Olympic Gold Medalist Ruthie Bolton Shares Stories, Advice at Womenís U16 Trials
Colorado Springs, Colo. ē May 27, 201
Like a lot of the women on the court at the 2011 U16 Womenís National Team Trials who hope to rise into stars one day, Ruthie Bolton had to believe in herself before others saw her potential. She attended her first USA Basketball trial on her own, and after proving herself at the trials, as they say, the rest is history.
Recognized today as one of the most distinguished womenís basketball players, Bolton is a two-time Olympic gold medalist and eight-year veteran of the WNBA. She is spending this week watching the U16 Trials as a member of the USA Basketball Womenís Developmental National Team Committee.
With USA Basketball, Bolton played on 11 national teams, including two U.S. Olympic teams that won gold medals (1996 and 2000) and World Championship teams that won gold (1998) and bronze (1994) medals. USA Teams with her a member compiled a striking 138-5 win-loss mark. She was the second leading scorer (12.9 ppg.) on the historic 1995-96 USA Basketball Womenís National Team that compiled a 60-0 record while training and competing for 10 months prior to competing in Atlanta. Many credit that team for the launch of the WNBA.
A 1989 graduate of Auburn University, Bolton averaged 8.9 ppg. throughout her career, and led the Tigers to back-to-back NCAA national championship appearances in 1988 and 1989. Following her college career, the guard played eight seasons in the WNBA, all with the Sacramento Monarchs. In the professional league, she averaged 10.0 ppg., including 19.4 ppg. during her rookie campaign in 1997. She was a two-time WNBA All-Star, scored over 2,000 career points and was named as an honorable mention to the inaugural WNBA All-Decade Team.
The McClain, Miss. native took a break from the trials action Saturday to sit down with USABasketball.com.
What does USA Basketball mean to you?
Being a part of USA Basketball was definitely a huge part of my life. The memories, a lot of them are with the national team, are what really stand out. Being here in Colorado Springs to train, the travel, the relationshipsójust knowing what I was representing is really special. Those memories stand above my memories in college or in the WNBA.
What do you remember about your first USA Basketball trial?
The first year I came here I was not invited. I came because I loved the game and had confidence in myself. I ended up making the team and the rest was history. Iím really glad I had the courage and the faith in my work ethic to want to take a chance and come here despite knowing I might not make it. It would have been easy to take the easy route and not have to face the possibility of failing, especially since, I wasnít an invitee. But my father instilled in us to not be afraid to fail. Itís not the number of times you fall, but how many times you get back up.
Describe the emotions you felt when you won one of your gold medals:
Life is not always about where youíre going, but how you get there. My journey to how I arrived at the Olympics, it wasnít supposed to happen. It was no straight line from Point A to Point B. I had to go through zigzags, obstacles and valleys. To be there and hear the national anthem being played as we received our gold medals, and to know that I contributed to the highest point of womenís basketball, words are hard to really describe what that really meant. It was amazing and rewarding and exciting.
Explain what you learned from competing for USA Basketball:
USA Basketball taught me so much more than just the game. It taught me about life and about going for your dreams. It taught me to go for it and follow your passion and heart, and not to be afraid of failing.
What has made you want to stay involved with USA Basketball, now as a member of the selection committee?
I miss Colorado Springs here so much because this is where we trained and this is where my basketball career really started to blossom. Itís a beautiful campus and a beautiful experience. Now to come full circle and be on the other side of the organization is just really special. Iím very honored and excited that they wanted me to be on the committee.
To be able to help pick teams that will represent the U.S. feels wonderful. If I still had the option to play, Iíd still be on the court. Basketball came so close to not happening for me because I wasnít highly recruited, I wasnít a high school All-American. I just had to work real hard and then when I finally made it, it was a beautiful thing. The adrenaline and the excitement I get from being a part of this drives me. And now to be able to come back and try to help and encourage other young girls is really beautiful.
What sort of advice do you have for these girls that are competing in trials for the first time?
These ladies have a bright future if they are determined and are willing to pay the price. These girls are getting so much out of this opportunity. To be getting this knowledge this early is great. Some of them will make the team, but a lot of them wonít. Come here and take this opportunity to learn and grow, and for the ones that donít make it, I encourage them to still fight because you still have a lot of basketball in front of you. Never take this moment for granted; seize this moment, enjoy it and learn as much as you can.
Iím not just looking at scoring when Iím evaluating. Iím looking for leadership. Iím looking for enthusiasm. Iím looking at competitiveness, because that goes a long way and thatís what I was about. Talent is good but your work ethic will prove itself.
You probably have several, but what is one of your favorite basketball memories?
One of my favorite basketball memories was when we went to Brazil in 1993. Brazil was a tough place to play; they had a great team and were a tough team to beat. We had to go into the enemyís territory and beat one of the best. We beat them, and when we got back to our bus, their fans were shaking our bus because they were so mad that we beat them. It was scary, but fun too.
Talk about what it was like growing up in such a large family? How many siblings did you have?
Iím one of 20 children. We had a big family. Between all my nieces and nephews there are 110 of us.
You have a child of your own and another on the way. Do you plan on having a big family of your own?
I have a daughter, Hope, who just turned two. In August Iím expecting a boy.
People know you as a professional basketball player, but what are some other things you enjoy that people might not know about?
I like singing; I grew up in a singing family. I love doing physical fitness stuff, like working out. I love working with youth. In my spare time I do a lot of motivational speaking, sharing my story with young girls and boys.
You also your own foundation and clothing line:
I had my clothing line (RUWEAR) during the years that I was playing. I had about seven or eight items. Right now, I donít have anything to sell, but I want to partner up with someone. I decided to do it because I wanted girls to have the opportunity to wear other kinds of womenís clothes.
My foundation (The Ruthie Bolton Foundation) is about youth empowerment. I have an after-school program called Aim High that helps girls with their character and dealing with anger and peer pressure. One of my big things is that no matter what you do or who you know, your character is your foundation.
Besides USA Basketball, what are you up to these days?
Iím just finishing up a book titled, Ride of a Lifetime. Iím going to do a speaking tour and use it as an opportunity to share my story with youth.