Sixty participants spent two hours on the courts of a Johannesburg high school with Jennifer Azzi, 40, who led Stanford to a collegiate national championship in 1990 and was part of the U.S. team that won Olympic gold in 1996. She went on to spend five seasons in the WNBA.
According to an AP article, Azzi didn’t just share the finer points of shooting and passing. She urged the young women to take their confidence and competence off the court, and not be afraid to shatter stereotypes about a woman’s place in this traditional society.
“You’re changing the culture of South Africa for women,” she told the group.
Azzi, an ambassador for the NBA’s Basketball Without Borders, understands the importance of making a positive impact beyond the basketball court. Her training helps girls develop the necessary skills to live a centered and balanced life. Change, Azzi believes, comes from the inside out.
Earlier in the week, Azzi sat down with players from the University of Johannesburg women’s basketball and volleyball teams. The women spoke of fathers who thought they should be home cooking dinner instead of at practice. Azzi told them her own parents were supportive, but she had an aunt and uncle who thought she was “the weirdest kid” because she was doing what boys did.
“But let me tell you something: When I got to the Olympics, my aunt and uncle were my best friends,” she said.
The South African girls were encouraged to know that everywhere, females are going through the same thing. Clearly, no matter where you’re from, girls struggle with many of the same issues. The good news is that step by step, with the support of mentors like Azzi and others, girls are learning the power of change.