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Kate Starbird: "You Can Dream Now"

"I'm losing my identity!" Kate Starbird exclaimed as she glanced at me and my sister Jennifer, wearing Starbird jerseys. "Everyone has my name!"

Last year as Kate Starbird shyly walked into the gym at Wilson High School in Tacoma, Washington, a murmur went through the crowd. Everybody at the Seafirst Jammin' Hoops Camp wanted to know who the tall, lanky girl was who was walking with Bill Walton and Steve Sheffler. "Is she on an NBA team?" somebody wanted to know. "Maybe she plays for that new league, the WNBA."

This year, when it was announced that Kate Starbird would be speaking the following day, a cheer and a different kind of murmer went through the crowd.

"Kate Starbird is coming!" The girl sitting next to me said. "I get to meet Kate Starbird!" My entire group had smiles from here all the way to Mercer Arena.

Kate feels that it is her duty to bring awareness to women's basketball. "Do I feel a responsibility to promote the game and the sport? Sure I do," She told a Seattle Times Reporter. "This is a terrific time to be a woman athlete. I never imagined it would be this way. But I'm here to take advantage of the situation the best I can."

She spoke primarily to the girls. She said that although their brothers have always been able to dream about a sports career, "You can dream now." When she was growing up, she hadn't even known women played basketball, so she didn't have the goal to be a professional basketball player. In fact, Kate never even saw girls playing on television until she was fifteen.

She then spoke to the parents. Kate pointed out that there are so many scholarships for girls, and there is less competition for them. She encouraged them to put their daughters in sports, and to support them. "It's so much better for their self-confidence if they stay in sports"

For the other half of her presentation, Kate gave some pointers on her favorite part of the game, the fast break. She explained that when she was a child, her dad would roll up his Wall Street Journals and have her run lay-ups while he hit her lightly with the newspaper. This taught her to keep going and finish what she was doing, even though there may be some physical contact. She picked four kids from the audience to help demonstrate what she was saying. I was lucky enough to get picked, along with a little boy, a girl my age, and a boy about ten or eleven years old. She and the older boy stood about a foot apart and the rest of us were to run through the small amount of space to make a layup. I was positive the space was not big enough, but Kate knew what she was doing, and of course, it was. As I waited for my turn, I prayed I would not miss in front of Kate, a prayer I'm sure the other kids up there were probably making also. As I ran through them, they nudged me slightly, and to my relief, I made it. After we returned to our seats, the other NBA stars (Sam Perkins, Nate McMillian, Bill Walton, and Dale Ellis) made Kate run through all of them for a lay-up. The gym erupted in cheers as she did, adding a behind-the-back, under-the-leg twist to the whole thing.

Kate Starbird is a role model for many girls. She said that the most inspirational words that she ever heard were "`Can I have your autograph' from six twelve-year-old girls. It makes me want to try so much harder, and do so much better, because I feel like they are relying on me for something."

Kate Starbird is spending the summer urging girls to follow their dreams. She will be speaking at a variety of camps. That includes six days at Jammin' Hoops camps and all the Stanford camps. In the Seattle area, Kate is as well known as any NBA star. She received louder applause than Sam Perkins. At Reign games, little girls beg for Kate Starbird jerseys. She undoubtedly started a fashion trend among young basketball players with her kneepads made by Trace. After seeing Kate Starbird, a little girl even restyled her hair, asking her mom, "Make it like Kate's."

Kim, from Seattle, Washington, is glad the ABL has such wonderful role models. "I come from a generation where women and sports weren't cool (I was born in 1970). I am sooo happy that it's totally different today than when I was growing up. It makes me look forward to having children with all the positive role models out there."


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