I have always been athletic and participated in some form of organized sports. I recall spending countless hours in the steaming hot sun during the summer, sweating until I smelled like a little puppy, playing kickball in the middle of the street with other neighborhood kids. I even remember always being an energetic little something ready to run, hop or jump over anything I could; which even included my grandfather’s garden fence in east Texas. I actually think this is where the foundation was built in becoming an excellent 100m hurdler in high school and later college. I was the star female athlete on every team: volleyball, basketball, and my favorite, track and field. I went from winning those shiny blue ribbons at field day in elementary, to trophies in high school to earning a full athletic scholarship in track and field to the University of Houston.

Growing up in Fort Worth, in a middle class home with my mom and dad, sisters and brother, a neighborhood that was pretty much a melting pot, and attended what I thought were pretty decent schools, I don’t recall when I started seeing “color” in other people. Of course, I recognized black, from white, to brown, to even those in between, but when did it start to matter…or did it ever?

Every sport I’ve ever played, my teammates consisted of girls from all races, colors, and backgrounds. As far as my teammates were concerned, we shared a common goal, “let’s work hard so we can win!” Every teammate contributed to the overall success because they each possessed characteristics of a winner.

For instance, in volleyball, it took a black girl to bump it, a white girl to set it, and a brown girl to spike it! In basketball, it was my brown partner that I played some major defense for so that she could make that game winning shot. And on the track, the 4 x 100 meter sprint relay team consisted of two black, one white, and one brown girl exchanging the baton around the track, hand off after hand off to a record setting finish with one common goal, “let’s work hard so we can win!

Although the days are long gone from being in a sports complex, I have found myself still being connected and building friendships with women in the corporate arena that share this same strategy, “let’s work hard so we can win!

I now have women in my circle that possess characteristics of a winner and are not selfish in sharing their education, knowledge or experience with others. Each stand in their own confidence knowing with assurance that our uniqueness yet similarities make us all better. Our successes and failures all contribute to nuggets of wisdom that will assist along a path we must all travel. The beauty in the respect that is demonstrated not because of skin color, but of the love for one another. And the admiration of the experiences, without fear or intimidation, lends it outstretched hand to help one another. Because we are connected in such a way, encouragement, inspiration and motivation are ever-present.

Although it is no longer a ball or baton that I have in my hand and my teammates are now lifelong friends, the common goal remains the same. I have learned that is imperative that we surround ourselves with like-minded people, understand that we need each other in order to succeed…regardless of race, color, or background!

I truly believe it was because of my sports riddled upbringing, that I had the opportunity to live, work and play with kids from every race, color, or background. There is a tie that can bind us, and that is, “let’s work hard so we can win!