NBA TV's Kristen Ledlow shares her life-defining youth sports memories
By Greg Bach
Kristen Ledlow cherishes her youth basketball memories – and with good reason.
They are filled with fun, family and a genuine love of the game.
And they’re pretty special for another reason, too: They helped mold her career.
A really successful one.
“From the time I was very little I loved the game of basketball; it was just my thing,” says Ledlow, co-host of NBA Inside Stuff and sideline reporter for TNT’s NBA coverage. “I always looked forward to putting on my uniform and sneakers and going out there and doing my thing. And that changed the course of my life because my career has now been determined by that love of the game of basketball. Those early memories of being taken to those gyms on cold January mornings shaped the woman that I am becoming.”
Ledlow has done one-on-one interviews with Kobe, LeBron and the other greats of the game; she works side by side with former NBA great Grant Hill on Inside Stuff; she’s shot free throws against Shaq on live television; and played in celebrity All-Star basketball games on ESPN.
“It’s been an unbelievable ride,” she says.
And it all began on the fields and courts of her youth in north Florida, where you name it, she played it.
“When I was younger I played a little bit of everything,” she says. “I was given the opportunity by my parents to figure out what I liked. Along the way I decided that I did not like soccer or softball so I stuck with basketball and volleyball.”
No matter what the sport she was playing, she was supported, encouraged and gave it everything she had.
“It was so much fun for me to go out there, it was always a big family event,” Ledlow says. “I have a younger sister who would play right before me and then I would go out there and play. For me it’s great memories of being with my family and being out on the floor and my first-ever memories of getting to be part of a team.”
WORKING HARD = BIGGER DIVIDENDS
As she progressed in basketball through her junior high and high school years, she worked on her game tirelessly.
And what a difference it made.
“One of the things that I look back on that I don’t think I realized how important it was at the time was I got out there in my driveway and got shots up before school every single day,” she says. “So it wasn’t just about the time that was required of you at practice with your team because that’s when everybody is getting better. In order to stand out and stand above the crowd you’ve got to be getting better when everybody else is either asleep or doing whatever else it may be that elementary, middle school or high school kids are up to. That’s when you’ve got to get out there and get those extra shots up, that’s when you’ve got to get out there and hit the ground running, because that’s when you have a chance to have an edge over your opponent.”
Ledlow used her athletic talent – combined with that relentless work ethic – to eventually play both volleyball and basketball at Southeastern University in Lakeland, Fla. She was a lethal shooting guard and an All-American performer as a middle hitter. In volleyball she’s No. 4 on the school’s all-time career solo blocks list and ranks fifth for most kills in a season with 369.
Growing up, Ledlow’s favorite player was Michael Jordan.
“One of the most memorable quotes of his was that he had missed so many shots in his career and that he could accept failure, but what he couldn’t accept was not trying and he said that he failed so many times and that’s why he succeeded,” Ledlow recalled. “I remembered that because his voice was so influential in my life even though I had only watched him play.”
Those words were real difference makers in her life.
Many of today’s volunteer coaches are challenged to help teach their young athletes that dealing with failure and overcoming setbacks is all part of the game.
It’s an important part of coaching, and a big part of growing up.
So listen to her powerful message here on how young athletes should never give up, and as volunteer coaches or parents of young athletes this is a wonderful mentality to instill in children you are coaching or parenting:
“That was one of the things that continued to stay in my head not just then but now as well – it’s not how many times you go out there and miss a shot; it’s not how many times you get told ‘no’ because all that counts is that one game winner that everybody remembers,” Ledlow says. “All that counts is that one ‘yes’ that changes the course of a career and changes the course of your life. So for me it’s been about acknowledging that the most important thing is to continue fighting once everyone gives up; it’s to continue standing once everyone sits down. Because ultimately everyone around you is still failing just as many times as you are. They are getting told ‘no’ and they are missing shots, but it’s the one who gets out there and keeps shooting, it’s the one who gets out there and works for that ‘yes,’ that’s the one, that’s the woman, that’s the girl that’s going to be successful.”
Kristen Ledlow knows success. It’s been earned through hard work, passion and a never-give-up attitude.
And it all began on a basketball court as a child, where she fell in love with the game.
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