Women's Sports Mentoring

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Jessie Oram remembers herself as a fidgety kid in grade school. She says that boundless energy caught the eye of her teachers, Luis, Alberto, and Anibal who she calls her first mentors.

ORAM: They were such wonderfully creative gym teachers. And, they loved the fact that I was this spunky, energetic little girl who wanted to compete with boys whether I wearing a dress or pants or whatever.

Oram now plays center on Oberlin College's women's basketball team. She says their support fostered a healthy competition among her classmates and has stayed with her throughout her athletic career.

ORAM: I didn't even realize it at the time how special it was to have gym teachers who supported female athletics or who supported a female athlete and encouraged them. Now, that I think about it and look back they were always trying to make an example out of me. And, say like 'oh you should participate like Jessie and should play with the boys like Jessie.'

Her mentor's lessons influenced Oram's current career goals. She's one of 48 college students participating in a workshop tomorrow for athletes interested in coaching. The workshop is part of the national convention of the women's basketball coaches association, scheduled this week in Cleveland to coincide with the final four tournament.

Panelist Nan Carney DeBord is the women's basketball head coach at Ohio Wesleyan. She says the goal is to give athletes like oram an insider's look into coaching.

CARNEY-DEBORD: I think the purpose of the program was not only for mentoring but for networking and to really demonstrate that coaching is a profession.

Carney-DeBord credits the guidance of mentors like Brown University Coach Jeanie Burr for helping her early in her career. She's since won division coach of the year six times and has chalked up the most wins of any coach at Ohio Wesleyan.

Because her role models played an important part in her life, she also guides women in the world of coaching. She says it's her duty to cultivate and guide promising athletes and future coaches.

CARNEY-DEBORD: It's my responsibility to give back to the profession. So that's why I exposed that to Jessie and every other person in our conference. Jessie is the one who bit. She's the one who's going to gain the experience.

Such mentoring efforts extend all the way back to high school athletes. Shay Selby is a high school standout in Northeast Ohio. And, she's already committed to play for Duke University. On a recent afternoon, the junior guard spoke about the women in sports workshop she attended over the last few weeks.

SELBY: One of the goals of the workshop was to get all the best athletes in the area to kinda mesh together and get to know each other instead of being enemies on the field and on the court.

And though some were reluctant to reach out, she ended up making new friends.

SELBY: We kinda distanced ourselves. But in the end, we ended up talking. They had certain activities that forced us to interact with everybody.

That active participation and team spirit motivates Selby. She attributes a lot of her success to the hard work she's put in under Regina High School coach Pat Diulus. Diulus, a tireless promoter of girls' basketball, has captured the state championship title seven times for the school.

He'll be one of several coaches to the nation's top high school seniors in the WBCA sponsored All-America game Saturday. But, he says players like Selby make his team work more as a family and inspire him as a coach and mentor. In fact, he's trying to organize mentoring opportunities for Selby, who already works with young girls on their basketball game.

DIULUS: They look up to you know people like Shay who are great players. Great students you know. We need more of those kinda role models. We really do.

Tasha Flournoy 90.3

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