Embrace The Journey

BY DANIELLE ROBINSON

This series is brought to you by United Dairy Industry of Michigan.

When I got drafted to the San Antonio Stars in 2011, I expected to be there for the long haul.

I had an amazing collegiate career at Oklahoma that helped shape me into the person and basketball player I am today, so I felt ready to put this franchise on my back and be the franchise player for years to come.

But then, life happened.

There were injuries, coaching changes, location changes, etc., and as I sit here today, I’ve played for six different WNBA franchises.

Embracing my journey and the opportunities that have come my way have been a theme of my life. Through the highs and lows of my basketball career, I’ve always believed in controlling what I can control and staying true to myself no matter where life takes me.

As a female athlete, especially, it’s important to remember that things aren’t always going to go your way.

It’s not always going to be fair, and you might have to work twice as hard to get noticed or gain exposure.

But if you have a great attitude and confront adversity instead of evading it, I promise that whatever it is you pursue, you’ll be a better person for it.

It’s a significant part of who I am today.

Much more than a coach

Like many young kids getting introduced to sports, my mom was my first coach.

She was an intense one, too.

In fact, to this day, she’s not afraid to put her coaching hat on for old time’s sake and let me know what I could’ve done better in a game.

But I love her intensity because it brings out the best in me.

Growing up, she saw how much I loved the game and wanted to excel at it, so she was right there with me every step of the way.

She believed in me before I ever believed in myself, which is why she continues to be the biggest role model in my life.

She’s been through so much in her life, but that’s never stopped her from challenging people and helping them be the best version of themselves, and that’s what makes her the special human being that she is.

I never would’ve earned a DI scholarship to OU and had a chance to play in the WNBA without my mother’s influence and support.

As a coach, mother, and role model, she’s everything I could ask for and more, and her fingerprints are all over the success I’ve been able to have in my basketball career.

OU changed my life

My time at OU was nothing short of magical.

I was a part of the teams in 2009 and 2010 that went to back-to-back Final Fours, and words can’t describe how special those teams were and the mountains we climbed together.

When we went on our runs in making those Final Fours, the buzz around basketball on campus was insane and so fun to be a part of.

Aside from our success, Blake Griffin was doing incredible things on the men’s side.

Gymnastics was killing it.

Football was amazing.

It was just an unbelievable time to be a Sooner.

In addition to the success we had in the OU basketball program, I grew immensely as a person and player in those four years.

I couldn’t be more grateful to Coach Coale. She’s in the Hall of Fame for a reason — she pushed me and countless others to be leaders.

As a point guard, I’m in charge of leading and communicating with the team, so we’d spend time together in endless meetings reading books, watching film, and doing everything it took for me to understand how I could lead our team to success.

One of the biggest things Coach Coale taught me was consistency.

Whether we were coming off a big win or a terrible loss, I knew she was going to work us hard in practice to continue to improve as a team.

My time at OU and being under the tutelage of Coach Coale changed my life forever.

I learned about the kind of player and leader I wanted to be because of my time in Norman, and it’s because of the hard work, culture, and consistency that Coach Coale instilled in the women’s basketball program.

Embracing my journey and the opportunities that have come my way have been a theme of my life. Through the highs and lows of my basketball career, I've always believed in controlling what I can control and staying true to myself no matter where life takes me.

The value of being a female in sports

It’s my opinion that there’s never been a better time to be a female athlete in sports.

The opportunities and coverage have changed dramatically even within the last five years. You can turn on the TV now and see volleyball players playing inside a packed football stadium.

It’s incredible to witness, and I expect the exposure to only continue to grow in the coming years with these phenomenal female athletes and programs we see across the country and world.

In addition, I believe sports give so much back to us as individuals and women in particular.

Basketball helped me find my voice and my leadership skills, so there’s much more that goes into sports beyond what you see on a stat sheet.

I wouldn’t be the person I am today without sports, but you also don’t have to be a professional athlete to experience this growth and development as a person.

I tell young kids, especially young girls, any chance that I can how grateful I was to be a multisport athlete growing up because I got to develop relationships and learn more about myself when I played volleyball, basketball, and ran track.

I’m always going to be an advocate for kids to play as many different sports as they can because of the friendships and experiences they gain from them.

No matter how old you are and what level you’re playing at, if you just go out there and have fun and make the most of the opportunities that come your way, you’ll set yourself up for a successful life both in and out of sports.

Run your own race

While it’s hard to believe, I’ve been living my dream of playing professional basketball for over a decade now.

I mentioned it before, but a large part of my success and longevity in this sport I fell in love with as a little girl has been because I’ve embraced the journey.

It’s something I picked up on at OU.

With four years of college, every team is different.

No year is going to be the same.

With that comes its own set of challenges and adversity, but it’s those moments that make us into who we are.

It’s why when I get traded or sustain a serious injury, I avoid the temptation of getting angry or throwing a pity party for myself.

It’s just another step in my journey, and every person’s journey is going to be different.

If you sit back and compare yourself to others, you’re just going to set yourself up for a lifetime of heartache and disappointments.

But if you do your best and work as hard as you can, that’s all you can ask for.

Run your own race and believe in yourself, because no one’s going to believe in you more than you.

Thanks to my mom, OU, Coach Coale, and countless others that have inspired me and guided me on this crazy dream, I’m going to continue to give everything that I have on the court for as long as I can.

It’s important to have that support system in your life, and I hope that every female athlete, in particular, has a set of female role models they can look up to and learn from.

It can make all the difference in the world.

Whatever my future holds, playing professionally in the WNBA and overseas, I know for certain one thing will always remain true.

Boomer Sooner!