I didn’t know what the sport of basketball was. I saw it on TV and I thought it was hooliganism. I thought my son was going to get into trouble. I didn’t know what it was. This never occurred to me. I don’t think I was one of the pioneer players. It’s incredible that I’m a pioneer, that I’m so lucky, that we have an impact today.
My dad was my childhood coach. His name was John Sutherland. He was a 3-time Olympian. He coached us in the recreation center and he was our Pop Warner coach for two years. When I was 13 years old, he was looking for a coach and he asked me. My parents took me to the Nike campus. He told me: “Girls are better athletes than boys, and I love it.” This really was a life-changing moment for me. I had felt so much pressure to become a nurse. I had quit school and was on the streets. This was my opportunity to really pursue my passion.
I was so impressed with the high schools at the time. They had the same amount of girls as they did boys, but they had more success. They had graduation rates 10 to 15 percentage points higher. I felt that we could help close that gap. I immediately went on recruiting trips to other universities and started meeting other players from other teams.
Being a female athlete isn’t as controversial as women in STEM, and even in sports. I’ve done interviews with The New York Times and The Atlantic and the Nightline. When I heard women in tech talk about pay and lunch hours, I wanted to break that glass ceiling. Men in business and sports are so comfortable talking about gender. With all the media exposure that we got, more women felt they had a platform. I decided that I was going to be that voice. I knew that the legacy of the high school team was important to women, and we can look to them as an example of what we should be. I’m an advocate for continued excellence.
[ I knew] the legacy of the high school team was important to women, and we can look to them as an example of what we should be. I’m an advocate for continued excellence.
I didn’t know what the sport of basketball was. I saw it on TV and I thought it was hooliganism. I thought my son was going to get into trouble. I didn’t know what it was. I don’t think I was one of the pioneer players. It’s incredible that I’m a pioneer, that I’m so lucky, that we have an impact today.
I met Jackie Robinson at a reception in Washington and he invited me to his statue unveiling. He said: “Look, honey, do you know that you’re the oldest woman playing?” And I said: “How old are you?” He said: “I’m 84 years old.”
My mother passed away when I was 12 years old. My father was sort of an alcoholic. I experienced a lot of depression as a teen. I would be 15, 17, 18 years old and I’d have thoughts of suicide. I was there for my dad when he died. I had to pick myself up. And I carried on with what I wanted to do, what I loved to do, what I had hoped to do.
I’m proud to be the oldest. I feel fortunate to be here. To be so young when we started with high school basketball — I don’t know how many other people were raised with the encouragement to do that kind of stuff at 12 or 13 years old. I know there are a lot of people out there. I’m hoping that the legacy that I had in high school lives on and continues in women, in the future.
– Alex Morrell, CNN