The Stanford v. South Carolina game went down to the wire. The UConn v. Arizona game, although the final score was not nearly as close, did not disappoint. Many fans were tuned in to watch some fabulous women’s basketball. Some, like myself, watched with their daughter, a current girls basketball player and aspiring collegiate athlete. I have to admit my love of watching Paige Bueckers play is what originally drew me to watching the UConn v. Arizona match up. I ended that game being a huge Adia Barnes fan.
After the game, Coach Barnes was seen in a team huddle on the court congratulating her team on a hard, fought win and an exciting trip to the big dance. She is emotional and adrenaline-infused, full of excitement and determination as she tells her team that they proved the doubters wrong. Her choice of words became shocking to many and they didn’t hesitate to turn to social medial to share their stance and critique of her. All I can say about that is WOW! Adia Barnes WOWED me last night.
I didn’t think twice about her use of profanity that so many of us often times use, and many times regret it afterward. I was too busy thinking about all that Adia Barnes stands for. As I watched her coach that game as the “underdog” coach with the “underdog” team, I was inspired. She didn’t have the coaching experience Geno has. She didn’t have the AP Player of the Year on her team. She didn’t have the hype that surrounds UConn Women’s Basketball. But that didn’t stop her from filling those sidelines with fire, passion, grit, determination, motivation and ultimately success. In the post game interview, Coach Barnes commented that she doesn’t mind being considered the underdog and said that she and her star player, Aari McDonald, are cut from the same cloth. McDonald had a game-high 26 points to advance Arizona to the national championship game. The 5’6” all-hustle guard no doubt has faced her own adversity with her size to get to where she is today. They shared a special moment after the game, basking in their success, being the underdogs and rising to the occasion.
Coach Barnes showed the world the many hats women are expected to wear as they become successful in their lives. Within minutes of winning the semifinal game, she was seen embracing her children on the court as they ran to congratulate her. She even took a moment to hold her toddler and kiss her head lovingly in between winning the game, post-game huddle, and post-game interviews. She was an inspiration to all women as to what they can do. I watched her closely as she coached that game. I remember her telling the team as they ran off the court at the close of the first, “That was a good quarter.” I watched her respectfully disagree and advocate for her players to referees when there was a questionable call. I watched the way she handled her timeout calling, the way she kept her team motivated and prepared for the much awaited “UConn run”. I watched her sip her Dasani water and twirl her long brunette hair and I thought how scrutinized she must be. Boy was I right!
Moments after sending Coach Geno a warm and respectful “good game” wave, she shared the huddle with her highly excited and estatic team and gave them an inspiring post game pep talk. She told them that she believed in them and that she had their backs. That’s the kind of coach I want my kid playing for! She dropped a dirty word in the heat of the moment, with a smile on her face, and in non-derogatory manner. She was pumping up her team and joining in their happiness to be advancing to the finals. I will be honest, I didn’t think twice about that word. But I can’t stop thinking about all the other things Adia Barnes represented to me last night. A WOMAN, a MOTHER, a COACH, a FORMER PLAYER, an ADVOCATE, a MOTIVATOR, a MENTOR…passion, grit, motivation, hard work, determination, loyalty, pride, inspiration…FREAKING GIRL POWER!
My daughter watched those athletes compete on that stage with awe and hopes of someday playing on that stage. She witnessed unbelievable athletes playing some incredible basketball. For a brief second she saw a coach, in the heat of the moment, in the privacy of her team huddle, say a word that isn’t socially accepted. But she will walk away from that game knowing that no goal is out of reach- you can take down the big dogs. She will walk away from that game with confidence that no one can tell her she is too small to make a difference-small but mighty 5’6” McDonald led her team to that victory. She will walk away from that game knowing that even if the world tells you that you can’t do it all, and even if people make you feel that you have to choose, you don’t have to - Coach Barnes is a true testament to the balance women must juggle to rise to success - a former Power 5 player, WNBA athlete, College coach, wife, mother, and inspiration to all.
I thank ESPN for their dramatic coverage of that game. I got to witness the greatness and vulnerability of Coach Barnes. I got to see her coach and inspire and win. I got to see her hush haters and own her words. I got to see her encourage underdogs. I got to see her embrace her children. I got to see her be REAL! I got to see her show us all what a strong, successful woman looks like. I got to be INSPIRED!