Ball is indeed life, but that doesn't exactly mean you'll be on the court for life. Chantelle Anderson, a former WNBA player turned confidence coach, used her experience in the professional sports world to pivot into the workplace.
espnW spoke with Anderson, a 2003 Vanderbilt graduate who is the most decorated women's basketball player in the school's history, about how she went from scoring on the hardwood to winning in the boardroom.
Editor's note: This interview has been edited for length.
Balancing academics and sports
I intentionally picked a university that offered a competitive athletics and academic program. I had to set my priorities, which helped with time management. You have to be able to balance school, sports and personal life. You won't be successful if you don't handle them all equally.
On body image
I'm 6-foot-6, and I hated being tall. I hated the way I looked. I was also an extreme perfectionist, and it all translated into an eating disorder. My freshman year was particularly rough. I remember I was at a team dinner and I was throwing up in the bathroom and my teammate heard me. There was a lot of [pressure] on me. I was trying to hide it but also trying to be a basketball star. It was a lot to manage.
But the hardest thing about being an athlete with body-image issues is trying to fix it in the spotlight.
At some point, my sport became more essential, and I wasn't going to jeopardize that. Additionally, I had a really strong support system.
Pivoting from college to work life
The WNBA was amazing for me. But going from college to [playing] a pro sport is a transition in itself. When you're in school, you have a massive extended support system. In the pros, yes, they care, but they really want you to do well on the court. ... As athletes, you are a bit spoiled: We know what we love, and we know we can get paid for doing it. It's a shock to think that not everyone loves their job. I didn't want to go to work and not do something that I love. I think that's why I've been so fortunate post-play -- it's because I knew I wanted to do something that I loved from the very start.
Additionally, the athletic mindset is quite useful for the workplace. In sports, you learn how to be results-oriented but process-focused, and you understand initiative. Through the game, you learn that inches make you win, not yards. Once you break those in-game concepts down and translate them into the work world, you pretty much have the keys to success.
Your career path might be a winding road
After I overcame an injury and departed the WNBA, I took a year off and I wrote an autobiography. Personally, it allowed me to sort through my life and ask the hard questions. Once I got through that, I was a better person. I was able to figure out what I wanted to do.
I went on to coaching. Initially, I took a Division-II coaching gig, and I did that for about nine months. Then I went on to coach for the women's basketball team at Virginia Tech. I loved working with girls, but I didn't like all the other stuff.
So, I decided to make a bet on myself, and I jumped into medical-device sales. It was a perfect transition for me, and I loved it. Ultimately, I wanted to be an entrepreneur. I began building my own business, Visible Confidence, on the side.
On being a confidence coach
That year off helped me build confidence in myself instead of just in my athletic abilities. Instead of having confidence in what I did, I developed confidence in who I was. And that transition was everything. How many of us are defined by our careers or relationships? Or by our looks or weight?
I walk people through the process of building confidence in themselves and themselves only. I help my clients become more comfortable with being themselves.