Stories Behind The Women's U17 Trials: Autumn Powell, Breaking Barriers
Colorado Springs, Colorado
Day three of the 2014 USA Basketball Women’s U17 World Championship Team Trials in Colorado Springs, Colorado, is starting this morning and by mid day, the first round of roster reductions will be taking place.
For many of the 145 participants, the journey and dream to make the 12-member roster for the 2014 USA Basketball Women’s U17 World Championship team will come to an end.
Despite what may be ahead for the participants, one player already has won just by participating.
All by herself, Autumn Powell (Window Rock H.S./Window Rock, Ariz.) applied to attend trials and has made the journey to compete.
At only 17 years old, Powell’s self-motivation and drive already is stronger than some people twice her age.
A few weeks ago, she was not even aware of USA Basketball or of the open application process being offered for the 2014 USA Women’s U17 World Championship Team.
“It all started with me just browsing through the Internet,” Powell said. “I was interested in the Olympics and saw these basketball trials going on, and I thought, ‘That’s so cool!’ I figured this was really an opportunity that I needed, and I wanted to take to see where my level of basketball was.
“Where I live, most people are equally good. I want to be different from everybody else.“
Powell, who described herself half-Navajo, resides in Window Rock, Arizona - the capital of the Navajo Nation and the largest territory of a sovereign Native American nation in North America.
In her hometown, basketball is not a flashy sport and coaches are not lining up at her games to recruit. In fact, many times because of the area where she lives, she plays on a court made of dirt; a task she very rightly states makes the game a lot more difficult.
“It’s really hard playing in the dirt, so when I get on the (hardwood) court it’s easier to dribble.”
With a few hardwood courts here in the Olympic Training Center and a lot of basketball expertise and knowledge being shared with her, Powell’s experience has been the best she could have possibly hoped for.
“It’s been really good being here, everyone’s been really friendly, Powell said.
“There’s a lot of teamwork and enthusiasm, and it just feels like the right environment.”
Even though she has been under the wings of some of the best leaders in women’s basketball since she has arrived, Powell herself not only deserves credit for making the decision to take a chance and partake in these trials, she also took responsibility for her preparation.
“(Before coming to Colorado), I mostly did all my preparation on my own. I ran two miles everyday, and I also worked on my shooting and ball handling. My mom encouraged me a lot.”
When Powell arrived at the U.S. Olympic Training Center Thursday she was understandably a bit nervous and surprised that she was the only participant coming from a city with a largely primarily Native American population (more than 95% of the population in Window Rock are considered Native Americans).
“I thought there might have been more (girls with Native American heritage) here, but I guess I’m the only one. My culture is part of me; it’s everywhere I go. The native culture is really awesome and something everyone should experience”, she said.
The desire to experience something new is indeed what brought Powell to Colorado Springs. For the last few days she has played hard, learned from some of the best in the game and made friendships she will never forget.
But for her, there is still one clear goal she is hoping to retain and take with her forevermore after this journey is over, whenever that may be.
“In case I don’t make (the team), I’m going to take it as a positive thing regardless, because it pushes me to work hard.
“Like Ruthie Bolton (a two-time Olympian and double gold medalist who spoke to the participants yesterday morning) told us, even if Auburn University was not interested in her at first, she still pushed herself and earned her way into the team and became one of the ones that made it. That’s what I’m aiming for; if I don’t make it, I’m going to push myself even harder.”
At 17, Powell is hoping to become a force to be reckoned with and to start writing her name in the basketball record books. With many exciting years ahead of her, it’s clear that there is much still left to be written.