Coale's Pet Peeve

Why basketball players can be like squirrels in the road

2006-07 Blog Archive

My Pet Peeve
Posted by Sherri Coale | Date: Saturday, Feb. 2, 2008 |
Coale Bio

My pet peeve is clothes that are halfway. Every Sunday morning, after my shower and before church, I spend about 20 minutes hanging up the week's clothes that aren't clean, but aren't really dirty either. My life is full of them. It's a hazard of this profession . . . and of having children, I think. I put on jeans and a shirt and go to my son's high school game--not clean, not dirty. I wear professional clothes to the office and change for practice at noon--not clean, not dirty. I wear a blouse and jacket to tape my TV show--not clean, not dirty. And so they pile. These halfway clothes. And they distract. And, ultimately, when it comes time to do laundry or get dressed for something real, the piles have to be dealt with. Because sometimes you need the parts and sometimes you just need the clarity.

Halfway in basketball can kill you and it's an easy trap for good players to get caught in. For instance, if you're a limited post player with little range and shaky skills, when you set an on-ball screen, you roll to the basket. Every time. You can get really good at it because it's always clear what you are to do. On the other hand, if you're a skilled, athletic post player you might on-ball screen and roll, or on-ball screen and slip, or on-ball screen and pop and now you have several things you could do and it gets really easy to get caught in the middle of all three doing nothing. Now you have muck: halfway basketball.

Players can do it to themselves defensively, too, especially when they're playing against a bunch of guys who do a lot of things well. If the guy you are guarding can shoot the 3 and the post guy on the opposing team can really score, it's easy to find yourself trying to guard both and doing neither. You're too far away from the 3-point shooter to do anything about it if they receive the ball, but you're not close enough to the post to force them to kick it out. You're halfway. Just like the clothes draped over the side of my bathtub.

Halfway can be a dangerous hang out for young players, especially. They find themselves stuck in the middle of the highway all the time. "Should I cut, should I screen, should I drive, should I shoot?" They can't decide, so they do nothing. Or they do what they do halfway. You can almost hear the chaos in their heads. They look like the squirrel that can't figure out whether to continue across the road or return. Unfortunately, I drive past a lot of flat squirrels.

Halfway can happen far less literally, too. It can happen in your head when you don't even realize it's happening. It manifests itself as "I do more than many" and "I really want to be good". Halfway commitment is an oxymoron called interest. There's an old story about the chicken and the pig and the role they play in your morning breakfast. The chicken gives eggs; the pig gives his life. One is interested; the other is committed. Interest is halfway. Interest is trying kinda hard, shooting extra sometimes, wanting to believe. Interest is hoping. Commitment is finding a way to get the rebound; it's shooting extra every day regardless of how many you make or miss in the game. Commitment is knowing. It's the antithesis of halfway.

At the base of my halfway clothes debacle lays a decision. I have to decide to hang them up and count them clean or take them to the laundry room and count them dirty. It's simple, really. They are, in the end, what I choose them to be. Life is eerily similar. We get to decide what we want ours to be; how we think, how we feel, and what we choose to do about it all is entirely up to each of us.

Somebody should really tell the squirrels.

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A Perspective on Paris
Posted by Jared Thompson, Sports Information Director | Monday, Dec. 31, 2007

For the record, let me make one thing clear: If Courtney Paris reads this, she will be embarrassed.

Embarrassed that we have to make a big deal out of her records and streaks, the games she scores 30-plus, the days she doesn't.

A crowd of roughly 9,000 saw that embarrassment Sunday when Paris was honored prior to the game for her participation in USA Basketball this summer helping American teams win a World Championship and an Olympic berth. Ironically, though it's her job from baseline to baseline, Courtney doesn't like to be the center of attention. That's why she posed just long enough for the mandatory photo-op before asking Coach Coale if it was OK to leave and lead her team up the tunnel to the locker room before the public address script even finished.

Later, despite pounding double- and triple-teams from 6-foot-6 Ilona Burgrova, 6-4 Demetress Adams and 6-3 Lakesha Tolliver, Paris' consecutive double-double streak extended to 72 games.

The ninth-ranked Oklahoma Sooners took their ninth straight victory in a quality home win as they prepare to maintain their two-year reign as the Big 12's best team in what appears might be the toughest year ever to earn the title.

And the next day's headline reads: Courtney Paris scores a career low 10 points.

This is basketball, not gymnastics, but if Courtney Paris' floor exercise nets a '10' every time -- I'm just fine with that.

Defensively, Paris held the opposing starting center to two points and zero rebounds in the first half as Oklahoma built its lead. In the same period, Paris scored six points and collected 14 boards -- as many rebounds as the entire South Carolina team.

By the end of the game, Paris had 24 rebounds -- the most by a Division I player this season and two shy of the Gamecocks' total and her personal record. She had nine offensive rebounds, compared to six for South Carolina, and 15 on the defensive glass, three times as many as the next leading player.

Paris' production is unnatural. At 16.3 points and rebounds per game her numbers are easily among the best in the nation this season and certainly the best for any player on a ranked team. Currently, she's recorded 77 double-doubles in 80 career games.

Courtney, more than anyone, could care less. Sure, she would enjoy it if she finished her career with the double-double streak intact but would be much more ecstatic with a national championship trophy or two.

You'll read that Coach Coale will keep Courtney in games when the streak is in jeopardy. That's partly true. Coale gets statistical updates -- like all coaches are privy to -- during the game, so she knows where her players stand. Coale, as much as any other coach or player or fan, desperately wants to keep this amazing run alive. But she won't think twice about benching her superstar if she doesn't feel like its being earned the right way.

Officially, the double-double record isn't really a record at all. The NCAA doesn't yet keep double-double statistics for the women's game (although they do for the men). But, like many things in women's basketball, Paris is changing all that. Still, no one doubts that a streak like hers has ever been as great and there are few reservations about it ever being topped.

When her consecutive double-doubles briefly disappeared due to scoring errors at OU's games in Cancun, Mexico, Paris never dwelled, never said a negative word. She kept working, kept making her game better. Her next outing netted 19 points and 22 rebounds in 26 minutes of court time.

If you consider production in terms of points and rebounds, add Courtney's career scoring average and career rebounding average -- currently 21.8 and 15.6, respectively. Only two players -- Patrice Hoskins of Mississippi Valley State (1985-89) and Wanda Ford of Drake (1983-86) -- in the history of women's college basketball surpass Paris' total. But neither can match Paris' 58.5 percent career field goal percentage and neither had to play with the quality of a supporting cast that this year's Sooners provide.

And we haven't even begun adding blocks yet.

It's my job to be a liaison between the team and the media. To this day, writers still don't believe me when I tell them Courtney doesn't think in terms of points and rebounds; she doesn't care about whether her double-double streak continues; she doesn't know what records she's creeping up on; she only cares about victories.

Of course, Courtney does care about much more than winning basketball games. She carries a black scheduling book with her that is coded in scribbles of alien hieroglyphics and about every color of highlighter known to mankind. Despite extraordinary demands on her time, she does her best not to miss appointments, interviews, class assignment deadlines and whatever else might be in those pages. She's not perfect, but she's close. She's not required to make a weekly visit to a Norman elementary school to read the community's youth, to participate in the team's monthly Meals on Wheels drives, or to go out of her way to get to know the families who visit with Special Spectators. There are a few hundred people in Norman who can back me up when I write that she's there for all those.

Like most of the OU women's basketball circle, I've been a guest of Ashley and Courtney at their home in Norman.  There, you get treated like you are one of the family.  You also great home-cooked meal and conversation that may never touch on the topic of basketball.  I guarantee everyone who's been hosted by the twins has left with a similar impression, although I hear Wii golf gets a little competitive especially when Bubba is in town.  Speaking of the Paris parents, if Bubba or Lynne ever wrote a book on parenting, they would corner the market.

In Oklahoma's next game, January 9 at Iowa State, Courtney will likely add another record to the bazillion already tied to her name. This time it's the Big 12 career record for defensive rebounds. A game or two later, she'll earn the career records for offensive and total rebounds. By the end of the season, she has the opportunity to be OU's career scoring leader. She'll say it's great to attain such an accomplishment, but it's better to do it in a victory. She'll be truthful; she'll be correct.

I'm a big fan of Courtney Paris the player, but a bigger fan of Courtney Paris the person for one very specific reason -- off the court she is Courtney and when she steps onto the court she cares only about the name on the front of the jersey, not the one on the back. Just like Ashley Paris. Just like Carolyn Winchester. Just like Amanda Thompson. Just like Jenna Plumley. Just like Abi Olajuwon. Just like Rose Hammond. Just like Carlee Roethlisberger. Just like Jenny Vining. Just like Lauren Willis. Just like Nyeshia Stevenson. Just like Danielle Robinson.

Imagine that -- 12 people who truly have one goal in mind every time they are together.

That could be a record.


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Bridging the Gap
Posted by Courtney Paris | Date: Thursday, Dec. 6, 2007 | Courtney Paris Bio

I don't know that I should have a blog because I never do it. Chris Freet, my old faithful sports information director, has moved on to South Florida and we are all so happy for him -- maybe except for Jared, the new media guy, because now he's the one who has to continue to remind me to write.

Welcome to women's basketball, Jared. Sorry!

However in this big gap from Chile to now, I've learned a lot about myself and this team. Frankly, I think this team is the most talented team together that I've been a part of as a Sooner. Last year, we had a ton of talent and experience because of having six seniors, who we still talk to regularly and refer to as "the seniors," but I think with this group, as a unit, we complement each other's games more than ever.

As you all know, we played two of the toughest games I had played since I've been at OU and, although we lost, we learned a whole lot in both of those games and all the games that have followed.

Practices for the most part have been great. Except when they aren't; because sometimes they're not. (Okay, enough with the Dr. Seuss.) Even on the days when it's been bad, I love it that this team just doesn't settle. We use it, learn from it and almost always improve. Even if it's just little steps each day, I feel we are getting better.

More news is I got braces Monday and I feel ridiculous. Not because having braces makes you ridiculous but because, I, in braces, look ridiculous. If anything my teeth are kind of like basketball for me.

OK...bear with me as this might not make any sense at first.

I've always been told I have a great smile and good teeth. I've even been asked if I had braces before, which I hadn't. And my gap, which wasn't too big, wasn't perfect but it had always just been who I was. People liked it, and so did I. So it was good enough; no need for change.

That's how I felt when I got to college basketball and discovered I can play this game. As a freshman, when the coaches would point out things I was doing that they didn't like, I would think, "I'm one of the top five scorers and rebounders in country doing it my way. What is good enough?"

A month into the second half of my career, I have indeed learned that I can get much, much better!

Honestly, this has been the most awkward year for me as a Division I college basketball player because I feel like it's the most I've ever been open to change as a player.

Maybe improvement is worth it, though. Even if you have to look silly for a while (six to eight weeks according to my orthodontist) because change sometimes is just awkward. And, every once in a while, a coach tightens your wire and you ache. But you get better and, eventually, you're lined up right.

My freshman year, I was in Coach Coale's office and we were talking about something, and I remember saying, "It's just who I am, Coach."

She replied: "Is that who you want to be? If you could change to be better why wouldn't you?"

And so it is, "that's just who I am," isn't such a good excuse, especially if you can be better.

The irony is Coach didn't want me to fix my gap. But I can't wait to show off these pearly whites because, eventually, if we keep getting better, there's going to be something to smile about.

I can't wait for that moment almost as much as I can't wait to get these braces OFF!

Boomer Sooner,

Courtney

P.S.

To Abby Waner,

I don't know if you'll ever read this, Abby, as my blog is not as popular as yours -- a fact that you have continued to throw in my face (only kidding) -- but, yes, Abby, I read your blog and, yes, you did hurt our fun-loving, fun-hating friendship with your little smart comment on the boat in Tampa.

You wrecked the mood of the night and left me to explain to Jenna Plumley and others that, no, I don't blow their assists to pad my rebounding stats. Maybe I am just relentless?

Yes that's it! I unlike you, Abby, know that I am NOT perfect. So, yes, Abby when I miss my own shots out of imperfection -- forgive me for that -- I am relentless enough to stay after it.

So the secret is out. Thank you. Thank you very much! Can you blame me? With all that said, Abby, we are still friends and it is important to know that I admire you as a player and even more so as a person. But Abby, "sister" (as our alums say), keep your dignity. I always win.

Hopefully, when we're back in Tampa in April, we'll have things patched up.

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It Takes Discipline
Posted by Sherri Coale | Date: Tuesday, Nov. 20, 2007 |
Coale Bio

Hello season! I really wasn't thrown into the ocean as a child and told to swim or perish. Promise. I am, however, a sucker for opportunities disguised as challenges. So when the offers to open this season against the last two respective national champions rolled in, I couldn't wait to accept. I knew how young our team would be; I knew how good Maryland and Tennessee would be; I also knew that the best way for us to get where we want go was for us to play the folks who have been there. Or who are there.

Easy decision. We're 0-2.

Here's what I know as a result of this slightly less than stellar start, however -- Courtney Paris has a sister who's as hard to guard as she is, Danielle Robinson is not the least bit intimidated by Division I basketball, and our team can play with anyone in America when we play hard. We can also look silly when we don't. For all of our youth, we have been quite poised. I wouldn't say we've played clean yet, or even with much of an IQ. But we've had pretty good feel -- for the game and for each other.

Maryland punched us and we were dizzy for awhile, but we regained our footing and ultimately went down swinging. Our competition with them taught us that good teams don't let you get by with inattention. If you relax, if you hesitate, if you re-think, if you don't think, they will make you pay. I can't tell you how invaluable feeling that has already been.

We had three whole days to work on the laundry list of do betters we brought home from the Maryland game, while also trying to concoct a game plan to cage Candace Parker and thwart the Tennessee Lady Vols. We talked about timeouts, clock situations, defensive transition, and how to attack a sag. In three days we got a whole lot better, inside and out.

Going into the game with Tennessee, I knew our approach was every bit as important as our game plan. With a young team, the first thing you try to ensure is that the jersey doesn't beat you before the ball is even tossed up. A mere four minutes in on Thursday night, I knew our team had avoided that quicksand. Our effort was better, our eyes were not so wide and I thought I could see the beginning of a collectively set jaw -- a weapon just about as necessary as a jump shot when it comes to surviving and returning to this place called Tampa, the eventual April promised land. The game wound up being a dandy, not decided until we lost control of the ball with nine fragile seconds hanging on the clock. For forty minutes, Tennessee could never quite get away; we held on like the annoying little yapping dog that just will not be denied. While I certainly would have liked to see us make some free throws and be a little more sure with the ball, I gotta tell you, I loved the yapping dog. If that's a part of who we are, we have a chance.

I'm ok with 0-2, if we remember.

I remember where I was on September 11, 2001. I bet almost every person in America does. I was in Phoenix, Ariz., in a hotel room watching in horror on a television screen. I asked my 15-year-old son if he remembered his whereabouts. He said, "Mrs. Davis' classroom." She was his fourth grade teacher. None of us can forget.

In the days and weeks that followed, all of us felt compelled to do something. We sent gloves and boots to the NYC firefighters and emergency crews. We put flags on our cars. We wrote letters and had prayer sessions. Singers got together and sang. Dancers got together and danced. Athletes got together and played. And we all vowed collectively to never forget.

I remember, too, the first time I saw traveling soldiers in their fatigues in a public airport at the onslaught of the war in Iraq. We all stopped eating and talking on our cell phones and we stood and clapped. And most of us cried. We remembered.

Six years later, some fog has rolled in. On our way back from Tampa as I stood at the DFW airport food court waiting for my cheeseburger, three camouflaged travelers with desert looking duffle bags got in line behind me. I asked if they were coming or going and they answered "going" about the time the McDonald's lady thrust my sack toward me and barked, "Next!" I moved toward the straws, the soldiers began delivering their order and I walked off toward my gate. It bothered me enough that I only made it two gates before returning to the McDonalds counter to find them. I stammered something very `ineloquent `, like "Thank you. Good Luck. We keep you in our prayers." And then I scurried off with tears in my eyes and a lump the size of a softball in my throat.

I hate it that I almost forgot.

It takes discipline to really remember. To remember enough that you do something, that is.

Things of significance are so because they change our behavior. They heighten our senses. They awaken our bones. The most ordinary things look different afterword. We see how much they matter. What a travesty to lose the lesson by forgetting how it felt even if it was horrific. That's where the discipline comes in, because most of us would just rather not think about things that are hard to think about. We don't like feeling itchy on the inside.

While losing to Maryland and Tennessee was not horrific, it certainly wasn't any fun. I want our players to remember the sting. I want us to remember the void. I want us to remember how we'd have done anything to have three more seconds on the clock or one more trip to the line. Because remembering that will drive us to get it right. We won't forget what happened, but the danger lies in forgetting how it felt. Remembering THAT squashes reticence. Remembering THAT launches action.

If you don't like your free throw percentage, do something about it. If you don't like how many turnovers you had, do something to prevent it from next time. If you don't like the way it ended, do something so that it doesn't end that way again. Hurt enough, badly enough to act and keep acting.

And never forget how it felt.

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Remembering Mary Jane Noble
Posted by Sherri Coale | Date: Tuesday, Oct. 30, 2007 |
Coale Bio

On Friday afternoon, about the time Rose Hammond ran a back cut setting up a perfect post entry from a position dribble fill, our program lost one of its heroes.

In Ardmore, Okla., Mary Jane Noble slipped quietly from this earth while the program she breathed life into ran around yelping and celebrating subtle excellence in the Oklahoma Sooner manner she, of all our fans, so richly enjoyed. We hardly ever quit early. But something about our swagger, something about our joy on Friday afternoon made me stop our practice short. We were the kind of good you need to think about. So I wanted us to stop and go home so that we could.

That's when I got the news.

Mary Jane Noble is the name that appears on the side of our Women's Basketball Office Complex. She gave us $8.17 million to build our dream. She said simply when she wrote the check, "The women's side of the tunnel better not measure one square inch smaller than the men's side when you're finished. I'll be happy to measure it for you when you're through."

Mary Jane was always about right. She was about fair. She was the voice of simple reason in the midst of panic and high pitched screams. I always thought she was a woman ahead of her time.

Mary Jane served on our Board of Regents. She was a businesswoman, a philanthropist, a season ticket holder, and a grandma. She had a way about her that made you simultaneously suck in your stomach and kick off your shoes. The biggest of the bigs sought her counsel. I've never known a woman so admired by decisions makers as was she. She was smart and she was stubborn. She was strong. And she was very, very real.

Occasionally, before her health began to decline, Mary Jane would travel with us on charter trips. She nearly always went to Lubbock with us while her grandson was in school there. He'd come over to the hotel and ride with us to the gym on the bus. She would be in her OU red and he'd have on a Red Raider t-shirt, kindly concealed by a Carhart jacket. She would gig him about cheering for a losing team and he would grin and take it, knowing that she reveled in the banter as much as she did the game.

My players loved it when she went. Our 2002 team adopted her. She went with us to Kansas City to the Big 12 Tournament where my guys couldn't wait to talk to her after the games. She had an uncanny way of putting 40 minutes into a sentence in such a manner that hearing about the game was almost as much fun as playing it had been. When we won our first two games in the NCAA tournament and headed for Boise and the Sweet 16, our players squealed when they boarded the plane and saw her already on and buckled in. Stacey Dales spent half the trip seated beside her--she had a nose for the great interview even then. Dales said to me once, "Coach, Mary Jane Noble is the coolest woman I know." Lots of people felt that way.

Without Mary Jane Noble, Oklahoma Women's Basketball would not be what it is today. We wouldn't have the amenities. We wouldn't have the success. But mostly what we wouldn't have is a path. Mary Jane walked the walk. The wind could howl and the seas could swirl, but she never wavered. I count her presence among my players a far greater blessing than the gymnasium she built them, but we sorely needed both to become.

There is this tree in north Norman that I love. It stands majestic, by itself, in the middle of a field. A tree line flanks it to the south but the area immediately around it is barren. No one tends to it. It just stands there alone and thrives. It's as if the brazen oak demands the space it grows in, and then some, just to be. And it screams of sureness and serenity and strength. I drove by it when I left the gym on Friday. In lots of ways it reminds me of Mary Jane. It asks nothing of you and you are better just for having driven past it. There's an art to that. I think they call it Presence.

We'll be without hers this season. I'll miss her barely legible note cards that followed every big win and the slightly longer letter version that followed unexpected losses. But she'll be with us still. For that's the way it works with stately, stubborn oaks, and their extraordinary human mimes.

This one's for you, Mary Jane.

We'll do our best to make you proud.

 

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Posted by Courtney Paris (with help from Sue Bird) | Date: Saturday, Sept. 29, 2007 | Courtney Paris Profile

Hey guys, it's Courtney checking in from Chile. That's right I am officially "chillin' in Chile" (corny lines are credited to Sue Bird). Right now I'm sitting in the lobby, a.k.a. "Internet Cafe", a.k.a. "The Office", a.k.a. the coolest place to be on this trip. You see, this hotel only has wireless internet in its lobby. THEREFORE, whether you are from the U.S., Canada, Brazil or Argentina, you saunter (big words are credited to Lindsay) down the flights of stairs in order to access your e-mail or to send blogs to your favorite fans who want to know what's going on down in South America.

So as I was saying, right now I am CHILLIN' with the other CP on the team, Candace Parker (the third CP, Cappie Pondexter just left a few minutes ago) as well as Sue Bird (whose jersey number I stole), Delisha Milton-Jones, her husband Roland, who graduated from Texas. (I know, I know), BJ our equipment manager, Tina Thompson, Seimone Augustus and Kara Lawson. I figured I'd take a quick study break. Yes, that's right; I am a student-athlete and NOT an athlete-student (hear that Coach Coale!!!) and fill you all a little on what's been going on around here lately.

We won all three games in the preliminary round and now are in the semifinal game this afternoon against Argentina. If win this game, tomorrow we will play Brazil or Cuba again for the Gold Medal and automatic bid into the 2008 Olympics in Beijing. I must say that I've been having a whole lot of fun and learning a lot, but the coolest thing is these girls are really down to earth and easy to be around.

Oh and I have to give a quick shout out to my former roomie Candice Wiggins (The Internet is not the only shady aspect of this hotel. They didn't have enough rooms for everyone, so unlike the rest of the team who gets a single, I had to room with Candice. Ahhh, the life of a rookie.) Since Seimone's shoulder turned out to be OK, Candice had to return back to school, so now she is gone, but her spirit has remained and I have not touched her side of the room yet. See Candice, I told you I wouldn't.

Webmaster Note: Stanford University's Candice Wiggins traveled to Chile as an alternate in case Seimone Augustus, who suffered a bruised shoulder in the final U.S. training camp exhibition game, could not play.

It's almost time for me to head back to my studying but before I do I'll leave you with this story. I have to be honest this is not one I wanted to tell (almost as bad as when Carolyn and Ashley locked the keys in the car on our road trip) but after being threatened by the other bloggers I figured I might as well come out about it before they did.

As you all know our first game was this past Wednesday at 4 p.m. against Cuba. So, after shoot around the schedule was announced to the entire team: Pregame at noon, leave at 12:45. Since it was my first real game with the Senior National Team, I was really excited. I did my normal preparation, put my uniform and game warm-ups on, and at noon I grabbed my bag and headed down to the hotel restaurant. When I walked in I noticed that some of the team didn't have their uniforms on but I thought, "Well, they are probably going to eat real fast and then go back to their rooms to change before we leave." Then Miss Parker yelled out "Courtney, what are you doing?" That's when I realized it wasn't just SOME of my teammates that didn't have their uniforms on, it was ALL of them! And the reason was because we were leaving at 2:45, not 12:45! Immediately following Candace's observation everyone starting getting on me, but it wasn't until Diana yelled out, "Yo, Coach, don't worry...the rookie is ready!" did everyone start to laugh. I know, perfect start right?

Well that's about it for now. Boomer Sooner!

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Checking in from Camp
Posted by Courtney Paris | Date: Thursday, Sept. 13, 2007 | Courtney Paris Profile

I remember when I was six years old; I saw Lisa Leslie in a basketball commercial. She did the most impressive thing that I had ever seen done by a woman at the time, a thing that would make the biggest impact on my young life. She went up and slammed a basketball and from that point on I knew this was what I wanted more than anything. I wanted to be just like Lisa Leslie on the Olympic team, some day slamming the basketball through a hoop.

Well, I'm still a few inches and a prayer away from dunking, but I had no idea a dozen years later that I would have a chance to make half my dream come true -- that I would be standing in a huddle listening to my childhood hero talk to our team about playing hard and together, because that's our duty as a member of the USA Women's Senior National Basketball Team.

This is by far the most surreal experience I've had in my life. Half the ladies here are players I remember watching when I was in elementary school and now they're the women for whom I'm setting back screens, giving high fives, sharing smiles and frustration. I never thought I would be in a half court shoot-off with Kara Lawson or calling Sue Bird my point guard. Just getting on and off the team bus with these ladies leaves me awestruck.

And I won't lie; it's nice being treated like a "professional". The per diem is great! You're writing blogs looking out the window at Times Square in your king-size bed suite that you don't have to share, playing against and taking advice from some of the best players ever in our game. Even our shoes are custom made. I'm just going to be honest -- it's unbelievable.

Lisa Leslie shares a moment at a USA Basketball practice.

And I'm learning. I'm learning so much about what it's going to take to play at the next level and win a gold medal in the Olympics. I think that's the biggest thing for us young guys. We take the court every day with our minds open, willing to learn because that's exactly what we do. Whether it's from a teammate slipping you quick advice or one of the coaches pulling you aside and showing you something new, we are learning. But with all that learning and rawness most of us young guys have, I have more respect for the veterans because they still respect us and our individual abilities. They listen to our input and take our advice like we belong, not like we're rookies. It's a good mix of old guys and new guys and I think the future of USA Basketball is going to be bright because of this.

I still have things to do, like school and preseason workouts. After practice I come back to the hotel and do an hour of extra cardio and then lift weights. After that I do my homework and try to get things ready for whenever I get back to school.

And then I start all over again.

For me, I don't know when I'm going back to school, but I know if it's tomorrow that I've learned enough to go home a better player and teammate. For now, this is honestly a dream come true.

I'll keep "y'all" updated. Boomer Sooner!

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Tiger Eyes
Posted by Sherri Coale | Date: Sunday, Sept. 9, 2007 |
Coale Bio

On August 9th I got to watch the master. He bogeyed two holes and sweated like a perforated garden hose. But he is so not normal.

He was smaller than I thought he'd be. Just as cut, but smaller. And his swing was as smooth in person as it is on TV. But it isn't his mechanics (exceptional though they are), that make him Tiger. That's why I could not wait to watch him play.

I love golf. When I was a kid I watched Jack Nicklaus and Lee Trevino battle, and I wanted Ben Crenshaw to be my boyfriend. Then when I became a college basketball coach, I learned to play the crazy game via scrambles where we were supposed to be shaking hands and kissing babies while we "competed". Unfortunately, my competitive nature went more toward a vein poking out in my neck and a few clubs hurled farther than where the ball landed. Golf is hard. But I love it still. Maybe much of the appeal stems from the impossible irony that the game holds for those of us who excel at movement sports. The ball sits still. You swing a club. And the some of the best athletes I know can't hit it straight or far to save their lives. That brings me back to Tiger.

What I could not wait to see on a Thursday afternoon in the Oklahoma oven at Southern Hills, was Tiger in between his swings. I'm almost (almost) glad I didn't see the Record Day. The day I saw was a Hold Your Spot Day. It was an off and on day. An "I'm not quite in the groove" day. And Tiger, in between the swings, was a master. What I wanted to see was his gait, his expression, his stance--the pauses between the notes, if you will. This is where Tiger appears immortal.

I watched him after masterful chips. I watched him after putts left short. I watched him between a mid-fairway touchdown and a land-on-the-beach approach and he was always, always the same. He's not a robot. He winces. He smirks. He bites the inside corner of his cheek sometimes as he looks out the side of his eye. But he centers himself quicker than anyone I have ever seen. The bad shot, once it lands, is gone. The good shot, once it lands, is gone. Watching him was like watching a metronome. "Survivor" sang a song about the impenetrable gaze of the wild's most elegantly fierce animals. I have to wonder if Earl and Kultida had that in mind when they named their son. When Tiger competes, his eyes do not let you in.

I stood in the end zone two Saturdays ago as our football team exited Owen Field at halftime, the score was 49-0. And I could not help but think about Tiger Woods. North Texas isn't USC, but our guys had great eyes. They went on to roll to a 79-10 final. I stood there again yesterday as our Sooners exited the field at halftime versus Miami. Same eyes. Different opponent. Same result.

That is what I love about sports. I don't know that you can tell anyone how to do that. You can talk about steely resolve. You can visualize. You can put a team through mental toughness training. But great eyes? That's a little bit more complicated. And way more rare. Great eyes are an inside job. Our football team seems to have a little Tiger in them in this year. I sure hope it's contagious.