This is a guest post from Kaly Gillette Shippen, a former women’s basketball player at BYU.
I am 33 years old (a great age if you are a Larry Bird fan), and I’m feeling like I’m 13 again. At 13, I was a huge BYU fan, thanks to the likes of Ty Detmer and Peter Tuipulotu and my dad, uncle Perry, and cousins who fueled the enthusiasm.
I remember reading a really great book about the impressive line of BYU quarterbacks called, “And They Came to Pass” and from it I gained an appreciation for the football program. My 7th grade math book cover had the names of every BYU football player on it. I wore my royal blue BYU jacket with pride, and didn’t miss a game on tv (or often in our case–pirated satellite), if I could help it.
I had the chance to go to some BYU women’s basketball games while I was in junior high and early on set a goal to play for the Cougars. A lofty one for a 5-6 girl from Paul, Idaho with no basketball pedigree and average athleticism. But I believed it was possible because of my local heroes–Jennifer Beck from Burley and Thais Kidd from Declo. Thanks to them and thanks to encouragement from my parents and coaches like Gordy Kerbs, I was dreaming big.
The road to my goal had some twists and turns, and took me to Ricks College in Rexburg and San Diego State before I finally made it to Provo. My mandated redshirt year due to the transfer was a huge blessing as I learned so much from the great coaches and had a chance to run so many different offenses. As a 5th year senior, I played behind a shooting guard who is still playing in the WNBA and two all-conference point guards. Needless to say, playing time was limited, but there were times I had the chance to contribute on the floor. My best game was a 15 point outing in a loss at Arkansas, but the highlight of my BYU career was making 2 freethrows in an upset win versus Utah in the Mountain West tournament. One of the greatest things that I learned from my time at BYU was empathy for bench players. But I also can confidently say that if you love the game of basketball, being a bench player is a lot better than not being on the team at all. I would go back to sitting that BYU bench in a heart beat. I still loved practices, loved game prep, loved shoot arounds, and loved being part of the team.
But after the season was over, my own loyalty to BYU was shaken. Some disloyalty coupled with some unexpected decisions by the women’s athletic director related to our coaching staff left a bad taste in my mouth for my beloved BYU. We didn’t even get to have an end of year banquet because of the sudden turmoil. I still cheered for the Cougars, but it hasn’t been the same.
This weekend, I took my 8 year old son Raleigh to Denver to see BYU face Gonzaga for a berth in the Sweet 16. As we cheered them on in their victory, it occurred to me how blessed I am to have reached my goal and worn that uniform. I thought about how many little kids want to be like Jimmer. I know my son came home and shot hoops in the living room for about 4 hours today between watching the NCAA games after church!
The Brandon Davies suspension has renewed my pride in an institution that is putting principles first. I’m also so proud of “Cougar nation” for supporting Brandon, and I’m proud of Brandon for pressing forward and being there to support his team with great love and enthusiasm.
Jimmer Fredette. Wow. When you know Jimmer’s story, it makes you realize that we should all set our goals high, whatever those goals might be. Jimmer’s goal has been to play in the NBA. My goal was just to PLAY for BYU. Maybe if I would have aimed a little higher I would have actually started for BYU. Most of us have seen the home videos. I mean, Jimmer was a chunky little kid! Not the type of kid that you’d think would have a chance to play in the NBA. He didn’t have an amazing basketball pedigree. He wasn’t very tall or extremely fast or anything else that would make you think he would have the ability to be the 2011 NCAA Player of the Year and dominate the way he has this season. But he worked on his game and his strength and his quickness with fervor. He is such an inspiration. Check out Jimmer on the left in this picture I snagged from his facebook page. (Hope that’s okay J!)
A friend of mine who went to Vegas and saw Jimmer score 52 points against New Mexico in the Mountain West tournament said he cried while watching the game. I can’t say I cried DURING the game, but I sure did afterwards. I listened to all the Cougar faithful chant “BYU, BYU, BYU”. I felt the excitement as I watched Jimmer leave the court with a huge smile, and saw the joy and pride in his mother’s eyes. I saw the emotion as Dave Rose came out and hugged his wife and his daughter Chanel, who was my teammate at BYU. Dave Rose’s story of his battle with cancer adds another dimension to the joy that was tangible after that game.
The whole experience has just caused me to reflect. I don’t think playing a sport for BYU or attending BYU needs to be the dream for every kid or for my kids. But I do believe that we should encourage our kids to DREAM BIG. And we need to support them and encourage them the way T.J. Fredette encouraged his little brother Jimmer. I’m sure glad T.J. didn’t know any better. If he had been “realistic”, Gonzaga might not have just “Got Jimmered.”