Learn How To Be A Leader From Jade Williams. She Will Show You How To Get There.
How do we select our leaders? How do we understand what a leader is when we do in fact witness one?
There seems to be certain occasions where we become fixated on solving that conundrum; such as Memorial Day. We take time to remember the men and women who sacrificed their lives in defense of our country. We remember those who had the will to rally each other for a common purpose.
When you first come upon a leader like Jade Williams (Prestonwood Christian Academy/The Colony, Texas), as one of many 139 hopefuls working to earn a spot on the 2016 USA Women’s U17 World Championship Team. Williams is fortunate enough to have been through the trials experience last year and was one of 12 players ultimately selected for the 2015 USA Basketball U16 National Team.
It was that experience that pushed her to be more motivated than ever before to try and make this year’s USA U17 team. The 2015 USA U16 team qualified the U.S. for the U17 World Championship, but suffered a nine-point loss to Brazil in the semifinals, ending the team’s gold medal dreams.
After a convincing win over Mexico to earn the bronze, Williams had this to say: “There is always next year, and I’m going to try really, really hard to make the team next year and go for a gold.”
Another desired quality in a leader: consistency. Almost a year after that loss, the 6-foot-4 Williams is echoing the same importance to get back and erase that haunting memory.
“I didn’t like that we were one of the recent teams that has to go down not winning it all (in their respective tournament),” Williams said. “Everyone else on that team is here for that reason, too.”
After the first day of trials, all of the participants listened to Peter Haberl, a USOC sports psychologist on how to deal with adversity. Using examples from some of the greatest athletes in the world, such as some of the most well-known names in basketball, particularly Diana Taurasi, Tina Charles and Phil Jackson, the message was straight-forward: You all have the choice to bounce back and respond to defeat.
That’s one of the qualities, among others, that have college basketball coaching staffs lined up in hopes of landing Williams’ services after she graduates in the spring of 2017. The top programs in the country are in the aforementioned line for the versatile post player.
We can do all the identifying we want of a leader, but if the other players on the floor don’t buy what’s being sold, then it ultimately goes by the wayside. That’s where Williams said the ‘veteran’ role that she casts upon herself comes into play this year.
The daughter of Marvin Williams, a three-sport student-athlete at Princeton University, she knows the kind of impact she can have on players who are taking in their first USA Basketball trials. It wasn’t long ago when she was one of them.
“I know the ropes, and I can help people out. I’ve talked to some of the first-time players here after we’re done with practice letting them know that it’s alright to be nervous as long as you’re not taking criticism to heart,” Williams said. “I hope the first timers realize they need to take as much from this and not judge themselves based on their performance. Just learn and enjoy it.”
What an impressive message from someone that hasn’t celebrated her 17th birthday.
That shouldn’t come as a surprise from someone who also serves as a tough critic on her own game. Williams is currently the 13th rated prospect in the 2017 recruiting class, according to ESPN.com, but she says her basketball maturation process could have changed what is still an impressive basketball narrative heading into her senior campaign.
“If I would have had the mindset as a freshman that I can represent USA Basketball and play at that high Division I level college, then I’d probably be a better player than I am today,” she stated.
There is no doubt, whether it’s on the court or off of it that Jade Williams knows what she wants and is going to go get it.
Even if it is something as simple as an interview.
I had never met Jade up until this trials session, but when I was walking out of the media room to await her arrival after practice was over; I was greeted with a tap on the shoulder and a simple remark behind me saying, “I’m getting my stuff, and I’ll be out.”
Most athletes new to the spotlight are hesitant to open up, but confidence beams from Williams as someone who truly understands the situation she is put in once again this summer.
It hasn’t been long since the she was walking into the United States Olympic Training Center nervous about her first trials experience for a USA Basketball team. It hasn’t been long since she sat nervously on her own couch listening to recruiting pitches from Geno Auriemma and Muffet McGraw.
It also hasn’t been long since she ended last summer with a bronze medal, knowing the expectations that current college and WNBA players have left behind for the red, white and blue.
If you ask Williams who she thinks is going to win gold this year in the Women’s U17 World Championships, you will hear it in her voice how much this opportunity means to her.
“We’re definitely going to win gold no matter who is on the team and redeem what happened last summer.”
That sounds like a leader who knows what she’s talking about. Like any leader with experience, she’s got the scars and the motivation to prove it.