The Daily Gamecock

Letter to the graduates: Head Coach Dawn Staley

<p>Head coach Dawn Staley talks to players during a timeout at the first round of the NCAA playoffs in the Halton Arena on Friday.&nbsp;</p>

Head coach Dawn Staley talks to players during a timeout at the first round of the NCAA playoffs in the Halton Arena on Friday. 

The first thing I want you to hear is this – your future is bright.

That might be hard to hear in this moment, but I assure you, it is true. Your future success is based not just on the sum total of your life experiences but more importantly how you reacted to them. 

Spending my life immersed in sports, there is one thing I know for sure – success comes to those who keep going. My accomplishments in basketball didn’t come from forgetting about my dream of an Olympic gold medal because I didn’t make the first national team I tried out for or from accepting that I had to stop playing basketball because there wasn’t a professional league in the United States when I graduated from college. I saw my dreams realized because I rejected those limitations and kept working toward my goals. 

So, you could spend this time lamenting what you did not get to do in these last few months of college – spending time with your friends, walking in formal graduation ceremony, properly saying goodbye to this part of your life. That’s the easiest thing to slip into. I know I did it when we had to stop playing basketball this season. We still had goals left to achieve; we weren’t ready to be finished.

You can give that feeling its time and space; it is a loss. But, don’t linger there. In sports, you learn pretty quickly that the best way to make a second mistake is to spend time reliving the first one.

So, as graduation nears, reflect on what you experienced here – the everyday experiences of college, the people you met, the things you accomplished. Revel in that.

Most of you probably had a plan, a clear road map of what your next few months looked like – starting a new job, going to grad school. So, if you can’t do that now, what’s next?

What’s next isn’t perfect – for any of us. It’s not what we thought it would be. It’s not what we would have chosen. 

But the only important thing right now is, how are YOU going to react to this experience.

My path to success didn’t go in the straight line I imagined it would, but I always kept my eyes locked on the destination. In persevering, I found that the path had so much more to offer than trophies or medals. It had the life experiences that prepared me to be a coach (something I never even knew I wanted to be!), to become a dream merchant for the young women on our basketball team now.

So, I urge you to not dwell on the loss of your ideal path, but instead to focus about how you can reconfigure it to keep going toward your dream. If you can do that, this mantra will come true for you as it did me – what’s delayed is not denied. 

It’s your time, now Gamecocks. Go out in the world and do not be denied.