A Proud Grandmother and mother of Better Drinker, Felisha Foster, writes about her life's passion....
I have a passion! Many people have them. Some are passionate about food, travel, reading, working out, volunteering, and, if you are reading this magazine on line, you probably have a passion about sparkling wines. My passion is women's basketball, specifically Louisiana State University's Lady Tigers basketball. I'm nuts about it! How did that happen? I guess it goes way back to my much younger days when I was in school.
In the eighth grade I played basketball. I loved it and was a decent player. Those were the days when girls basketball was played half-court because the "powers that be" thought females were not capable of traveling up and down the entire court. Wow! Have we come a long way!! Anyway, when the season was over and we were thinking about our classes for high school, I was told that I had to make a choice--basketball or band. I don't really remember why, but there was probably some conflict with scheduling because the team only practiced during the school day. I chose to stay in the band because all of my close friends were there. During high school I did not miss one girls game. I had visions of making the last second shot in a championship game, but that was never to be.
My love for the game never wavered. In college I played intramural ball, but our school did not have a women's basketball program. No colleges had them back in those days. AAA programs were a females-only alternative for playing basketball.
I finished college, got married, had three girls and one boy, and stayed busy raising a family. Two of our girls were good athletes and played basketball at a young age. One of them was on a special team called Tiger Tots, which was composed of small children, boys and girls, aged 4 - 9. Their play was styled after The Harlem Globetrotters, and, surprisingly, they became excellent ball handlers and shooters. We watched them perform all over the state.
Through the years I tried to keep up with women's basketball in this country, but it was difficult to do because there was no media coverage. In the early 90's one of our daughters became close friends with an LSU assistant coach. Actually, she met her on the basketball court through the years as they played summer ball on opposing AAA teams.
That's when I got hooked!!
After having some solid years under the coaching of Sue Gunter, one of the true pioneers of Women's Basketball in this country, the LSU program had slipped some and Sue was searching for players who were serious about this sport. She went to the Junior College level and found four such players and that was the turning point for the program. It was also the point that I became involved with the team, first, as a fan, and then as one of the original organizers of The Fast Break Club, the support group for LSU Lady Tigers basketball. We had six people attend the first meeting. Presently, we can't seat everyone in our Fast Break room, where we have pre-game meals and scouting reports from one of the coaches.
For Sue Gunter, the program has always been about the girls. So many changes take place from the time they set foot on the court of the Pete Maravich Assembly Center in Baton Rouge, Louisiana to the time they walk down the aisle in that same building to receive their degrees. The graduation rate is high. They come in as skilled players, but often not skilled in other areas of their lives. Most of them have never flown on a plane, or eaten in a fancy restaurant, or spoken in front of a crowd. I have watched them grow from almost silent freshmen to accomplished communicators by the time they are seniors. It is amazing to see them gain self-assurance and not only rise to great heights as players, but also learn to give something back to the community and the university that has fostered their growth. The unbelievable thing to me is how they accomplish all they do---attend class, attend study hall, practice almost every day, lift weights, travel from one end of the country to another, maintain the GPA necessary to play and still survive. Some of them have been married and had children to worry about. One mother on the team took her baby to class with her everyday. Being a student athlete is not easy.
I have seen so many young women perform all these tasks and have learned to love and appreciate them and their dedication. The teams have been in my home for hamburgers, and I have been in their locker room for hugs and tears.
I remember so many of them--Toni, Pietra, Mary, Katrina, Latasha, Ashley, Keia, Keisha, Marie, and Temeka.... and on Senior Night when they play their last home game on our court and we recognize them for all they have done, I am in the stands crying. I think I can't let them go, but they do, and I have withdrawal pains until the next November when the season starts.
So, when the 2005-06 season begins I'll watch them at the Assembly Center, follow them to Tennessee, South Carolina, Colorado, Connecticut, or wherever they go, or, I'll be home anxiously waiting to listen to the game on the radio.
The past two years the Lady Tigers have made it to the Final Four--the Pinnacle. There has been no trophy, but I can tell you that this passionate fan plans to be in Boston this season when they walk away with one. I truly believe they will!!