By Cameron Buford, whatsgoodinsports.com
Last week I was fortunate enough to talk to the recent UCLA Hall of Fame inductee and only female player to have her jersey retired at Bishop Montgomery High School, in Torrance, CA., Noelle Quinn. During our conversation the modest, soft-spoken UCLA Graduate and WNBA Champion shared with me some valuable life lessons and stories she picked up from basketball. This article attempts to capture the essence of her personal growth and development; though you can hear the full interview by using your clicking on this link.
“I grew up watching the ‘Showtime Lakers’. I loved Magic Johnson, so as a big guard he [kind of] inspired me,” Is how Noelle responded when I asked if she patterned her game after anyone in particular. Her floor leadership was evident to basketball fans throughout her WNBA career. “When I played the game, I wanted to play the right way; be a good teammate, and ultimately win.” I’m fairly confident Magic would be proud of Noelle’s accomplishments.
I am a big believer society can learn so much from participating in sports, so I am always intrigued to hear what life lessons current athletes feel they’ve learned from participating in sports. Quinn opens up by telling me, “Basketball teaches you a lot about life and life skills. It teaches you how to work with people; you’ll have teammates you love, teammates who [you] don’t necessarily rock with or vibe with. Basketball has also taught me the importance of hard work.”
Additionally, I wanted to know about an “ah-ha moment” Quinn had at any stage in her career. She responded by saying, “When you’re in the moment you don’t recognize the magnitude of your performance.” She did go on to share a few standout experiences, including her time as a McDonald’s All-American, “that year, in the McDonalds All-American Game was LeBron, Chris Paul, Shannon Brown, and Von Wafer… that was a pretty cool experience; just to be amongst the elite [players in the country].”
“Being able to make the jump from a High School Senior to freshman [College, UCLA]. Being able to win freshman of the year was a breath of relief,” in regards to an ah-ha moment. “Being able to play with Lisa Leslie, Tina Thompson, Candace Parker, DeLeisha Milton-Jones… that was a moment that I loved because I was back home playing at Staples. This was like coming full circle!”
By leading her teams to four California High School Basketball Championships and one Volleyball championship, Noelle has been widely recognized for making all her teammates better players on the court. Her leadership has been undeniable and was evident in each of her seasons at UCLA. In 2004 she was named the Pac-10 Freshman of the Year and First Team All-Pac-10. In 2005 she was a finalist for the John R. Wooden Award. In 2006 she was named First-Team Academic All-District 8 selection. In 2007 she was the also Finalist for the Naismith Award, as well as being a finalist for the State Farm Wade Trophy as the national player of the year award, all before being selected by the Minnesota Lynx as the 4th pick of the 2007 WNBA Draft.
Basketball has allowed Noelle to play for various teams in multiple cities, and multiple countries. Having been drafted by the Lynx, she also played for her hometown Los Angeles Sparks before winning a championship with the Seattle Storm, where she recently became an assistant coach for the Seattle Storm. She has also played overseas in Turkey. These experiences have provided her a wealth of knowledge on and off the court that I was excited to tap into.
With the current racial inequalities and unrest that’s become so prevalent after the recent murder of George Floyd, I wanted to know Noelle’s thoughts on these issues; simply by saying; “COVID and quarantine.” She elaborated by saying, “being in quarantine, having absolutely nothing [to do], allowed you [us] to focus on this. When all these other tragedies happened life still went on.”
I also asked her about her decision to play in the WNBA wobble that is taking place in Florida. Once you listen to the Voice of the Fans Podcast, you’ll hear her responses to my questions on the amenities, the food, and testing. “Before coming to Florida, we had to take three COVID tests. Upon arrival, you get tested and go into quarantine.” For food, they [Coaches] have a “training table,” where they “get three meals a day; Breakfast Lunch and dinner.”
Quinn referred to herself as the “ultimate introvert”; when I asked her how she’s keeping busy, she replied, “So being alone is my thing. During those quarantine days, I’ve actually been watching a lot of film; preparing for their practices that they are about to start. I’ve actually [have] been very intrigued by Dr. Joy DeGruy. She has this book called Post Traumatic Slave Syndrome, so, during quarantine, I was watching her videos and lectures, whatever I could find… I’ve started Michelle Alexander’s book The New Jim Crow; so, I’ve been educating myself.”
For years now, the WNBA has been at the forefront in the fight for social justice and equality. This hasn’t gone unnoticed to many fans and owners alike, so I had to ask the 11-year veteran of the WNBA, her thoughts on if she felt the league was doing enough to celebrate and promote the Black Lives Matters initiative. Quinn was not shy when she said, “I would love for the league to take a stronger stance! But as long as we have voices, from the majority of our players, coaches, front office, general managers, and owners… as long as we have that backing, I think that’s powerful.”
This led right into my next question about the divisive comments from Senator Kelly Loeffler (R-GA), part-owner of the WNBA’s Atlanta Dream, in the letter she sent to WNBA commissioner Cathy Engelbert. In the letter, Loeffler wrote, “I adamantly oppose the Black Lives Matter political movement, which has advocated for the defunding of police, called for the removal of Jesus from churches and the disruption of the nuclear family structure, harbored anti-Semitic views, and promoted violence and destruction across the country.” Loeffler’s letter continued, “I believe it is totally misaligned with the values and goals of the WNBA and the Atlanta Dream, where we support tolerance and inclusion.”
Noelle was clear when she said, “Senator Kelly’s comments don’t align with the vision of our league [WNBA]!” Though the league came out and said she’s not in the day to day operations of the team; Noelle’s not buying that; “In my opinion, that’s not taking a strong stance!” Noelle went onto say, “She doesn’t need to own a team, or be involved in our league [WNBA]; if she doesn’t understand the fact that her comments are divisive, they lack sensitivity… and she’s not reading the room!”
I asked Noelle if she felt obligated as a Black woman to educate others on racism in this country. “More so now, than not… Dr. Joy should sit down with Kelly… Do I feel obligated now? Yes! Because you know why cause their listening! If anything is going to get done, this is the time for it.”
Noelle Quinn shared with me some wonderful quotes during our conversation, for example, “You never know who’s watching!” About how she obtained her coaching role with Seattle Storm. Noelle says in regards to Maya Moore finding her purpose and passion has been rewarding desire to follow her purpose in life rather than, “chasing a check, because that check isn’t always going to fulfill us.” Lastly, Noelle shared a story of, a former teammate, Tina Thompson coaching her through a situation when she felt like she wasn’t shooting the ball well. Tina saw her working on her shot before and after practice, and Tina then told her, “’ It’s not your mechanics, it’s your mental!’” This cemented for Noelle that mental care is just as important as physical care.
As we wrapped up our conversation, Noelle shared a few thoughts and anecdotes that stuck out for me. Regarding how she obtained her coaching role with the Seattle Storm she said, “You never know who’s watching.” Regarding Maya Moore’s decision to take a hiatus to pursue a personal passion, Noelle praised Moore for following her purpose in life rather than just “chasing a check”. She commented on how the check alone isn’t always fulfilling, and her belief Moore finding her purpose has been rewarding for her. Lastly, Quinn shared a story between her and former teammate Tina Thompson at a time when she wasn’t shooting well. Thompson saw her working on her shot before and after practice and Thompson said, “It’s not your mechanics, it’s your mental!” That statement from Thompson cemented for Quinn that mental care is just as important as physical care.
Kindly share your thoughts and takeaways from the story of the laid back and very modest Noelle Quinn by reaching out to me on Twitter @whatsgoodnsport or forward your thoughts to firstname.lastname@example.org. Additionally, be sure to subscribe to our weekly “Voice of the Fans Podcast” which is available for you on most podcasting platforms;Apple andGoogle Podcasts including Spotify, TuneIn, and iHeart Radio. As always, Thank You for making our voice, your choice!