Swin Cash: From the projects to the Olympics

Her childhood wasn't easy, but it shaped Swin Cash as a person and an athlete. She delivers a message of perseverance and character building to young girls everywhere.

"Growing up outside of Pittsburgh and McKeesport, Penn., was ... it was always an adventure. And for me, I love sports and sports was an outlet for me. I grew up in humble beginnings, and my family didn't have much money, but we all had one thing in common. We loved to play sports, whether it was football, basketball, baseball -- which was one of my favorites. It was one of those things that on the court, on the field, we didn't have to worry about anything else. It was just all about being competitive and having fun.

"When I was younger, my mom was a staple in my life when it came to sports. She encouraged me to play so many different other things and when it came down to basketball, I really didn't start ... I should say I fell in love with basketball early on, but not until ninth grade when I realized, 'Wow, I'm kind of good at this.' And my mom said to me, 'You know what? I can't pay for you to go to college, but there are people who are offering you scholarships. You need to focus in on one sport.' And basketball is the sport that I fell in love with.

"As a young girl, I can honestly say playing for Team USA wasn't like one of the biggest things on my mind. Like I said, I came from humble beginnings, so I grew up in the projects, Harrison Village in McKeesport, Pa. I mean, I just loved to shoot hoops, and then as I went off to college, I start looking at the [1996 Olympic] team and winning the Olympics and was like man, could a skinny girl from McKeesport one day be there?

"And lo and behold, when I made the Olympic team in 2004, it was the most amazing experience because to think that a girl like me that came from where I came from, you know, from humble beginnings, in poverty, my mom on welfare dealing with the circumstances we went through, to think that I could be representing everybody in the U.S., my whole country. I mean, that was something really special and every time I've played for USA, I always carried that with me. ... There may be some little girl in California, Florida, even maybe back in McKeesport just looking and saying, 'Hey, if Swin Cash can do it, so can I.'

"Sports is so important for young girls that if they don't have that outlet to play a sport, to learn how to have teamwork, to build self-esteem, we are then doing them and our country a disservice. ... People will talk about in the workplace having equal pay, and I've said, 'Equal pay, equal play.' That needs to be the message that we're sending to all young girls and young guys that are out there, that this is not a divide. This is not a 'you're better than, you know, you're better than a female.' It's about let's give, let's give all of our kids an equal opportunity to achieve all their goals.

"And if we show young girls that they're just as worthy to have a successful job and get paid as their brothers, and to have a scholarship and get the same scholarship that their brothers have, then they're gonna be these young, bright, beautiful women that are one day gonna help impact our country and grow and push our country forward, and that's what I look at. People think 'Oh, sports is just throwing up a ball when you're playing,' but there's so many character building things that happen in sports, whether it's in the locker room or on the court, that people don't realize that we as women, as young women, really need."

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