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Volume 26 No. 135
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Nancy Lieberman: Women In Sports "Gotta Break The Rules"

Basketball HOFer Nancy Lieberman at the ’19 Game Changers conference shared her story of trailblazing her way into a sports career that included everything from women’s college basketball titles and gold medals, broadcast gigs with ESPN and coaching a Big3 title team. Lieberman said women “gotta break the rules,” and the “only regrets that each and every one of us should ever have is the chances that we didn’t take.” Lieberman: “You know what adversity is? It’s you. It’s not the outside world, it’s you. You gotta work harder. You have to have more confidence, you have to be prepared for your moment, you have to seek out opportunities. … Adversity to me is kind of like a perceived obstacle.”

TAKING CHARGE: Lieberman also discussed some of the qualities of great leaders, drawing on advice she received from Muhammad Ali, who told her “respect everybody, but fear nobody,” and to “be a giver, not a taker.” Lieberman: “The most important part of leadership as I’ve learned it is that we have to be firm, but we have to be fair.” She also said to be a great leader, “you also have to be led.” Lieberman issued two challenges to women in sports as they advance through their careers. “Be the voice, don’t be the echo. Don’t do what everybody else is doing.” Her final challenge was for women to “be deaf” to the naysayers. Lieberman: “I can do anything I want to do. I can coach anywhere I want to coach. I can help whoever I want to help. You can't stop me from doing that. You can fire me, you can not help me, you can not mentor me, but you can't stop me from trying to be great.”

Quick Hits

  • Lieberman on how she is perceived as a woman coaching in a men’s league, “I’ve told some of my players, don’t confuse my stilettos for weakness. … I'm a 61-year-old white woman coaching, predominantly African American young guys. You might think it's an obstacle for me. I think it's an opportunity and a privilege.” 
  • After asking the crowd if they regularly attend WNBA games, Lieberman said, “If you don't support a WNBA team, why should they support it? ... Don't ask for what you don't give.”
  • Lieberman said the NBA leads all of sports valuing female voices and putting women in leadership positions. “We are the industry leader in what we’re doing because it’s a belief, it’s a culture. It’s setting a tone and that’s really important.”