I'm slowly discovering myself at Stanford

Courtesy of Dan Feria/ISI Photo

Chiney Ogwumike's teammates and coaches constantly challenge her to become a better leader.

Happy New Year!

My blog is back from its winter break. I can't believe it’s already 2013! Each day I wake up in beautiful Palo Alto, I know I am blessed.

First, I am blessed to be playing the sport I love. Coming into this season, I knew we were going to have some ups and downs. It has been an emotional roller coaster: from huge wins against Baylor and Tennessee to difficult losses against UConn and Cal. Nonetheless, those experiences are shaping our team.

We have found our mold: grit! This is probably crazy to say, but I am a little crazy ... our team (like many, if not all) can be beaten. Teams can have more talent, athleticism, etc., but all of that can be negated with grit. We must outwork, out-hustle, and out-scrap our opponents. We must be tough and together, getting the most out of each other every day. That is our blueprint.

Second, I am blessed to have the opportunity to discover whom I want to be at Stanford. My twitter followers always ask what my experience is like in Nerd City. Well, today you are going to get your answer!

In my opinion, Stanford is a place where you slowly grow out of your fears and discover yourself. The reason I focus on fear is because I believe it can be one of the biggest motivators in life. As I have expressed in my previous blog, my basketball fear is not being a consistent leader for my team. But each and every day in practice, my coaches and teammates challenge me to become a better leader.

AP Photo/Paul Sakuma

Condoleezza Rice, Chiney Ogwumike's academic adviser, has encouraged her to overcome her fears and speak up in class.

But what do I fear off the hardwood? Here is a little glimpse into my experience at Stanford. This past fall I was meeting with my awesome academic adviser and mentor, the former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, to discuss my goals for this coming school year. In the midst of our conversation, I confessed to her that I am nervous to speak in a large class. (Hard to believe, right?)

Right after those words slipped out of my mouth, the magnitude of what I said hit me. I am facing one of the people we, as a country, looked to for strength during 9/11. She must have thought I was crazy. Dr. Rice smiled and said, "Chiney, if you can play on national television in front of millions of people, I believe you can ask a question in class."

We both laughed. I must admit she did threaten to check up on me if I didn't start speaking up more in class, so I took the challenge. The next day I asked a question. Soon thereafter I was answering more in class, and then eventually I built a confidence in the course material.

Now, I am proud to say, my fear helped me discover my passion: I am an international relations major, with specializations in Africa and comparative international governance. I hope to use my platform of playing basketball to reach out to people, in the United States, Nigeria, and beyond. I don't know how, or the way, but at least I know a little more than yesterday.

Fear is one motivation, but the other is love. Spread the love people!

P.S. On Twitter, @moshark asks: @Chiney321, many fans and coaches complain that women's bball has become too physical. Since you're in the paint, what are your thoughts?

Yes, I agree the game is getting increasingly physical. When teams or players promote physicality, you lose the beauty and finesse! Who wants to lose that?