Brazil Diggs, an Eastern Senior High School student, dreams of becoming a professional dancer. On Feb. 2, the 16-year-old asked professional athletes and women in sports if her “frenemies would eventually try to worm their way back into her life” and ride her coattails.
“I feel that if I became famous, they would want to be back on good terms with me, so I wanted to see if it’s really true or if it really happens in real life,” Diggs told the AFRO.
As part of National Women & Girls Sports Day, a panel of professional women athletes and women in sports talked to girls about life on and off the field. Five girls from every D.C. Public Schools high school were invited to attend, and the conversation took place at the end of a luncheon at the Line Hotel in Adams Morgan.
“The purpose really is to just educate our girls and let them know about the opportunities that exist within athletics,” said Diana Parente, executive director of athletics for the District of Columbia Interscholastic Athletic Association Office. “The mission is to get more women in athletics administration and athletic jobs and just let them know all the opportunities that exist for them after they graduate from high school.”
Washington Mystics player Elena Delle Donne, one of the most decorated players of the WNBA, stressed the importance of students surrounding themselves with positive crews. She told Diggs, the aspiring dancer, that once she made it big, people came around and started asking her for tickets to the Masters Golf Tournament — even though she doesn’t play golf.
“You always know your close friends and who’s been there through thick and thin,” Delle Donne told Diggs.
Becoming an athlete involves hard work and sacrifice, Donne said. She remembers missing school dances and sleepovers so she could practice. She encouraged the girls to enjoy their high school careers now to avoid future burnout.
Joanna Lohman, a soccer player for the Washington Spirit, said she has other jobs because she can’t quite make ends meet as a professional soccer player. As a result, she has explored her passion for advocacy work — she gave a speech at the Women’s March and supports the LGBTQ community. She stressed the importance of pursuing passions beyond athletics so the girls have something to fall back on once their athletic careers have ended. “Hopefully you’re very multidimensional and you’ll figure it out,” she said.
The women were candid with the girls about how lonely life can get on the road. Patrice Arrington, a former professional volleyball player now director of college and career services at Wilson High School, said playing the sport overseas was rewarding, but difficult.
Separated from her family and friends for long periods of time, she sometimes dealt with racism abroad. Arrington told the girls that someone in Russia once rubbed her skin to see if her color came off. But her teammates became her family and helped the loneliness go away. She also had a strong support system back home to help her through those difficult times, Arrington said.
The panel helped Diggs understand there is life after dancing. She’s open to becoming a dance coach or a cheerleading judge after embarking on a professional dancing career. “They make it seem like if you actually put your heart into it and that’s your passion, that it’s not impossible to do,” Diggs said.