First Person Singular: Alana Beard of the Washington Mystics
I didn't go into high school being the star or anything like that. I played behind older girls that were so much better than me. And I learned from them and worked my way up. Coach said, Do this; I did it. I knew that if I would listen to him, I'd be the best player that I could be. And every day after practice I would go home and just work and work.
Duke recruited me, and going there turned out to be one of the best decisions of my life -- yet the hardest, because I missed home so much. Freshman year I cried literally every single day. I remember after a game I came back to the locker room and just dropped to my knees. The trainer's like, "What's wrong?" I [sobbed], "My parents are leaving." So the coaches went and got my parents, and my dad was like, "We're going to get your mom an apartment here." I was like, "No, no, I can do it." They came up so much [from Louisiana], though. My dad's a trucker, and he would make sure he got runs toward North Carolina. And he would call me up and say, "Pooh, I'm coming in."
But the best therapy was just going into that gym at night and just shooting, just hearing the echo of the ball bouncing. I didn't think about anything when I was between those lines. I'm not going to lie; it was very hard. But I kept pushing. It was just: gym, school, gym, school, gym, school. If I had a lunch break, I'm in the gym shooting. They were out partying; I was at the gym at twelve, one o'clock in the morning.
I enjoyed the journey, but like in college, I never got that big championship. And I wanted it. And I haven't gotten it here [in Washington]. I used to ask myself: I worked so hard, so hard, so hard, so why did I just have a bad game? Or, Why can't we win, you know? I felt like I always had to be in the gym. But Sheri Coale, the Oklahoma coach, told me to hold on loosely. Sometimes you can hold on so tight, want something so much, that it can just slip away. When you hold on loosely, everything else will come. Just sort of let go, and let God, you know, handle it. I'm working on that.
Interview by KK Ottesen