anderson has been at the pinnacle of her industry for more than two decades, what was waiting for the real estate titan on this night gave her trepidation.
“I was really worried because I am old as dirt,” Anderson said. “And I thought, ‘What if they don’t relate to me?’ You know, it could be a rough evening.”
The Keller Williams Realty vice chairwoman was the keynote presenter to nearly 200 student-athletes representing all 10 women’s sports the University of Oklahoma sponsors at a varsity level as part of the Sooner Stilettos’ 2013-14 kick-off event, “My Sister’s Champion.”
Formerly an elementary school music teacher, Anderson entered real estate in 1975, sold her company in 1986 and became the vice president and CEO at Keller Williams in 1995. Anderson led the company to exponential growth, parlaying a business acumen founded upon unwavering integrity and interminable drive. Earning the nickname, the “Velvet Hammer,” she now spends most of hours traveling and teaching at Keller Williams’ training events, speaking to wide varieties of up-and-comers.
The Sooner Stilettos were the brainchild of OU women’s basketball head coach Sherri Coale and began in November 2003 to involve female community and business leaders with her team. The idea originated with Coale’s desire to have successful women surrounding her program -- in the audience at her games, talking about her program in the community and introducing role models for her players. Since then, the group has flourished into nearly 150 members, like Anderson, who have transformed into a support group for all areas of OU Athletics.
Anderson delivered her address inside the Chesapeake Stadium Club on the topic of six personal perspectives -- the same she’s used to thrive throughout her career and influence countless others -- and from the start, captivated an exuberant audience.
“I could tell from the minute I said, ‘a mediocre mentor tells, a good mentor explains, a great mentor demonstrates, and a champion mentor inspires,’ I knew I had them,” Anderson recalled. “So I thought, ‘I’m just going to go for it.’”
By the end of the night, Anderson was penned into a corner, hounded for advice and photos. As quickly as phones clicked, personal Twitter and Instagram feeds refreshed with her face encircled by Sooner athletes.
“I just so want to touch their heartstrings because you can touch their mind, but until it not only touches the mind but touch the heart then they’ll take action.”
The Sooner Stilettos are unique among college athletics programs. The Stilettos meet regularly and host a variety of events, usually bookended by meet-and-greets and business card exchanges that help student-athletes gain valuable networking connections as they seek career advice, and future internship and employment opportunities.
“A lot of these girls,” Anderson noted, “maybe they’ve had sports mentorship in their life because they’re so good, but a lot have not had life mentorship. Part of what the Stilettos are doing is getting the mentors to get involved with their hearts.”
The personal touches are what gain Stilettos such as Anderson the groupies that hang on every word, swear allegiance to their goals and follow up with sincere gratitude. Sooners learn now just how to get a foot in the door once their playing career is complete, but how to be a leader immediately with their peers and teams.
"Mo Anderson is great, very energetic and very funny," OU women's basketball player Kaylon Williams said. "I've met a lot of connections through the Stilettos. It's tremendous. That's one thing that unique about our school. There are a lot of opportunities set up for you, it's not just about the sport, in my case, just basketball. They set you up for the outside world and what you are going to do when you graduate.
"It lines up with Coach Coale's philosophy that we do more than be outstanding basketball players, that we be outstanding women off the court as well."
In this case, the Stilettos’ message is reciprocal in the pathway between guru and pupil.
“We have to be deliberate in making sure that we are the kind of people who can be a mentor to a student,” OU academic advisor Teresa Turner said, “and how important it is and how it motivates people and how sometimes you can change the direction of a student from just putting in that time with them and showing an interest.
“I think it motivates you to be better, to do more, to not be satisfied. We’re so easy to feel like we do enough. I think it motivates you to do more. To strive for excellence like we always talk about here at OU.”
As an academic advisor, Turner has watched the program develop the hearts and minds of several generations of young women. As one of OU’s first female scholarship basketball players, participating in the infancy of Title IX, she’s witnessed the transformation made in all areas of women’s athletics.
“It’s awesome because back when I played, you didn’t have that kind of support. Now you have community support, you’ve got people who are excited about women’s sports. I think that you’ve got those people who are willing to invest time into student-athletes, making sure that as female student-athletes that we’re getting that support and we’re getting that mentoring that we need too, that maybe, in our history that men have always been able to have. That is exciting, to me, to see this kind of support and this kind of investment in women’s sports.”
The event championed the synergy that OU Athletics has commanded in recent years as it incorporates its invaluable resources to off-the-field support as much as it does for its on-the-field training.
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“If there is one among us who functions and operates on greed and who wants fame and fortune without a work ethic or not understanding that the higher purpose of sports, the higher purpose of business is to give, share and care – they don’t get it, they need to get it,” Anderson proclaimed.
“And when you get in their face, sometimes they get it.”