Lisa Leslie, fellow athletes talk women in sports
FEB 08, 2014 11:24p ET
From four-time Olympic gold medalist Lisa Leslie to Academy Award winners Geena Davis and Reese Witherspoon, the female heavyweights were in full swing at the Young Women's Conference at Brentwood School on Saturday.
High-profile females from all professional industries -- sports, entertainment, medicine and business -- were on hand alongside Emmy-winning journalist, producer and honorary chair Maria Shriver to discuss issues facing girls today.
The All-Star athletes panel -- made up of two-time WNBA champ and four-time Olympic gold medalist Lisa Leslie; Angela Hucles, a two-time Olympic gold medalist with the women's national soccer team, and Coco Ho, a pro surfer who is currently ranked the No. 6 female in the world -- reflected on the path to stardom, struggles along the way, what drives them and more.
More than hoops
Lisa Leslie has seemingly come full circle in her basketball career. She went from a star at USC, to the history books in the WNBA, to four gold medals with Team USA, to co-owner of the team of which she can be considered the face of the franchise.
And to think, she once considered not playing because of perspiration.
"I've always been the kind of girl who loves fashion and having my nails polished, and I didn't really wanna sweat," she said. "I would say [basketball] found me, because I wasn't really a sporty girl."
Leslie admits the only reason she even got into the sport was to be one of the cool kids.
"I'll be really honest. There was a girl named Sharon, and she was so popular... Everybody knew her name, and I'm like, 'how come everybody knows her name?' And they're like, 'because she's on the basketball team and she's the best,' and I thought ... oh the baskeball team, I'll try out!"
Leslie -- who in second grade was already taller than her teacher and in sixth grade had already reached six feet tall -- joined the boys team, where she learned early on how to deal with those who don't play nice.
"Of course they never threw me the ball, so I actually stole the ball from my own teammate," Leslie said.
After a couple made baskets, Leslie says the crowd started to catch on, yelling at the team to "give it to the girl."
"[I learned] if you wanna get something done, you just gotta take over."
An invaluable life lesson carried over from Leslie's mother, who as a single parent drove an 18-wheeler cross country to make ends meet.
"She'd always have her lipstick tucked into her bra, so she'd have her lipstick on and of course her nails were done, but she's operating an 18-wheel truck with a tank on the back. [It was] like... 'you go girl.'"
Leslie may have had a great source of inspiration in her mother, but her journey to greatness has been anything but easy.
"It has been really amazing to see how much [women] have to fight for our position here in our country and in this world," she said. "We just want to play and have a piece of the pie too.
"But at the same time, we're not gonna sit around and whine about it, we're gonna fight."
Angela Hucles was on the women's national soccer team for eight years. Eight vastly different years.
In 2004, she came off the bench in a support role. Four years later in Beijing, Abbey Wambach broke her leg in a tackle, and Hucles got the nod from coach Pia Sundhage. She went from zero minutes in the World Cup to leading scorer on the 2008 U.S. squad.
"It was an incredible experience," said Hucles, who is also Founder and CEO of the Empowerment Through Sport Leadership Series. "Being able to represent your country is one of the most amazing opportunities and feelings to have."
Like Leslie, Hucles grew up playing against the boys before going on to represent her country in the Olympics, and it was those experiences that shaped the person she is today.
"It was pretty fun beating up on the guys and running past them and scoring goals," said Hucles, who quickly added that it's not just about trying to be better than boys. "It's really not about going outside of ourselves, but looking internally and having that realization that we can accomplish whatever it is that we want to, whether we're fighting for more equality or trying to get a new job.
"We all have the power within ourselves."
Like brother, like sister
Coco Ho started surfing at the age of seven. At the age of 22, she's already one of the top ranked female surfers in the world.
That shouldn't come as a surprise, considering her dad, uncle and brother are all in the pro surfing biz.
"I was that annoying little sister that followed her brother everywhere and did everything he did," Ho said of brother Mason, who as a pro himself remains the driving force behind her success.
"[Anytime I would do something] that would impress him, I was just the happiest girl in the world. I was like, 'really...you thought that was sick?'"
Ho's career is just starting out, and as a female in the industry, she's happy with the advancements she's seen.
"We have more events, better venues, [and] you see so much coverage of women athletes nowadays.
"And the boys respect it too. In our sport, they're so supportive of us."
Ho is hopeful it's a sign of things to come.
"I love the pace our sport is taking right now. [Girls are] getting more prize money slowly but surely, [and we're getting] better waves to have events at. Everything is coming together and I think that's how it's gonna go for women in all areas of life. Not just sports, but in all positions."