July 20, 2020

Kristen Newlin Vatansever shares the balance of motherhood and pro basketball overseas

by Jenn Hatfield, High Post Hoops

Last October, four-time WNBA All-Star Skylar Diggins-Smith publicly criticized her team, the Dallas Wings, for what she called “limited resources to help me be successful mentally/physically” during her pregnancy and after her son was born in April 2019.
“Having no support from your own organization is unfortunate,” she tweeted. “… I played the ENTIRE season pregnant [in 2018]! All star, and led league (top 3-5) in [minutes per game]….didn’t tell a soul.”
The Wings disputed Diggins-Smith’s allegations, noting that they had paid her full salary and reserved a roster spot for her in 2019 even though the league’s collective bargaining agreement (CBA) at the time did not require either. (The league recently announced a new CBA that requires teams to pay players their full salary while they are on pregnancy leave.)
Halfway around the world, Kristen Newlin Vatansever could relate to Diggins-Smith’s sentiments. “I can certainly understand that,” she told High Post Hoops from Turkey, where she is currently playing. “… [Teams] say they care about the player, but if a player can’t produce on the court, their attitudes change very quickly. … It’s unfortunate because [pregnancy can be] the happiest moment in a player’s life, but we don’t get that reciprocation from what’s supposed to be our family in our teammates and coaches and [general managers].”
Newlin Vatansever, 34, has played in Turkey since she graduated from Stanford in 2008, including on the Turkish national team for several years as a naturalized citizen. She met and married her husband, Chicago Sky assistant coach Emre Vatansever, while she was playing and he was coaching in Turkey. In November 2018, she gave birth to twins, and thirteen months later, she returned to the court to play for Elazig Il Ozel Idare in the Turkish Women’s Basketball Super League (KBSL).
Like many couples in professional sports, Newlin Vatansever and her husband had debated when would be the best time to have children, taking into account her basketball career and their schedules, which send the family to Turkey in the winters and Chicago in the summers. She wanted to play professionally for a few more years, and the decision came down to having kids relatively quickly or waiting until retirement. Newlin Vatansever explained her thinking at the time: “Now’s the time where I can try to have a kid and still feel like I’m young enough to come back and play a few more years. If I waited, even a year or two, I would probably feel like I was too old to try to come back.” The couple decided to try to get pregnant at the end of her season in the spring of 2018, and if it did not work out, she would play another season starting in the fall.
It did work out—“Times two!” Newlin Vatansever said—but Newlin Vatansever had few models for how her career would be affected once she got pregnant. “I know very few teammates [who had children during their playing careers],” she said. “I honestly can think of two at the moment. And one of them was [pregnant] before they were my teammate.” However, those players’ comebacks gave Newlin Vatansever hope that she could follow their paths. “They came back and they were very good still,” she said, “and they were able to have the family and still play and still kind of have it all. So I did have a few examples of that and that’s kind of what we were hoping for.”
Newlin Vatansever’s pregnancy differed sharply from Diggins-Smith’s in that Newlin Vatansever was a free agent at the time. She had finished a one-year contract with BotaƟ in April 2018 and did not sign a contract for the 2018-19 season after she became pregnant. In the KBSL, there are no maternity leave policies in players’ contracts; pregnant players are typically cut from their teams (and not paid for any remaining games) when they are too far along to continue playing. “Teams started to put [a severance clause] in [my contract] once I got married,” Newlin Vatansever said. “… Before I was married, there was nothing in there about pregnancy.” She added that if she had gotten pregnant before there was relevant language in her contract, her agent and her team would likely have negotiated the same separation from the team.
In Newlin Vatansever’s experience, most European teams operate similarly to KBSL teams, and very few players have children during their playing careers in Europe. In her estimation, teams’ views on pregnancy differ from how they regard a player who is similarly unable to play due to injury: “They feel like [injury is] unavoidable, but they feel like [a pregnant] player chose to put themselves in this situation where they’re taken off the court.” One of Newlin Vatansever’s teammates got pregnant a few years ago, and she recalled that when the coach told the players the news, “he just said it as a matter of fact. He didn’t smile and say congratulations; he just said, ‘This player’s leaving.’”
By her own admission, Newlin Vatansever’s pregnancy and comeback were more difficult than she had expected. “It was the hardest thing I’ve ever done, without a doubt,” she said. Having twins made her pregnancy more high-risk than a single birth, and she said that she was limited to “floating in a pool” for the last few months and lost a lot of strength. The delivery was also difficult enough that it took several months for her to recover. After she began training again, “I was so sleep deprived and exhausted … [that] I had to adjust to a new way of training, which was training without energy,” she explained. “… It was definitely notwhat I envisioned [for] me trying to get back … it took a while longer than I wanted for me to get in shape enough to play.”
The process of finding another Turkish team to play for was also more difficult than she had anticipated, despite her track record of performance in Turkey and the added value she has as a Turkish citizen in a league that limits the number of Americans per team. Many teams were surprised that Newlin Vatansever wanted to play again after having children, and they viewed signing her as a risk. “For some reason, they just weren’t convinced that someone can come back from a twin pregnancy and be able to contribute the way I used to,” she said. Turkey’s economic crisis, which devalued the local currency relative to the U.S. dollar and the euro, also shrunk teams’ budgets—and risk tolerance—significantly because many players are paid in dollars or euros. Vatansever spoke to several coaches in the league on his wife’s behalf, and the couple sent teams videos of her workouts and data on her weight to demonstrate that she was in shape. “Finally we landed on a team that … we convinced enough,” Newlin Vatansever said. “… We feel fortunate that we were able to get [a contract], but we also feel that I was deserving of it because I am back [to] where I was pre-pregnancy.”
Newlin Vatansever has taken a pay cut this season, which she ascribed partly to the financial crisis and partly to her pregnancy. “Pretty much every player” in the league has taken a small pay cut, she said, but even without the crisis, she believed she would have had to take a pay cut because of the perceived risk of signing her. In 2017, then-33-year-old Mistie Bass made similar comments to ESPN about the difficulty of convincing overseas teams to sign her.
After all the work Newlin Vatansever and her husband put in to get back in shape and find a team, they soaked up her return to competition. “It was kind of emotional just because my husband and I are the only ones that knew exactly what I had to come back from,” she explained. “… No matter what happens from here on out, the fact that I could get back in shape enough to play again was just kind of spectacular for both of us.” She is still learning how to balance motherhood and a professional basketball career, trading naps between practices for activities with her twins, but she told High Post Hoops that continuing her career “with my kids by my side … [is] just an awesome feeling.”
Newlin Vatansever believes that pregnancy is not talked about enough in women’s sports and was eager to be interviewed for this story. “Even when Serena Williams, the best athlete in the world, [was pregnant,] it was just still kind of [a] taboo subject almost,” she pointed out. She added that, with some athletes continuing to play into their 40s, it is not always possible for female athletes to wait until retirement to start a family.
The WNBA’s new CBA makes progress on this front, providing pregnancy and childcare benefits as well as family planning benefits such as adoption, surrogacy, and fertility/infertility treatments. Specifically, it guarantees a pregnant player who is under contract with a WNBA team “one hundred percent (100%) of [her] Base Salary … for the shorter of: (i) the duration of her inability to perform services as a result of her pregnancy; or (ii) the remaining term of her Standard Player Contract.” A player whose contract ends or is terminated during pregnancy will “continue to receive the medical benefits provided for … until the later of the end of the Season in which such Contract was terminated or three months after the birth of her child.”
Although these provisions do not directly affect Newlin Vatansever, she called them “a crucial step forward” for the WNBA. “The world’s best league should reflect that in pay and treatment,” she said, and the maternity leave and childcare provisions put the WNBA “at the forefront of providing paid leave and support to its players and their families.” She added, “I think the extra stipend to cover egg freezing, surrogacy, and adoption is commendable. This small part in the CBA is a long time coming and should greatly benefit players and their families.”
Hopefully, other women’s sports leagues domestically and internationally will follow the WNBA’s lead, allowing women like Newlin Vatansever who decide to have children during their playing careers to have job security, benefits, and support from their teams. Newlin Vatansever’s efforts to return to play are laudable, but the lengths she had to go to convince teams that she—an established player in Turkey at the time—was able to perform indicate that there is significant room for improvement.




    July 8, 2020

    Jennifer Azzi after basketball

    After basketball, Jennifer Azzi has career and family at 51


    What’s an extremely rewarding pastime while sheltering at home during a pandemic?Growing tomatoes is a good one. So is cuddling a newborn.
    Jennifer Azzi and her wife, Blair Hardiek, are doing both, though one is decidedly far more profound and important than the budding Brandywines in the newly planted garden below their Mill Valley home.
    Camden Therese Hardiek Azzi was born on the afternoon of April 24, joining 3-year-old brother Macklin in the Hardiek Azzi family. With nowhere to go and nothing to do, it has been a perfect time to relish family bonding.
    “COVID has almost been like a rebirth for us,” Hardiek said, “spending all this time together.”
    It has been that way for many new or growing families. And while bringing a new baby into a world full of uncertainty and anxiety has its challenges, this crisis has also brought a dramatic reassessing of what is truly important in life. And, for most, family has come out on top.
    Azzi, the former Stanford star and University of San Francisco basketball coach, is now associate vice president of development at USF. Hardiek is a global technical director for the NBA Academy women’s program, developing talent around the world and helping young women from other countries land at Division I schools. Between their two jobs, the couple is almost always on the go, traveling the world. But not now.  “This is the longest stretch we’ve been without being on a plane that I can remember,” Azzi said.
    Both were busy working from home during the late weeks of Hardiek’s pregnancy, and they brought their work along to Marin General in case labor took a long time. It didn’t. Hardiek, 35, was surprised to see her contractions coming so close together and let the nurses know the baby was on her way. Camden arrived shortly after.
    Azzi and Hardiek have been married for five years. Macklin, a whirling cyclone of boy energy who enlists every visitor to shoot hoops or help repair his toy tractor, was born in February 2017. He’s a proud big brother to “Baby Sister.” He’s so excited that he can barely contain himself,” Hardiek said.
    For many Bay Area sports fans, Azzi will always be the young girl from Tennessee who helped lead Stanford to its first NCAA title, but she is now 51. No one blinks an eye when men become parents in their 50s, but it is definitely more unusual for women.
    “I don’t really think about it,” Azzi said. “But my athletic career was so long — not that time froze but I played professionally for 13 years. I wasn’t doing things that my peers outside of athletics were doing. Once I was out of the athletic world, I started thinking more about career and family.
    “Also, my late start is being with the right person.”
    Azzi made news in 2016 when, while introducing Warriors president Rick Welts for an Anti-Defamation League award, she announced that she was married to Hardiek. “You just get to the point where it’s so stupid to not be honest,” she said at the time. Still, the news was groundbreaking, coming months after the Supreme Court upheld the legality of same-sex marriage and making Azzi the only “out” Division I coach at the time. (She stepped down from coaching in September of 2016.)
    She now works on developing community relationships for USF. One of her main involvements is the Silk Speaker Series. She has interviewed Steve Kerr and Billie Jean King, among others. Recently, she moderated a Juneteenth online discussion between Stephen Curry and Clarence Jones, the director of USF’s Institute for Nonviolence and Social Justice. She and Curry swapped stories about taking their children to Black Lives Matter protests and important lessons for a new generation. 
    She and Hardiek also run Azzi basketball camps. Because of the coronavirus, they have held just one camp in Sausalito this summer, limited to small groups, following strict COVID-19 protocols with much of the action taking place on outdoor courts.
    Azzi enjoys seeing parents dropping off their kids and their family interactions at pickup, just as she enjoys getting out of the car with Hardiek, Macklin and Camden in a stroller, ready for a day on the courts. “Our little entourage,” she said. “I’m just glad life didn’t pass me by.”



    April 27, 2020

    Nneka interview - Trevor Noah show; Alanna talks Olympic potponement

    Nneka Ogumike: Excellence and Equity



    ………………………………………………………………………………...

    Alanna Smith talks Olympic postponement and WNBA fears
    by HaleyRosen - JustWomensSports.com

    When did you first start to register that the coronavirus was a big deal?

    I think in Australia, because we're pretty isolated from the rest of the world, we were at little behind. We were watching as China and Italy started to report a lot of cases and go into lockdown. And then you guys in the US started to experience a surge. I think that prompted Australia to realize that we needed to make some moves, especially as cases started to pop up. Because there’s not enough materials to test it, we’re making estimates as to how many people have it. You just don’t know, but you know it’s a lot. Nowhere near the same amount as other places, but we’re still actively trying to stop the spread. Social distancing is in effect, and only essential businesses are open. We’re being encouraged to stay indoors. And all of that happened quite fast, maybe in just the past week or two. 
    And at what point did you realize the Olympics might be postponed?
    Once travel bans were being put in place, and people were being discouraged from travelling. That was when I thought, Okay, this is an issue. Not just for basketball but for other sports as well, because people need to travel to qualifiers and such. And then just thinking about sports in general, so many of them involve contact. You’re in close proximity with others, which is super high-risk. So yeah, I had doubts early on to be honest, just thinking about the health and the safety of all the athletes as well as the fans. It didn't seem plausible that they could pull it off.
    What did you think of Australia's decision to opt out prior to the official postponement? How did you think the committee handled everything? 
    It was the right decision, just in terms of the health and safety of everyone. And I think the Australian Olympic Committee did a really good job of keeping us in the loop. They were sending out emails two to three times a week, telling us where to go for support and such. We weren’t left in the dark. We had a pretty good idea of what was going on. So overall I think they did their best in terms of the situation at hand. Obviously, right now everyone has to take it day by day, week by week. 
    But I also know that it was a really, really hard decision to make. You have athletes whose whole lives were dedicated to going to these Olympics. They worked year after year for this moment to be on the world stage, and then to just have it pulled out from under them is really tough. But thankfully, the games aren’t cancelled. They’re still happening, just at a different date.
    What did you think of Australia's decision to opt out prior to the official postponement? How did you think the committee handled everything? 
    It was the right decision, just in terms of the health and safety of everyone. And I think the Australian Olympic Committee did a really good job of keeping us in the loop. They were sending out emails two to three times a week, telling us where to go for support and such. We weren’t left in the dark. We had a pretty good idea of what was going on. So overall I think they did their best in terms of the situation at hand. Obviously, right now everyone has to take it day by day, week by week. 
    But I also know that it was a really, really hard decision to make. You have athletes whose whole lives were dedicated to going to these Olympics. They worked year after year for this moment to be on the world stage, and then to just have it pulled out from under them is really tough. But thankfully, the games aren’t cancelled. They’re still happening, just at a different date.
    And how has all of this affected you personally?
    I mean, I don't have a job. I'm out of work. I play a sport for a living, and it's not possible to do that right now. So like many people, I don’t have any income. And because all the gyms are closed, I can't go and work out, I can't lift, I can't go to a basketball court, I can't shoot. I’ve been left to my own devices, and I have to get creative about working out at home. It hasn’t been that bad, to be honest. There's some fun ways to work out at home. I've got a little bit of equipment, so I'm lucky that I can at least do some typical stuff. It’s really more about staying active, so I’ve been trying to figure out ways to do that while also staying inside. 
    Your teammate, Liz Cambage, was in China in December, where she fell ill with what seems like a bad case of COVID-19. You all played together afterwards. What was that like? 
    When she was telling us about this sickness, we didn't know what it was. And she was 100% fine when we saw her in France. She was fully healthy, she'd gotten the okay from doctors and everything, so we were confident that she was healthy and we were all going to be okay. We didn't really know the full extent of the illness until after France, and then we were like, "Shit." But no Opals have been confirmed positive since, so I think we’re okay. It was a real case of ignorance is bliss, because if we knew then what we know now, there’d have been a lot more stress.  Even though you saw postponement coming, I imagine the uncertainty was tough to deal with. Do you feel like you’re going through it all again with the WNBA now? 
    It was tough, because you put a lot of emotional energy into preparing for something like the Olympics. Plus it was just so close. And personally, I’m recovering from injury, so I’m rehabbing now and was trying to get my body right for the next few months in order to get back to my peak when the games started. Now I’m aiming for the WNBA season, but that’s up in the air as well. We haven’t been told whether it’s going to go ahead or if it’s going to be delayed. 
    You’re in this limbo, honestly, because you’re trying to prepare for the season physically, but you’re also trying to prepare yourself mentally for the chance that it’s either cancelled or delayed. It does mess with your emotions. You have to be pretty tough and just get on with it. Because this stuff is going to happen, and whether you like it or not, you just have to deal with it.
    And unlike the NBA, you fly coach in the WNBA, which means even if you were playing games without fans, you’d still be exposed to crowds on a regular basis if the season went on. 
    Exactly. We’d only have so much control over the environment. We wouldn’t really have the luxury of guaranteed safety, so it’s a whole different thought process behind the WNBA’s decision. We just have to wait and see. 
    What communications have you received from the WNBA regarding a potential delay?
    We receive a lot of emails from the Players’ Associations. Just check-ins, making sure we’re safe, and that if we need anything or have to travel at all, they’re aware of it. They did a really good job of getting people back to their home country who needed to go. It’s similar to what we experienced with the Olympic Committee as well. We get updates pretty often about what’s going on and where people’s thoughts are. But we’re all pretty much waiting week-to-week to see how the situation progresses and to see if the season can still go ahead. 
    What communications have you received from the WNBA regarding a potential delay?
    We receive a lot of emails from the Players’ Associations. Just check-ins, making sure we’re safe, and that if we need anything or have to travel at all, they’re aware of it. They did a really good job of getting people back to their home country who needed to go. It’s similar to what we experienced with the Olympic Committee as well. We get updates pretty often about what’s going on and where people’s thoughts are. But we’re all pretty much waiting week-to-week to see how the situation progresses and to see if the season can still go ahead. 
    In the meantime, are you just going to train as though it’s starting on the intended day? 
    At the moment, yes. But like I said, I'm still not sure what decision is going to be made in terms of that. I mean, you look at the NBA, and nobody knows if it’s going to be delayed or if they’ll have to cancel. So I’m just trying to keep fit, and keep relatively active in the hopes that it will go ahead. But you have to be prepared for every outcome, whether you like it or not. 



      March 13, 2020

      Chiney and Nneka Ogwumike helped win the fight for improved terms in US basketball

      The basketball sister act that secured breakthrough women’s deal


      Chiney and Nneka Ogwumike helped win the fight for improved terms in US basketball
       by Molly McElwee


      Sat in the front row of the Good Morning America audience, Chiney Ogwumike was beaming as her sister Nneka took to the stage. Alongside Cathy Engelbert, the Women’s NBA commissioner, and broadcast live to millions across the United States, on Jan 14 Nneka had the pleasure of announcing new league-wide contracts that will change the WNBA, and arguably women’s sport, forever.

      But behind the Ogwumikes’ wide smiles is a steely determination and 18 months of work. Nneka and Chiney, who play for the Los Angeles Sparks, were paramount in securing a monumental new collective bargaining agreement in their roles as president and vice-president of the Women’s National Basketball Players Association (WNBPA). While the sisters understand they were “literally writing history” as Nneka puts it, they are keen to add the caveat that this is merely a starting point.

      “People were calling this agreement ground-breaking, and as I heard it more and more I realised it wasn’t ground-breaking, but ground-establishing,” Chiney says, emphasising the last word.
      Some terms are basic employees’ rights, including better travel conditions and full maternity pay. Others are more innovative and impressive, such as compensation of up to $60,000 (£47,000) in adoption, surrogacy and fertility treatment for veteran players – not to mention improved salaries.
      When they opted out of their previous agreement in September 2018, Nneka said they were “not asking for LeBron money” or equal pay yet. But the total salary of all 144 WNBA players was barely a third of the $37 million NBA superstar LeBron James makes alone. To that end, they wangled a WNBA salary cap increase of 30 per cent. On average players will now earn $130,000 in cash compensation, and up to $500,000. The hope is this new financial incentive will lessen the pressure on players to compete in foreign leagues during the off-season. Overseas teams have previously offered up to 10 times WNBA salaries, which attracted the majority of players to compete all year, risking injury and fatigue.
      “Though you learn a lot about yourself, after five years you’re like, ‘I can’t do this forever’,” Nneka, who has played in Poland and Russia, says. “Players do this, not always because they want to, but because it’s the best financial security,” Chiney, who instead now works as an ESPN pundit in the off-season, says. “It’s not sustainable, we had to start getting real about what players’ experiences were.”
      The Ogwumikes speak with an eloquence and clarity that makes it unsurprising they played a big part in this deal. They are no ordinary sporting siblings: they played college basketball at Stanford University together, both were the No 1 pick at the WNBA draft and both won Rookie of the Year in their first seasons. Chiney, 27, is a two-time All Star; Nneka, 29, a six-time All Star and she was 2016’s Most Valuable Player when she won the league with the Sparks.
      They were reunited on the same team in Los Angeles last season and, as on the court, you can imagine them tag-teaming at the negotiating table. Nneka is more softly spoken, but straight-talking; Chiney bounds into our conference call with attention-grabbing energy. A trait they say they share though, is their “relentlessness”, which they picked up during their Texas childhood, as two of four sisters born to Nigerian immigrants. Chiney says their father taught them the importance of male allies, among whom they they counted former LA Laker Kobe Bryant. “Our father was our No 1 example of a male ally. I think similarly in women’s basketball we were just coming to know and appreciate our greatest male ally of all time, and that was Kobe.”
      Like their father, Bryant had four daughters, and his advocacy and mentorship for future and current WNBA stars has been celebrated in the wake of his death in January. The five-time NBA champion often sat courtside at games with 13-year-old daughter Gianna, who also aspired to play professionally but perished in the same helicopter accident as her father, along with seven others.
      “It hit very deeply for the WNBA because we knew what people are right now only just realising – his relationship with his daughters and his impact for women in sports,” Nneka adds.
      The Ogwumikes are keen to credit the rest of the WNBPA executive committee and every player in the league for advancing the game. “Strength in numbers is a real thing, we got all the players [involved],” Nneka says. “It taught me that, if you don’t pull up your seat to the table, you will never know what’s possible.” 
      Chiney agrees: “As sisters we were never competitive but always collaborative, and I think female athletes are a great example of this. We’re now being collaborative to completely shake the system, whether US women’s soccer, basketball or gymnastics.” Nneka adds: “Because we all need to hit the finish line, it doesn’t matter who gets there first. What matters is that whoever’s in front keeps running and fighting for what we deserve. Because once we stop, that’s what the world will perceive as how far we can go.” 
      The new contracts will run until 2027, so the Ogwumikes can focus on basketball until then, beginning with the start of the WNBA season in May and a potential Olympic debut for Nneka with the US.
      After an hour of chat about women’s sport, the sisters exhale in unison, almost relieved, when I ask how happy they are to return exclusively to on-court duties. “That’s a question you know the answer to,” Nneka laughs.






        February 20, 2020

        Martha Richards ('91)

        Martha Richards ('91) Aspen High Athletic Director
        Martha Richards didn’t have to go far to find a qualified coach for the Aspen High School girls golf team this spring. A former LPGA pro and collegiate coach, the current AHS athletic director felt confident she could juggle both roles and step in to lead the Skiers on the golf course.
        “It’s not an unusual thing to have an AD coach,” Richards said, “and I think girls golf is one of the sports that will probably have the least impact in terms of my ability to be available for all the other sports too.”
        Richards takes over for Don Buchholz, a certified PGA professional who recently moved to Florida after a long stint in the Aspen area. On top of being the head girls coach, Buchholz had been an assistant for the boys, including this past fall when they won their first state championship.
        For Richards, getting back to her roots as a coach was an exciting prospect.
        “It will be really energizing to get back into coaching. That is definitely something I miss a little bit, working with kids a little bit more,” Richards said. “My goal for this is we have a lot of fun doing it and they learn how to stretch themselves and that they get better.”
        From a resume standpoint, Richards wasn’t going to find anyone much better. A Wisconsin native, Richards went to Stanford to play basketball, where she helped the Cardinal win a national championship. She then transitioned over to golf, where she was named an all-American before a brief stint on the LPGA Tour.
        Richards jumped head first into coaching when she took over the Boise State program in 1998. She was only there a year before becoming an assistant, a rare position in women’s golf, at the University of Texas. In 2000, she became the head coach at Vanderbilt, where she rebuilt the program. She was twice named SEC coach of the year and was the 2004 Golfweek national coach of the year.
        Richards returned to Texas as the head coach in 2007, where she remained before stepping away from coaching in 2014. After that, she helped start a golf software company called BirdieFire before becoming the AHS athletic director ahead of the 2017-18 school year.
        “There will be a big difference. I was coaching kids who were all-Americans and going on the LPGA Tour,” Richards said of transitioning to coaching high schoolers. “Part of my job as a coach is to grow the game of golf, and especially on the women’s side of things. We want to help them improve their skills and want to make sure they really like golf.”
        Girls golf has always been a challenge in the mountains. The team usually only gets to swing a club on a real course during competitions, which are held predominantly near Grand Junction this early in the spring. Otherwise, the team spends most of its time training indoors or at the Aspen Golf Club simulator until the snow melts closer to home.
        This will provide a hurdle or two, but Richards feels her background coaching high-level players will help in finding creative ways to overcome a lack of course time.




          January 21, 2020

          Kiran Lakhian, 2016


          HEY THERE, I'M KIRAN!


          Kiran Lakhian ('16) played basketball as a freshman walk-on at Stanford in 2012-13, left the program for two years, then returned in 2015-16 her senior year. She was to play basketball  at SMU as a graduate transfer,  but had a season ending knee injury prior to the 1st game.


          I recently graduated from SMU with a Master's in Design and Innovation. I chose to focus on Human-Centered Design (HCD) because it is a great problem-solving framework for navigating complex social-impact problems. By maintaining a focus on the human, HCD gets to the heart of underlying issues, promotes cross-disciplinary collaboration, and sparks innovative solutions through creative thinking. My goal is to one day combine my design skills with my passion for health equity and re-design the healthcare system.​
          Aside from design, I am an aspiring avid hiker, mediocre yogi, extreme-weather enthusiast, and enjoy trying new activities! 


          MY PROCESS

          Human-Centered Design


          UNDERSTAND

          The HCD process I use begins by defining the question and building context. Initially, I ground myself in a preliminary phase of secondary research before going into the field for primary research. With the goal of understanding the user's deepest needs, empathy is a central component of this stage. Methods I've used include field immersion, analogous inspiration, in-depth interviews, card sort, artifact analysis, AEIOU observation, journey mapping, and surveys.


          IDEATE

          Based on the information collected, I pull themes and insights (through affinity diagramming) and identify opportunities for design. From here, I move to brainstorming possible solutions using a number of creative frameworks.


          PROTOTYPE

          Following ideation, things begin to come to life. The goal is to make quick, low-budget prototypes (ranging from tangible "things" to experiences) in order to test hypotheses as I narrow in on design solutions. This is an iterative process. My prototyping experience has involved power tools, laser cutter, Rhino 3D printing software, InDesign, Illustrator, and hosting experiences.

          SHARE

          After all is said and done, sharing the learnings is just as important as the process of learning itself. Effective communication involves understanding the audience, compelling storytelling, visual cues, and clear and organized sense-making.

          PROJECTS

          As part of my Master's of Arts in Design and Innovation (MADI) program, I took two semester-long, project-based “Studio” classes. Each semester, students were grouped and assigned a client whom the students work alongside-with the goal of applying Human-Centered Design to deliver design recommendations.

          THE HAROLD SIMMONS PARK

          The Fall 2018 MADI Studio client was the Trinity Park Conservancy — a non-profit with plans to build a large urban park in Dallas. Our team set out to answer the question: “How might we create opportunities for connection between West Dallas and the Harold Simmons Park?”
          This problem was particularly "wicked" because the goal was to promote connection between a place that does not yet exist and a longstanding, historically-neglected community facing gentrification. 

          THE FOREST THEATER

          The Spring 2019 MADI Studio client was CitySquare, a non-profit with plans to rebuild the Forest Theater in South Dallas. Our team set out to answer the question: “How might we make the Forest Theater an asset to the community and to the city of Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex?”
          This project was about more than just renovating a theater. The Forest Theater was once the heart of a bumping, thriving African American community. Now deemed a historic landmark, much sits at stake with hopes that this project serve as a beacon of hope for the surrounding community. 
          Forest Theatre 1950s