Rebound, score, foul...
If you'd ask me what those words meant to me a few years ago, I would have told you, absolutely nothing. About three years ago, I met Kym Hampton, a former professional athlete. I have never been a fan of sports to the degree of attending games but did attended one or two some years ago on a date. Other than the male figure that extended me the invite, the game meant absolutely nothing to me.
Yes, I was in awe of the greatness of Michael Jordan, Magic Johnson and Shaquille O'Neal to name a few. They did awesome things with the ball, defying gravity beyond mathematical or scientific explanation thus, leaving me clueless. Although amazing, I never cared to understand the game itself.
Last year, after attending a New York Liberty-WNBA game and sitting courtside. I got a chance to meet all of the players, and was amazed by the passion of the fans. Watching those women play a game I thought only men could master, opened my eyes to the world of sports. I learned that these amazing women were all college graduates, world traveled and have interesting hobbies. This blew me away and I knew it was time for me to give these women I have befriended the proper respect and learn the basics of this game.
New York Liberty legend Kym Hampton and the highly accomplished Los Angeles Sparks legend Lisa Leslie, tipped off the first ever WNBA game on June 21st, 1997. The game was played at the Great Western Forum in LA, before a sell-out crowd and aired on NBC.
These women not only blazed the trail for girls who aspire to go pro, they have brought world attention to the sport they love, globally.
Hampton was born in Louisville Kentucky and started playing basket ball in the 9th grade. With close guidance from her high school coach (Marshall Abstain), she fell in love with the game. Though starting late, she developed into a great player at a startling pace and as a high school senior, then was heavily recruited by several major universities.
Kym accepted a full athletic scholarship to Arizona State University and majored in Theatre.
Hampton will go down in the school's history books as one of the most decorated players to ever wear a Sun Devil jersey. She continues to hold the title as the all-time leading scorer and rebounder, both male and female in the history of the school.
Hampton didn't stop there. After graduation, Kym pursued a professional basketball career abroad because there was no professional league in the US at that time. She played six years in Spain, four and a half years in Italy, one year in France and one in Japan. In 1997, she was drafted in the first round (the number 4 pick) of the WNBA elite draft.
Due to a severely worn cartilage in her right knee, Kym was forced to retire at the age of 37. She currently works with the Liberty front office as a Community Relations/Field Marketing Specialist.
Ask Kym what role basketball has played in her life and she will answer everything. To her, sports are more than the physical. The lessons that sports has taught her by far extend off the court, for instance; how physically or mentally tough one can become. Defines your character for winning or losing. Questions your staying power or reveals if you are a quitter? Do you blame others or do you tend to be a passive person? It tests your skill level. It provokes you to become a better person. Your character, your leadership skills, your ability to work well with others, any lazy qualities, or weakness will come to the surface and force you to seek ways for improvement?
Kym Hampton was not only a gifted athlete; she has a phenomenal voice and has always wanted to sing. Her love for singing came at an early age but was shy about singing before others which caused her to push that particular gift to the back burner.
After her retirement in 2000, she started taking her singing more seriously. The retirement was a forced decision due to injuries, which later lead to some measure of depression. Hampton soon fell victim to weight gain, high blood pressure. Wanting so desperately for things to change, she prayed for an opportunity. She slowly began performing at small venues, notable venues locally, and singing the national anthem for the final games for the Liberty.
Her opportunities kept coming, one came when she received the call from the new ABC daytime show The Revolution. The show's mission is to transform the lives of people through the stories of a weekly hero. Kym's life is a compelling yet motivating story of how she went from an accomplished athlete, to not knowing who, where or what would come next. She went on her own personal revolution to redefine herself mentally, physically, spiritually and emotionally.
There is a saying "The one sure thing in life is change." Life constantly evolves and Kym knows that she must take time to care for herself and not be afraid of change... after all, "Life Is What We Make It."
So what does that mean to us as observers? Tons. Our view of girls, women are first formed by our mother and father. Their interaction with each other, together, in the family unit will eventually mold how we treat girls, women in our lives. Whether they are your sister, mother, aunts, grand parents, employer, superior, etc. Sad to say women are often victims of some form of abuse in our society, some more extreme then others depending on what part of the globe you live in. But nonetheless it is a personal decision as to what part we want to play in the treatment of women. Sports as minor as you may think it is, is one platform where girls, women can be viewed as great, strong, leaders and all things positive. And your support of them will encourage them in a positive light.
Kym Hampton, though retired stands more then a former WNBA player, legend of a sport that very few women are recognized for. She stands for the masses of girls, women, that hold the key to the future of women in our society. Women, future leaders, future CEO's, CFO's, Entrepreneurs, community leaders, activists, decision makers, and all that is positive.
When you support women in sport, the chances of them finishing high school increases, their chances to go to college are greater, their ability to make good decisions are more likely, their risk of teenage pregnancy is lowered, their chances for being abused has decreased. You provide another window of opportunity for girls to see a positive future.
On May 16, Kym Hampton "revealed" a new stage in her life, another platform in her life. Call it passion, love, the gift of voice. Her singing. Her revealing was seen on ABC, The Revolution. Kym not only lost a tremendous amount of weight but has opened up a new chapter in her life that will give voice to other girls, women that dare to step into the sports arena or the entertainment arena.
Support women in sport, support the WNBA games in your home town. On May 19, NY Liberty play their opening game this Saturday at Madison Square Garden.