A small percentage of high school athletes play sports in college. A very small percentage of those athletes go on to play their sport professionally. An even smaller percentage goes on to become coaches. And a still smaller percentage goes on to start their own companies and write their own books. Today, we are honored to feature a woman who fits into all of those very small percentages. Angie Lewis is a former college and professional basketball player who has gone on to influence the lives of others as a coach, an author and a businesswoman. She dedicates her time and effort to helping other athletes find and share their voices. She truly is the epitome of a GladiatHer™. After meeting Angie, I just knew that her story had to be told, so what better place to tell it than here.
Thanks for spending some time with GladiatHers.com, Angie. So you played basketball. Can you tell our readers a little about how you got started?
Absolutely. I started playing because I wanted to be like my big brothers and do whatever they did. I grew up the only girl in the house and when my brothers and their friends were hooping in the back yard I decided to follow them around. Initially, I absolutely hated playing basketball because I wasn’t good at it. But when I was in the 7th grade I was asked to play on an all-girls team that traveled during the summer. That really exposed me to high-level basketball and encouraged me to get more serious about playing. I eventually received a full athletic scholarship to play basketball at St. Louis University, but I will never forget when I received the first college letter. It was then that I started to believe that it was possible for me to become a college athlete. After college I played in Germany then came back to the states and went to graduate school.
Who knew that just trying to hang out with the boys would lead to a career as a professional athlete? That’s great. Beyond the rules and techniques what are some of the greatest lessons you’ve learned from playing basketball?
There are three major lessons I’ve learned playing basketball:
1) You never know why people cross your path and how they may show up in the future. I’ve received many open doors from people I knew from back in the day when I played. As athletes it is important to know that people are watching you and that your presence has an impact on other people’s lives beyond what you may even know.
2) I have to remind myself that I was really bad at basketball when I started out playing and I eventually went on to play professionally. Sometimes we want success to happen quickly and I learned through playing sports and working at my game that it takes time to mature in any industry. On days when I am frustrated I think about the times when I couldn’t make a lay up and how only through hours of practice did I develop into a good player.
3) Finally, I learned that working hard doesn’t guarantee that you get what you want. This was a hard lesson to learn and even harder to teach to young people. I worked extremely hard as an individual and we worked hard as a team and we still lost games. The flip side is, if you don’t in the work you don’t even have a chance. So I learned to give it my all when going for my goals knowing that is the only way to put myself in position to make them a reality.
Those are great lessons that extend far beyond the game of basketball and sports. You have been blessed to be involved in the sport as a player and a coach. How did being a player inform your coaching skills or style?
Being a player informed my coaching style because I could get out there and show the players what I was talking about. Also, as a coach who played the game you are able to relate to players’ game-time situations. On the other hand, I think I was also tougher on players because I’d been down the path they were going so my expectations were very high.
Speaking of coaching, how did you decide to get into coaching anyway?
I decided to get into coaching once I came back from playing in Germany. Someone who was a coach in the St. Louis area when I was younger asked me to coach with him at Metro High School and we won a state title. From there I went on to coach college basketball and won a conference title. I also coached with the St. Louis Surge, a professional women’s team, and won a national title. Coaching has always been a love of mine because I thoroughly enjoy teaching the game.
Lots of people would have been satisfied with a couple championships, not you though. You took your love of the game and athletes a step further and started your podcast Athletes as Educators. Through Athletes as Educators you interview current and former elite athletes who are passionate about sharing the lessons they’ve learned playing sports. Where did the inspiration come from to start Athletes as Educators, and what do you see for Athletes as Educators in the long term?
The inspiration for Athletes as Educators came from my desire to help athletes spread their messages and to help encourage younger athletes. Athletes as Educators is now a part of my larger organization, the Global Athlete Media Network, which helps current and former athletes use various media platforms to build their own brands and share their experiences. My vision for the podcast and the Network is that we will help more athletes tell their stories, share their interest and inspire the lives of many beyond their sport.
That’s wonderful. You’re also a published author. Can you tell our readers a little about your book?
My book is called, The Game Changing Assist: Six Simple Ways to Choose Success, and it has an accompanying workbook. The goal of the book is to use basketball experiences to help youth develop good character and plan for their future. The book discusses six concepts: vision, voice, values, valley, victory and volunteering that are all connected personal choice. I really want the reader to know that they have a choice in their mindset and that their choices ultimately determine their outcomes in life. I tell some pretty embarrassing stories from my life to help illustrate each concept.
That sounds like it should be required reading for all young athletes. Speaking of the youth, why do you think it’s important for girls to be involved in sports?
It is important for girls and women to be involved in sports at the most basic level because sports allows us to stay active. I remember being 5’ 8” in the 5th grade and lacking self-confidence. When I started playing basketball I became a part of a team and was able to find the space that made me most confident. I learned discipline through training and the importance of setting goals. These are essential lessons for young women to learn at an early age. In addition, having a space where we could be competitive allows us to defy stereotypes by celebrating on physical strength combined with intelligence while playing sports.
Amen to all of that! Now for our one of our most popular questions: What defines a GladiatHer™ to you and which GladiatHer™ has had the greatest impact on your life?
A GladiatHer™ is someone who defies the odds, is unassuming yet powerful, and who empowers others by the life in her words. The GladiatHer™ who has had the greatest impact on my life is my mother, Leonia Lewis. She is everything. She longed to be a mother and didn’t have me until she was near 40. Although this isn’t as big of a deal today, in the early 80’s women were discouraged from having children at that age. I am 33 years old and my mother has never said anything negative to me in my life. Her affirmation, love, and giving spirit are what I work to give others daily. She was the first person to tell me that I should write a book and that my story was valuable. In addition she always challenges my brothers and I to give more, learn more, and be more!
Thanks again Angie for your time. It’s truly amazing to see how dedicated she is to helping others share their gifts and their knowledge with the world. If you’re an athlete interested in working with Angie to tell your story or you’d like to keep up with what Angie’s doing visit her website, follow the podcast and follow her on Instagram, Twitter, and LinkedIn and Facebook.