With a dream and determination Rebecca Lobo achieved her goal of playing professional basketball.

Source : http://www.highlightskids.com/Stories/NonFiction/NF0599_liberty.asp...

  Rebecca Lobo, age 10.
Rebecca Lobo, age 10.

With two defenders covering her every move, Rebecca Lobo calls for the ball. Twelve feet from the basket she grabs the pass, dribbles once, and shoots. Swish! She drops in two more points for the New York Liberty.

Catch, dribble, shoot. Rebecca Lobo has practiced this thousands of times. In her driveway, at summer camps, and in the University of Connecticut gymnasium, Rebecca trained hard to become a professional basketball player. It was a dream most people thought would never come true.

When she was in third grade Rebecca wrote a letter to famed Boston Celtics general manager and coach Red Auerbach. She informed Mr. Auerbach of her plans to be the first female player to join his championship team.

At home, in Southwick, Massachusetts, Rebecca spent hours pounding a basketball on the pavement, imagining NBA legends Julius Erving and Larry Bird guarding her. At school she was the only girl to play football and soccer at recess. Although many of her friends were girls, Rebecca liked to hang out with the boys who always seemed to be kicking or throwing a ball.

Rebecca’s parents encouraged her love of sports. But one day a fifth-grade teacher called her to the front of the class for some words of advice. “She told me I was too much of a tomboy and that I needed to dress and act more like a girl,” Rebecca recalls. Shocked and humiliated, Rebecca went home and told her parents.

Rebecca’s mother was furious. “We taught our children that everyone has his or her own gifts, talents, and worth,” RuthAnn Lobo, a school guidance counselor, notes. “There is nothing wrong with a girl playing sports and wearing jeans,” she told Rebecca.

By the end of high school Rebecca stood six feet four inches tall and weighed 180 pounds.  
By the end of high school Rebecca stood six feet four inches tall and weighed 180 pounds.  

With the support of her close-knit family, Rebecca continued to play sports. By eighth grade she was attending summer basketball camps and working out with her older brother. In high school she dominated basketball games and earned a scholarship to the University of Connecticut. Her hard work on the college court paid off, and UConn built a powerful basketball team. But in her junior year, Rebecca faced a difficult challenge off the court.

After an exciting victory against the University of Virginia, Rebecca’s mother walked her to a quiet spot in the bleachers to give her some devastating news. “They’ve discovered a cancerous lump in my breast,” she told Rebecca. “I’m going to have surgery Monday.” The news hit Rebecca hard. And when the doctors found the cancer had spread to RuthAnn’s lymph system and her chances for a full recovery seemed bleak, Rebecca wept aloud, unable to bear the thought of losing her anchor in life, her mother.

Although she was terrified of the disease and the painful ordeal necessary to overcome cancer, RuthAnn tried to be brave for her family. “I told them, ‘I don’t want you worrying about me. The best thing you can do is continue your daily lives,’” she remembers. For Rebecca that meant continuing her studies and playing basketball.

Despite the nausea and fatigue caused by her cancer treatments, RuthAnn continued to attend every UConn home game with Rebecca’s father, Dennis. When Rebecca looked up, she would see her parents in their familiar seats, as always.

Now, nearly five years later, RuthAnn’s cancer is in remission. Rebecca notes that her mother’s ordeal taught her a valuable lesson. “I learned to appreciate how precious life is,” she explains, “how to enjoy small things, like a sunset or the changing of the leaves. I don’t let the little things upset me anymore.”

In her senior year of college, Rebecca was the high scorer, top rebounder, and leader of the 35-0 national champion UConn Huskies. She was a first team All-American, an academic All-American, and the National Player of the Year. Connecticut’s undefeated season generated tremendous fan interest in women’s basketball, which helped in the formation of the WNBA and the ABL, two new professional basketball leagues for women. After her senior year Rebecca was assigned to the WNBA’s New York Liberty, accomplishing her lifelong goal of playing sports for a living.

A lot has changed since Rebecca first dreamed of playing professional basketball. “When fans watch the women, I think they sense that we play for the love of the game and not for the money,” she says. “We are also proving that femininity has nothing to do with how much you weigh or how popular you are with boys. You can be an athlete and a woman, too.”