Remember the Net-lace

By: Chaunte McClure

Many of us have dreams, goals, and desires and most of us will work to fulfill them. In the process, we might want to relinquish our efforts because of heartaches, illnesses, disappointments, slothfulness, and even death. I’ve experienced all those setbacks on my journey to earning a master of divinity degree, but I never quit; although there were many
moments when I was ready for the journey to end. I kept my focus on the end —graduation and the opportunities God has lined up for me. With just a few more weeks of
reading and writing assignments, I’ll finally graduate in May. Had I quit, I wouldn’t be turning the tassel during next month’s ceremony.

Dawn Staley, the head basketball coach for the women’s basketball team, shared a similar message with thousands of fans and other supporters who gathered in downtown Columbia Sunday for the team’s welcome home parade and national championship celebration. (Yes, the Gamecocks are NCAA basketball champions! Go Cocks!) The championship is a first for the University of South Carolina women’s basketball team and a first for Coach Staley. They had their almost-made-it moments, but on Sunday, April 2, they garnered a national championship title. Coach could’ve lost hope in 2016 after not making it past the Final Four. The team could’ve given up in the fourth quarter against Mississippi State, but they stayed focused, played well until the end and had the privilege of cutting the net. Coach Staley proudly wears that net, affectionately referred to as her net-lace, around her neck. To anyone who has a belief or hope, she urged them on Sunday during her speech to “take a piece of our net and reflect on what we were able to accomplish.” If you want to earn a degree, remember the net-lace. If you want to earn your high school diploma, remember the net. If you want a promotion, remember the net. Whatever you are seeking, dreaming or hoping for, don’t forget about the net. It’s a reminder that yes, you can.

Click here to watch Coach Staley’s inspirational remarks.

As a former student at the University of South Carolina, I remember when just a handful of fans supported the women’s basketball team on game nights and you could sit wherever you wanted. Now, the Colonial Life Arena is packed with loyal fans who purchase season tickets and next year they’ll watch national champions take it to the hoop. I’m proud of the program’s growth and I look forward to watching Gamecocks play in seasons to come. I am forever to thee.

Leading Ladies

By: Chaunte McClure

With Women’s History Month coming to a close and the Gamecocks destroying brackets, I’m torn about what to write this week. I feel it’s necessary to at least acknowledge Women’s History Month and salute all the wonderful past and present, known and unknown women for their contributions to culture, history and society. Influential women like Oprah Winfrey, Michelle Obama, Ava DuVernay, Helen Keller, Harriet Tubman, Shirley Chisholm, Marilyn Monroe and countless others across the nation. I have to  also salute the talented University of South Carolina’s women’s basketball team.

The women’s team has made their way to the Elite Eight and the men secured a spot in the Final Four. What a great time to be a Gamecock!

Last week I wondered what it must feel like to be a USC student during these winning streaks. I’d imagine it would be quadruple the excitement experienced when I was student somewhere around 1996 or 1997 when the men’s team beat Kentucky. (That’s been a while, so hopefully I got that right. If not, sports enthusiasts and diehard fans, please, don’t attack me.) I was living in Capstone at the time and I remember students TP’d the trees in front of the dorm. What a mess for the grounds team to clean up the next morning. Surely the thrill from that win in the late 90s doesn’t compare to what students are experiencing now with two winning basketball teams. Hats off to both teams for a job well done. I’m bracing myself for tonight’s game when the Lady Gamecocks take on Florida State and hopefully they’ll advance to the Final Four for the second time in three years. Let’s go Gamecocks! Women’s History Month is a good time to do it again.

A Letter from USC Gamecock Fans

By: Stacy Thompson

As I sit here only a few hours removed from an impulsive trip to Madison Square Garden and only a few minutes removed from watching Dawn Staley lead our Gamecock women’s basketball team to another Final Four, I can’t help but think of Frank Martin’s open letter to South Carolina fans following an improbable win over legendary Coach K and the Duke Blue Devils. The letter (if you haven’t seen it, please take the time to read it as it is everything that is good about college athletics) was heartfelt and heart wrenching, as it paid homage to long-suffering Gamecock fans and gave insight on the soul of a winner.  As soon as I read it, and because I’m a lawyer, I immediately thought of counter-points and arguments to convince Frank that he should not be thanking us, but instead, we should be thanking him.  And Frank is not the only one who earned our appreciation, but the missive below pertains to Frank, Dawn, Coach Tanner, Dr. Pastides and the other generally nameless, but vital, cogs in the wheel of Gamecock athletics.

Dear Frank and Dawn:

How’s everybody feeling?

Yeah, we’re feeling pretty darn good too. In the past 30 hours, much of the nation learned what I have known since moving here 39 years ago—what we have here in Columbia is very special. And recently, we happen to play some pretty good basketball (ask Duke, and Florida, and Florida State, and, well, I could go on…)

This didn’t just happen, and South Carolina basketball hasn’t always been so good. Frank, when you said this I thought back to the years of watching really good teams lose out in the first round to Coppin State, to days when the women’s team was only an afterthought, and to days when the best entertainment to be found was Cocky precariously hanging from a rope in the rafters to complete a lawsuit-waiting-to-happen dunk. Time and time again we were given hope that this year would be our “Wait ‘Till Next Year”-year only to fall short and be overjoyed with 2 NIT titles. Not to say that those titles were not hard-fought and earned, but falling short as a Gamecock fan became too much of the norm and reduced our dreams to little more than being satisfied with a win over that team from the Upstate and avoiding a forty point loss to the cellar-dweller of the SEC.

Yes, we are special for many reasons — we are 13th in the nation for attendance at the men’s games and 1st (2 years running) in attendance at the women’s games — not a fluke that this has happened given the outstanding product on the floor you both provide to all that enter Colonial Life Arena.

Frank, in your letter you cite three things you want from your fans — our time, our money and our passion. From a fan perspective, let me say that all we want are the same three things from you and your teams —

1) Your time — I have played collegiate ball and know the commitment and dedication it takes, so thank you for your time and thank your teams for the time they spend not only in practice, but in the weight room and study hall as well as the time not spent with family and friends in the pursuit of excellence on the court.

2) Your money — Let’s be honest, Frank and Dawn (as well as Ray, Dr. Pastides and scores of others within the athletic department) could make more elsewhere, and are worth more than they are actually paid. We are lucky to have them and should continue the trend of making sure that Gamecock Nation makes not only the best choice from the heart, but the wallet as well.

3) Your passion — Having been a fan all these years, and having received three degrees from this university, there is no doubt as to where my loyalty and passion lie. But you, Frank and Dawn, came here with no known ties, no reason to support us and without any inkling of the challenges that were ahead of you in basically building programs from the ground up. The fact that you both have embraced, encouraged and relished in the passion of our fan base is not lost on Gamecock Nation. We love you for it and we will continue to support you because of it.

Frank, you said you told your players the following: “If you want to get better, if you’re willing to listen and if you’re honest and fearless about how hard you want to work and how good you want to be, then playing for me will be a whole lot of fun.”

Frank, Dawn, Ray, Dr. Pastides et al: We want to get better, we are so willing to listen and we are absolutely fearless about hard we want to work. The past few weeks have been a whole lot of fun…here is hoping that the next weekend is as well. Good luck in Dallas and Phoenix!

What Is It About Football Season?

By: Shannon Shull

I am not a college football fanatic, never really have been. Yes, I grew up a Gamecock – it was a bit inevitable, seeing as how I grew up in Gamecock country and over half of my family graduated from the University of South Carolina. But I admit, unless it’s a USC game, Gamecock FootballI could give a flip what happens in any football game. I mean absolutely no offense, I just have no major connection nor the time to invest in college football.

But, by golly, there’s just something about being in an environment with a bunch of hardcore football fans – especially college football fans! The connection to their schools – oh the pride! It’s fantastic! So, between the great food, festivities and excitement in the air, if you’re with the right people, it can be electric and such fun! When it’s a Gamecock game, I go nuts and get into it – so I’m REALLY hoping the ole Gamecocks have a great season this year. 😉 But even if it’s not a USC game, it’s contagious watching a group of people on the edge of their seats, jumping up and down with the intensity of the game. Whether you have any clue what teams are playing or not, if you let yourself, you can really have a great time. Football games bring people together and create an atmosphere of camaraderie and competition that can be a blast.

Of course, that’s as long as you’re with logical, cool people who don’t take it too seriously and get too stupid! You know, the fools who scream and curse at the TV and anyone around them…you know those people. Sorry, but I cannot and will not tolerate those kind of football fans. Those supposed “know-it-alls” who act as if they could do better and actually would have made that touchdown had they been on the field. Yea, I’d just love to literally throw those fans out on the field and let them just try to do better! But I won’t go that route with my blog entry here, as I want to focus on the positive fun of football watchin’.

I’ve written an entry in the past sharing some amazing football-watching appetizers. Sometimes, the food is the highlight of any football gathering. I mean, any gathering that’s truly awesome has good food, right!? So pair that yummy food with great company and you’ve got a recipe for a dang good time.

College Football Map

Being an artistic person who teaches drama, I tend to people watch. It’s actually great fun to watch someone who is so invested in their team and see how they react as they cheer on the players throughout the game. Talk about a character study! Some folks are so dedicated that when their team experiences a loss of any sort, you can almost see their spirit literally break. It’s quite unbelievable at times. Yet the joy that overcomes their bodies when their beloved team does something right… watch out! It really is an experience. You don’t just watch, you feel. I’ve grown to love it – to see people happy is always a lovely thing.

I think that as I get older, I’ve really grown to appreciate this thing called football season. It’s wonderful to see good people come together to cheer on their team and truly enjoy their time together as they dive into the world of football and become so invested in their dear teams. Bless them all. Hey, if a bunch of dudes tossing a ball and smashing into each other creates this environment of fellowship and fun, then I am all for it!

So what is it about football season, after all? If we could harness the focus, energy, time and money spent on the sport of football, then we could certainly cure cancer, save the world or something along those lines, I’d think. There are many other events that are also overdone that that I could rant about, but instead I will keep it positive and focus on the basic truth that football season can truly be a lot of fun, if you let it. Even if you’re like me and you secretly couldn’t care less about who wins or loses, I think we can all appreciate any excuse for some positive “togetherness.”

GO COCKS!

The big world of college football is something that we can all look forward to for many reasons. And it’s ok if we don’t all have the same reasons, as long as we keep it positive, enjoy the electricity in the air, enjoy our time together and celebrate the game!

Hip Hip Hooray for Football Season and GO COCKS!!!  🙂