Lessons from an Olympic champion

By Nefertiti Matatia 24 October 2017, 12:00AM

Knowing how to play basketball is one lesson; to learn, to set goals and work hard is another.

Speaking to the students of Leifi’ifi College yesterday, a two-time Olympic Games gold medallist and a former Women’s National Basketball Association (W.N.B.A.) player, Ruthie Bolton, said it was more than just playing basketball; it was about learning, setting goals and learning how to work hard.

Bolton is in Samoa to share her journey with the younger generation of Samoa.

“My whole objective of coming is that every kid here, I do not know their personal life but my heart I feel indebted, a huge responsibility of instilling my journey and my struggles I had to go through so I could help other people,” she said.

With a heart that is passionate about developing the young ones, Ruthie believes she can teach them methods of playing basketball that will help them pursue a career in the sport.

 “I have a passion for young people, I want to see them grow and watch them become the best that they can be. I am not trying to turn these kids into superstars overnight, I can’t do it. But I hope I could give them some tools that they could hold onto and it will be able to last for a very long time,” she said.

The one of only four players to be named to the Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame Class of 2011 is not just here to teach young players how to play, but also to spread a message of hope. 

She wishes to empower young players to work towards their dreams like she did.

“When I leave I want these kids to remember something. I want to leave something. How could I leave my footprints and my fingerprints of greatness? Giving them some hope. 

“I pray that these kids when they think of me from a week or month or whatever day from now, I want them to remember something to endure or something empowering to make them feel like if Ruthie could do it then I could do it too.”

Ruthie believes all sports have their own great qualities but there is a certain reason basketball is her ultimate favourite. 

She says it teaches you not just team work, also a way to get in shape and so many ways of teaching you about yourself, about your character, about working with other people. 

Ruthie said basketball could also bring countries together.

Growing up, Ruthie almost gave up on her dream of being a basketball player because of her height but regardless of not being tall enough, it was her father who encouraged her to keep going.

“I was told I was not good enough to play basketball and I almost did not play. I wasn’t tall enough and I got discouraged. But my father encouraged me that what was so important was that my mind-set, how I think and how hard I worked,” she said.

To fight the odds is what has always inspired the 50-year-old to keep on striving and this has shaped her career and the woman she is today. 

“What drives me is when people say I cannot do it. At every crossroad of my life, different circumstances that tried to take away my dream. So I had to fight extra hard at every stage. To always fight. I don’t know to walk away from challenges. I did not know how to give up, did not know how to quit,” she told Samoa Observer.

With the partnership of the US Embassy and the Samoa Institute of Samoa (S.I.S), this trip for Ruthie, has been so far her best experience.

“I have travelled and seen the world, but so far this is one of the best experiences I have ever had,” she said.

Ruthie told Samoa Observer that it feels great being here in Samoa and she loves the hospitality. 

“People are just so nice and graceful, with arms that are stretched out wide. I love the whole culture. I love how they dress, the hair and the little flowers on their ears. It has been really nice. I really enjoy and I go and travel a lot and I love learning about different cultures.”

She added on by saying that she wants to get embedded in the culture while she is here.

By Nefertiti Matatia 24 October 2017, 12:00AM

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