April 27, 2020

Nneka interview - Trevor Noah show; Alanna talks Olympic potponement

Nneka Ogumike: Excellence and Equity



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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


          December 9, 2019

          Amy Brooks ('96) - Leading NBA's Innovation Push


          Agent of Change: Amy Brooks (’96) Is Leading the NBA's Innovation Push

          The NBA has become known as the league most willing to innovate—and top exec Amy Brooks is leading the charge.  Jamie Lisanti, NBA, Nov 2019


          If the NFL has developed a reputation for stodgy traditionalism, the NBA has done the exact opposite, innovating—and yes, Tweeting, 'gramming and TikToking—its way to status as the fast-changing league of the future. Chief innovation officer Amy Brooks' job is to lead that push, whether that means changing the shot clock, tweaking the playoff format or, yes, finding new ways to make the NBA and its partners even more money.

          "If you're watching a game and you see a player's shoe, why can't you put up your phone and scan a QR code and buy that sneaker instantly?" says Brooks, 45, whose title also includes president of team marketing and business operations.
              Amy Brooks with Kobe Bryant
          Her job has two parts: advising teams on ways to innovate and then driving change at the league level. As for part one, she leads an internal consulting group of about 40 people that helps the 93 teams of the NBA, WNBA, G-League and the e-sports NBA 2K League pump up revenue and popularity and develop new ideas. When the former Stanford guard (and Stanford M.B.A.) was promoted to the job in 2017, after 12 years of working in the league office, one of her first tasks was to spearhead the league's new jersey patch ad program.
          That particular innovation may have been better loved by owners than fans, but Brooks says that to do her job right, she has to serve the league's faithful first: "Growing the business starts with our buildings being full, but it's also about how we deliver the game to our fans globally, because only 1% of our fans will ever attend a live game.
          Which brings up the second part of her job: leading a 10-person, league-focused global strategy and innovation group. The NBA's embrace of, in Brooks' words, its young, diverse and global fan base has allowed her to tinker with tradition and explore novel approaches—as opposed to, say, the NFL, which has limited appeal beyond the U.S. and has been slower to embrace social media.
          Chief among those efforts is the NBA 2K League, which was launched 18 months ago, making it the only U.S. pro sports operation to own and operate an e-sports league. Next year the 23-team league will add a franchise in Shanghai, continuing the NBA's (increasingly complicated) push into China. Brooks's group is also aiding the March 2020 launch of the NBA's new Basketball Africa League (BAL), which will feature 12 clubs competing in Egypt, Senegal, Nigeria, Angola, Morocco and Tunisia.
          Brooks's team is involved in everything from the schedule changes that reduced the amount of back-to-back games on consecutive days to teams' advanced mobile apps that power the in-arena experience. In Sacramento, fans can crowd-source the temperature in their seating areas to adjust the A/C or heat, while in Milwaukee, jersey patch sponsor Harley-Davidson added a vroom sound within the app for fans to hold up during games.
          "Innovation happens everywhere at the NBA—that is the secret to our success," Brooks says. "Our group is trying to inspire and pull it all together."
          Perhaps the biggest indicator of the NBA's openness to change is Brooks herself. The Sacramento native is one of the highest-ranking female executives in American sports and, according to the University of Central Florida's 2019 NBA Racial and Gender Report Card, NBA franchises have seven women serving in the role of either chief executive or team president, more than in all other U.S. pro leagues combined.
          "I see myself as an example, but my goal is to help others," Brooks says. "It's only a matter of time before we see a female head coach in the NBA."

            November 10, 2019

            Samuelsons: Karlie ('17) EuroCup POW; Bonnie ('15) Focusing on Studies

            Karlie Samuelson (2017) shoots her way to Top Performer status after downtown deluge

            Karlie Samuelson has been awarded EuroCup Top Performer honors for last week after lighting it up from long distance in spectacular fashion for Perfumerias Avenida.  The Great Britain national team competitor and WNBA player showed her devastating offensive capabilities as Avenida soared past Olivais FC by 106-45. Samuelson went off and finished 12-of-14 from the field including 8-of-10 from beyond the perimeter. As well as 33 points, she also had 6 boards, 3 assists and 3 steals.

            Season highlights

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            Bonnie Samuelson (2015), SCCO, ’20: Keeping Her Eye on the Ball and Her Studies  by Pam Martineau, NBKU
            When she is not throwing 3 pointers on the basketball court, Bonnie Samuelson is hitting the books and treating patients as she pursues her dream of becoming an optometrist

            Raised in a Basketball Family

            Raised in Huntington Beach, Samuelson is the eldest of three sisters, all of whom were raised to excel at basketball by their basketball-playing parents. Both parents played ball professionally, but it was Bonnie’s father who regularly took his daughters to the basketball court to teach them to shoot, dribble and shoot again.  “My dad would take us every day to shoot,” says Samuelson. “He said if you want to get good at basketball, you have to practice.”

            His tutelage paid off. Bonnie would go on to play basketball all four years at Stanford University as an undergraduate, where she specialized in three-pointers. Her middle sister plays professional basketball in Belgium and her younger sister plays in the WNBA.

            Shadowed an Optometrist

            As an undergraduate at Stanford, Bonnie was interested in going into a medical profession, because she “really wanted to help people.” She wasn’t sure, however, which medical profession to pursue. She shadowed various medical practitioners and was drawn to optometry after watching an optometrist interact with his patients. “He seemed to have a blast working with patients,” she says. “It seemed like something I wanted to do.”
            Samuelson fell in love with SCCO (Southern California College of Optometry) after visiting the campus. Being a “Southern California girl” also helped her make her choice, she adds. “The school was beautiful,” she says, adding that professors, staff and students are “so welcoming.”
            In her free time, Samuelson loves reading, or going to the movies or beach with her boyfriend, also an SCCO student. She also loves walking her two black Labrador retrievers, Molly and Lucy. And she offers a word of advice to new students at SCCO. “It’s going to be hard work, but so worth it,” she says.