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For three-time Olympian Dawn Staley, it all comes down to discipline

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Posted by: Bernie Dagenais on Tuesday, May 7, 2019 at 3:00:00 pm

Put Dawn Staley near college ball players and it’s apparent she was never the tallest woman on the court. At 5 foot 6 inches, she made up for her lack of height with hustle and resolve. The Philadelphia native, three-time Olympic champion and University of South Carolina Basketball coach held court last week at our 46th annual Inspirational Breakfast. She inspired a sold-out audience of business leaders at Valley Forge Academy & College with her lessons in leadership.

Coach Staley brings her own perspective on things. She doesn’t understand anything less than full dedication to playing basketball among her players. That’s likely because she gave so much to the game when she was a college player struggling to fit in as a young black woman from a predominately black Philadelphia neighborhood attending school with mostly white students at the University of Virginia.

She calls herself an “odds-beater.” When she was growing up, other girls didn’t cajole and bribe their way into playing sports with boys like she did. She learned that if she showed up with a ball, the boys would let her play so they could use it.

Never mind having a nice pair of sneakers. As the youngest of five children, Dawn was happy with clean, white socks. Now her nonprofit, Innersole, donates quality sneakers to children who meet milestones on their own paths to success.

If you had to boil her philosophy on winning in life down to one thing, it would be discipline. Her mother was tough on her. Not wanting to disappoint someone can be a powerful motivator. Discipline means motivating yourself to become an expert in something you care about. It means working hard and having high expectations.

When it comes to her leadership style, Coach Staley talks about the importance of communication. She has a way of asking questions to get to a player’s true feelings. “What do you want me to do,” she recalled asking one of her players who was thinking about quitting. Facing uncertainty as a response, she told the woman, “well one of us needs to know.”

Coach Staley’s ability to inspire loyalty was one of the keys to turning a formerly weak team at the University of South Carolina into NCAA champions in 2017. She describes leaving her coaching job at Temple University for South Carolina as sometimes having to make unpopular decisions for your own good.

Thanks Aqua, Firstrust Bank, and all our sponsors and attendees. Watch for Dawn Staley when she coaches USA Basketball at the Tokyo Olympics in 2020. Be assured, she doesn’t forget where she came from. Those who come into contact with her won’t forget her inspiring story about leading herself and others.

Click here to read the entire issue of the May newsletter.

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