By Cynthia Hubert
In college, in the WNBA and as an Olympian, basketball star Lisa Leslie had a reputation for being the first one in the gym and the last one to leave.
“There are no shortcuts,” Leslie told an audience of hundreds of young people on Monday, Sept. 23, in Sacramento State’s Union Ballroom during her keynote speech for Student Academic Success Day.
This year’s theme for the event was “Brave, Bold, Brilliant.”
The key to achieving your dreams, Leslie told the group, is envisioning them, writing them down and working hard.
“Decide what you’re passionate about and go after it,” she said. “Have the courage to try, and if you try and fail, try again.”
Leslie was the WNBA’s Most Valuable Player three times, was a perennial All-Star and helped Team USA win four Olympic gold medals. Her athletic accomplishments earned her a place in the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame.
But she found other passions as well.
She has worked as a model, a television broadcaster, a product endorser, and an entrepreneur and businesswoman. She earned her MBA and became a realtor. She also is a wife and mother of a daughter and son.
Growing up in the hardscrabble Southern California town of Compton, Leslie endured taunts about her lanky 6-foot-5 frame and her size-12 feet, she said. The remarks hurt, but also motivated her.
“I want to be somebody,” she thought. She decided that her autographs would be in demand in the future and that “one day my feet are going to make me money.”
“I realized that basketball was going to be my way out of Compton,” Leslie said.
She joined her high school team and after graduation played at the University of Southern California before the Los Angeles Sparks of the WNBA came calling. Through it all, Leslie studied her sport, honed her muscles and practiced, practiced, practiced.
Too often, she said, “we make excuses for why things are not working out for us. But if you want to be real you have to look yourself in the mirror and ask, ‘What are you doing to make yourself better?’ "
She advised students to have specific goals – such as earning a certain grade in school or winning a sports championship – write them down and think about them every day.
“There’s no big secret to how to become successful,” she said. “You have to manifest in it and write it out” and then work as hard as possible.
She credited her mother, among others, for acting as a role model.
“Seek out mentors,” she told the audience. “Surround yourself with good people who will help you to be your best.”
Though her accomplishments have been many, “my favorite job is being a wife and mom,” Leslie said.
“Make sure you make choices that also include your family.”