From the opening chapter of the book, "From The Heart: Seven Rules To Live By," by Robin Roberts. Copyright (c) April 2007 by Robin Rene Roberts. Reprinted by permission of Hyperion.
1. Position Yourself to Take the Shot
I'm a big believer that you have to put yourself in position for good things to happen to you. You can dream, hope, and pray all you want, but if you're not ready when opportunity calls, it will pass you by. Often, the person who catches the break isn't the most capable or talented, but the one who is standing there with his or her arms outstretched at the right moment.
This was a constant lesson for me growing up, because we moved around a lot. My father was in the Air Force, and we traveled all over the world when I was a kid. My siblings and I were each born in different states -- Ohio, Arizona, Iowa, and Alabama. One of my dad's favorite assignments was being stationed in Izmir, Turkey, in the late 1960s. He thought it would be good for the family, and he was right. What a beautiful country -- rich in history and culture. Instead of living on a military base with other Americans, my parents decided we would live in an apartment in town. They wanted their children to experience a different culture. My best friends were Turkish, and they taught me how to speak their language and play their games. My parents were constantly looking for creative ways to educate us. By immersing us in a different culture, they helped us become more tolerant and compassionate. They opened our eyes to the world.
Whenever it came time to pack up and move again, my parents would play a little game with us. They'd give us the first letter of the place we were moving to and make us guess the answer. So, after two and a half years in Izmir, they sat us down and said, "OK, kids, we're moving back to the States to a place that begins with the letter M." We shouted, "Montana, Maine, Michigan, Missouri!" Nope. We racked our little brains and hesitantly asked, "Mississippi?" Yep. Well, we threw a fit. We wailed that there was no way we would go there. It was 1969, and the Magnolia State wasn't exactly appealing to the Roberts children.
But when we moved to Biloxi, Mississippi, we were pleasantly surprised. Despite our initial objections -- which included a lot of temper tantrums -- the Mississippi Gulf Coast was a wonderful place to grow up. We instantly fell in love with this picturesque region and its lovely, caring people -- not to mention the unbelievable food. And it was in Biloxi that my devotion to sports blossomed.
When my father retired in 1975, my parents decided to stay. Of all the places in the world they had lived, this one felt the most like home. They bought a house in Pass Christian, a small town about twenty miles from Biloxi, along the beautiful Gulf Coast. Locals affectionately refer to it as "the Pass."
I was just starting high school, which was housed in a charming redbrick building. It was the only high school in town, and most of the kids had been friends since the first grade. At first they didn't know what to make of me -- this tall girl who came bounding into their lives. It's never easy to break into the tight-knit circle of small-town friendships, but I had two things going for me. First, because I was used to moving to new schools, I wasn't shy. I knew I could make people laugh, and the force of humor can never be underestimated. Second, I played basketball. Through basketball I met two girls who would become my lifelong friends. The first time I walked into the auditorium, Cheryl Antoine and Luella Fairconeture looked me up and down like "Who's this?" I was wearing some awful outfit -- green plaid, as I recall. Cheryl later said she was immediately appraising my height for the team. She laughed, recalling. "I thought, 'Are those legs ever going to stop?'"
I quickly wore down any resistance that existed and became a fixture in the school. Cheryl, Luella, and I became so tight we called ourselves the "True Blues." Of course, at first I had a little trouble understanding that warm Southern drawl. For the longest time, when I was on the basketball court, I thought the cheerleaders were chanting:
Eat potted meat.
Get up off your feet.
I just thought it was some kind of strange Southern custom. Finally, I asked Cheryl, "What is potted meat? Is it a special meat you all have down here?" She looked at me like I'd lost my mind. When I explained about the cheer, she laughed so hard she had to sit down. It turned out they were chanting:
Leap, Robin, leap.
Get up off your feet.
Back when I'd started playing basketball in the eighth grade, at first I didn't have to work all that hard, because I towered over everybody else. But by the time I reached high school, I suddenly wasn't the tallest player on the court. That's when I learned the importance of position.
"From The Heart, Seven Rules To Live By," by Robin Roberts, is available in bookstores nationwide. Click here to purchase it on Amazon.com.