How much of an impact has sports had on Rebecca Lobo? “There was never a time when sports were not a key component of my life,” she says.
That continues to this day in her 12th year as a WNBA and college basketball analyst for ESPN and as a coach for her kids.
Lobo is perhaps best known for being the face in the early 1990s of what has become the Connecticut women’s basketball dynasty. Lobo helped led the Huskies to a perfect 35-0 season and the national title in 1995, when she was named the Naismith and College Player of the Year.
That followed a high school career in which she was named to the American Family Insurance ALL-USA First Team in 1991 at Southwick-Tolland Regional in Massachusetts. She was the state’s leading scorer for 18 years with 2,740 points.
She was one of the flagship players in the WNBA with the New York Liberty and also won Olympic gold in 1996. After retiring from the WNBA, she joined ESPN, which will air all 63 games of the Women’s NCAA Basketball Tournament on its networks. Coverage begins Saturday.
As part of Girls Sports Month, Lobo talked about the challenges she faces, how sports helped her fit in and the opportunities she says for young female athletes today:
Q: Why are sports so important for girls today? What do they mean for you?
A: Sports teach girls so many important lessons in life. They help foster a real confidence that stems from true accomplishment instead of “likes” on social media.
Q: When did you know that sports were a key component of your life?
A: I always loved sports and wanted to play. There was never a time when sports were not a key component of my life.
Q: What were the biggest challenges you faced as a female athlete growing up? Are those still the biggest challenges you see facing girls today?
A: The biggest challenges were finding places to play. When I was in fourth grade and signed up for my town’s park and rec basketball team, I was only one of two girls to do so. My mother made them let me play on the boys’ team. That challenge doesn’t exist today. There are many more opportunities than there were thirty years ago.
Q: Given your height, did sports make it easier or harder for you to fit in?
A: Much easier. Players on a team have an immediate bond. They go through similar experiences every day at practice and during games.
Q: If there is one thing you could say to girls and young women who play sports today, what would it be?
A: Appreciate all of the opportunities that you have today. Many women, probably in your grandmother’s generation, would have loved to play sports, but the opportunity was not there for them.
Q: Who was your biggest mentor in sports?
A: My biggest mentor was my mother. She wasn’t a standout athlete, but she was always willing to fight for opportunities for me. She was well-versed in Title IX and made sure that I was never denied a chance to play sports based on my gender.
Q: How has your life after your playing career changed your view of the game, if at all?
A: I still love basketball. I enjoy nothing more than coaching my daughter’s fourth and sixth grade basketball teams. There is such a pure joy and innocence that still exists in it. Hopefully that will never change when dealing with kids at that level.