Coach Don Staley accepts the WHYY “Lifelong Learning” award.

But she was nearly expelled from the University of Virginia. It was difficult for her to adapt to the academic requirements of the university as well as to its social life.

“The housing project I grew up in was probably 99.9% black. Then I go to UVA, and this is the first time I am surpassed by blacks compared to whites or any other race, ”Staley said. “I was a very shy young man. I said little. I wasn’t open to new friends. I’m from North Philly. We just stay in our lanes. We do not go beyond our comfort zone. “

Stanford guard Jennifer Azzi, 10, holds the ball during a clash with Virginia center Heidi Burge, 30, and Don Staley, left, center, during the second half of the NCAA Women’s Four Finals at Thompson Bolling Arena, Friday, March 30, 1990. Knoxville, Tennessee, Stanford defeated Virginia 75-66. (AP Photo / Al Behrman)

In an interview with Gross, Staley recalled being summoned to the dean’s office to talk about her future at UVA, and was unable to establish eye contact with him.

“I didn’t know how to handle this situation because I had never been in a situation like this before,” she said. “I’ve always found myself through the game of basketball.”

Eventually, Staley will receive a degree in rhetoric and communication. After college she moved abroad to play basketball in foreign countries and then returned when the WNBA was founded.

As a coach at the University of South Carolina, Staley does not forget his own experience of college. She said she provides assistance to her athletes in all areas of their lives, including academic, psychological and therapeutic.

“We hold their hands. We make sure that we are the biggest voices in their heads, ”she said. “We have processes that will help us get through the most difficult year of their lives: being a freshman.”

Staley accepts failures and encourages his athletes to do the same, because that’s when growth happens.

She recently rediscovered this truth when she was diagnosed with pericarditis, a swelling of the lining that surrounds her heart. For three years she suffered almost constant pain and debilitating medication.

It was at that time, in 2017, that her Gamecocks won their first-ever NCAA National Championship.

But she never told her team she was suffering.

“My face started to warp and grimace from the steroids,” Staley said. “After the season, I had to deal with it. I had to tell people. “

As soon as she started talking about her condition, Steel realized that her experience could help other people.

“It was pretty cool to know that I was able to help someone in this, just to make them feel a little better about how to deal with it, how to live with it,” she said. “I am a self-proclaimed dream trader. To be a dream trader for the people I serve, I have to be an example. ”


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