Letters to the College Athlete: How do you treat your OPPONENT?

Without opponents, there would be no sports.  As a college athlete, you are going to have to make honoring and respecting people an integral part of your identity.  This includes your opponents.  Your actions towards them have an effect on the competition.  Also, how you treat your opponents reflect on who you are as a person, and it is representative of what is accepted by the school and the organization for whom you play for.


“Number 4 and number 15, you two better stop it!”  We were warned by the referee. 

She pushed me.  I pushed her back. 

She was not getting that ball, not if I could help it.  She tried to elbow me in the face, but I ducked.

“You yellow b***h!”


As I was coming down with the rebound, I swung my elbows in a side to side motion, trying to land a blow on some part of number 15’s body.  Dawg gone!  I didn’t get her!

We beat them.

After the game, she and I didn’t shake hands nor congratulate each other on playing a great game.


These were not the actions of athletes who honored and respected each other, their school, or the sport.  The inappropriate body contact, along with the name calling showed devaluing or a lack of respect for each other, and not congratulating each other at the end of the game showed a lack of honor between us.

This type of behavior distracts from the true purpose of competition.

An environment where athletes are honoring and respecting each other is one with minimal chaos.  Athletes exercising these concepts bring a positive image to themselves, their school, and the sport because their actions and behavior support a competition where everyone, including fans, can feel comfortable and confident of their safety along with enjoyment of watching and participating in the sport.

Respecting and honoring your opponents helps to keep the focus of the sport on the competing aspect.  It strengthens the integrity of the competition by helping to reduce activities that distracts from the main purpose of competition in sports- to see who’s the best and entertain.

Opponents are an important part of competition.  I encourage you to show honor and respect to your opponents by exercising sportsmanlike behavior towards them.  Begin by avoiding the usage of profanity and name calling toward them, and avoid the usage of inappropriate body contact.  Congratulate them on a win and show appreciation for the opportunity to compete against them.

In sports, every effort should be made to create and sustain an environment that is peaceful but competitive.  Honoring and respecting your opponent helps with this.

Do you see athletes not showing honor or respect to their opponents?  How do you feel about it?  Let me know at geralinelhandsome.com.

Letters to the College Athlete on a Team: Who are YOU?

As a college athlete you need to build your identity based on things that will transfer throughout your life after college.  Once your athletic career is over, you should be more certain of who you are and with an increased self importance.

In March of 1989, my college athletic career at the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB) was over.  I was no longer a college basketball player.  I felt that I was no longer important.


I had psychologically identified myself with being a basketball player.  I had been a team basketball player since I was 8 years old.  That’s what most people knew me as, and that’s what I knew.  All my efforts had been rooted in becoming a great player.

It was a great achievement.

But when that achievement was over…..

Who was I?

I had to realize that basketball was no longer a major part of my life and that I had to build on other things to succeed further.

After your college career is over, you have to rely on other personal attributes to carry you through to the next stage of your life.  So, while you are competing, focus on building those good personal attributes.  Start identifying yourself with things that are transferable to other areas of your life.  Things that you will always have, regardless of what direction you choose in life and regardless of what ends in your life.

Start identifying yourself with personal attributes like being disciplined and honoring and respecting people.

For example, if you build your identity on being a great basketball player anything associated with that part of your identity will likely disappear with that achievement.  This includes people.  The result will make you feel isolated and unimportant.  Instead, build your identity on honoring and respecting people.  You will be identified as someone who honors and respects people and people who are around you because you honor and respect them will remain.  Some degree of self importance will be remaining along with a personal attribute to utilize in the next level of your life.

I encourage you to build your identity on things like being disciplined and honoring and respecting people.  These attributes are constant regardless of what stage of life you are in.  So when you complete your athletic career, it will not be the end of YOU!!! It will be the beginning of a stage where you will be more certain of whom you are.

Is the major part of your identity based on something that you cannot carry after your career is over?

Letters to the College Athlete: Whose fault is it?

As a college athlete, you are going to have to develop your identity with a strong foundation in attributes that will help you succeed.  This will help you become attracted to people and situations that are conducive to your success in college and beyond.

Discovering your identity helps you monitor the people you choose to associate with.  If you have a solid foundation of who you are, you are going to gravitate toward people who add value to you and support your goals.


I knew I should have stayed on campus, but I left anyway.  I sat in my car in the middle of the projects in the rough part of Birmingham, Alabama.  A woman came to my car and asked, “Do you know of anybody that would want to buy these?”  She opened her hand to reveal different colors of pills.  I was unaware of what kind they were, but I did know she wasn’t a licensed mobile pharmacist.

I had many thoughts!

What if I got caught around her?  Would I go to jail?

No more school!  No more basketball!

It wouldn’t be my fault!  I don’t know her!  I didn’t know we were coming here!

I’m not responsible………

Or was I?

That was an actual scene from a time when I was in college at University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB).

Like a lot of people, I believed that just because I was not doing anything wrong, I was being responsible.

I did not know that being responsible means more than controlling your actions.

I did not know that being responsible means being aware of and taking steps to avoid people and situations that would damage or stop your efforts to becoming successful in college and beyond.

Avoid people whose presence distracts you from achieving your goals to be a successful student athlete.  For instance, someone who persistently tries to convince you to hang with them when you have to study is a person who does not have your best interest in mind.  This person can hinder you from being a successful student.  Therefore, avoid that type of individual.

You should not go with anyone, or by yourself, to any place that there is a possibility that you would get into trouble.  Just your presence could end your career, and possibly your life.

I encourage you make being responsible a part of the foundation of your identity.  Begin by being cautious of people and situations that could interfere with you achieving goals as a college athlete.

Do you have people in your life that you have to be cautious of?

Letters to the College Athlete: Where is your CONFIDENCE coming from?

As a college athlete, you have some degree of self-confidence.  That is, you trust that you have the abilities and qualities required to perform.  How much self-confidence you have determines how great you will become.  Therefore, it is important for you to find a way to build and maintain your self-confidence in order to be competitive in college and beyond.  But, first you have to make sure that your confidence stems from the right place.

“No you can’t play!  Girls don’t play basketball!”

When I wanted to play on my first basketball team in middle school, those were the words that echoed from my dad.  I do believe that he meant ‘his girl’ did not play basketball.  He forbade me from playing but I disobeyed and went to my first practice anyway.

My dad was over 6 feet tall, was a former professional boxer, and a strong disciplinarian.  Back then I got whippings (considered illegal today).  Needless to say, I was scared to death the whole practice.

I had no idea when he came to practice, but when I saw my dad, he was grinning from ear to ear.  Dad was proud of me!  So much so, that he grabbed me and carried me out of practice on his shoulders!

Wow, what a feeling!

I went from a nobody in school to being popular- and liked.  I loved the attention from school and my dad.

While I was playing, my confidence hinged on his every word, and every action he displayed.  If he didn’t like something I was doing, I stopped it.  If he liked something I was doing, I kept doing it.

I do not recall my dad ever missing one of my games.  He was there…

Until I went to college…….

When I entered college, I struggled.  Everyone was as good as or better than I was.  I tried really hard but I was still not as competitive as I needed to be.  My position on the team was often threatened, therefore, I was afraid.

My self-confidence sunk.  There was no one around for me to rely on to build it up.  So, unbeknownst to me, I found something else to replace it….. something worse.

I resorted to criticizing other’s playing ability.  Subconsciously, I was trying to shift the focus of my shortcomings away from me by revealing negative things about others.

In order to gain the respect and admiration of others, criticizing people became my substitute for self-confidence.  It did not work.

What was I to do?

The source of my confidence was not around.

How was I going to build self-confidence?

I eventually learned that the most powerful type of confidence booster is self-improvement.

For instance, in order for me to build my confidence as a basketball player, I had to improve my skills.  This meant spending extra time outside of normal practice hours, and the off-season, to learn what I needed to improve upon and do it.  Through this action I became more prepared for competition.

I also didn’t realize that by seeking ways, and following through, with doing right by my teammates would have built a strong sense within that I was good and worthwhile.  It would have built a positive reputation for me which would have made self-confidence much easier.

I encourage you to seek ways to improve yourself to increase your self-confidence.  Begin by recognizing any weaknesses you have as an athlete, and practice improving your skills and building your character and self-image through good treatment of others.

What are some ways you build your confidence?  Please let me know.

In Loving Memory of Rufus Handsome,  Jr.

Letters to College Athletes on a Team: Are you the BOSS?

(Photo by http://www.pexels.com)

By Geraline L. Handsome

On the way to discovering your identity, you will be associated with many others in college that are also trying to find theirs.  Among these are your fellow teammates.  They are trying to develop the personal attributes they need to be successful in college and beyond, just as you are.  Therefore, it is important that you not hinder their process of finding their identity.

Have you ever heard this?  “You’re not the boss of me!  You don’t tell me what to do!”

Did it come from a sibling or someone else?

Have you ever said it or thought it?  How did you feel?  Did you feel constrained?

Well, I was the one who heard it.  Being the oldest of 7, 5 boys and 2 girls, I was the boss.  With that position came much responsibility.  What I said, went!  It was my way, and there was no highway.  I was the boss and ‘always had to be right.’  I had to be, because being wrong meant trouble- for everybody!

From this experience, I developed an attitude of disrespect toward others.  Unfortunately, I carried this attitude to college.

How was this disrespectful?  Read on.

My basketball teammates became my siblings.  When situations, on and off the court, were not going as though I thought they should, I took charge.  I was ‘right’ all the time.  My opinion was the only one that counted.  I knew what was best for us.

At least that’s what I thought………

Was I wrong?

In retrospect, yes.

I did not know that true leadership involved having respect for people.

I had to learn that part of respecting others means listening to, understanding, and getting to know them.

I had to learn that it means expecting people to do their best.

I had to learn that it means including others in making decisions that involve them.

I had to learn that it means helping to create an environment that encourages growth in others as well as yourself.  One that would not be limited by the knowledge and talent of one person.

For instance, my teammates had scholarships to play women’s basketball just as I did, and therefore, knew about as much or more than I in some areas.  Respect for them would have allowed me to get to know them – their strengths and weaknesses – not to control them, but to harmonize with them to make us a better team.

Many of you will go on to be in leadership positions.  I encourage you to make respecting others a part of your identity so that you will become the great leader that’s inside you!  Begin by respecting your teammates by getting to know them and allowing them the freedom to express themselves.

Did anyone every tell you that you were bossy growing up?  I would love to hear about it.

Letters to College Athletes in Team Sports: Relationships

By Geraline L. Handsome


(Photo credit:  http://www.pexel.com)

You are in your college years and this is the time of your life where you are trying to discover who you really are. Part of discovering your identity is finding out what personal attributes you need to develop that will make you the best you in college and beyond, and getting rid of those that would hinder you.

Image your final game in college. The horn sounds ending the last second of the last quarter of your college career. Now, your teammates and coaches no longer have to, or want to, talk to you. Feel the emotional and physical disconnect from you. That was my reality when my college athletic career ended. There was no longer a connection to my teammates or coaches.

Why did this happen?

I had failed to develop or cultivate a relationship with them.
One of the reasons was because the attitude of honoring and respecting people, including my coaches, was not a part of my identity.

When I entered college on a basketball scholarship, I left an environment where undesirable situations had occurred in my life and people who were in authority over me had let me down.

Unbeknownst to me, I had developed an attitude of mistrust and disrespect toward them. It was to the point where I believed some of them did not know what they were doing. I was inwardly rebellious, only accepting to do what was required of me if I agreed with it, or based on consequences.

It was a way of thinking I had developed to survive. Unfortunately, that part of me was not going to help me succeed. I had to get rid of that part of my identity.

However, I had no idea what it meant to honor and respect people in authority.

I had to learn that it meant more than saying ‘yes ma’am, no ma’am’ or ‘yes sir, no sir’ to them. It is an attitude.

I had to learn that it meant to understand what they require and do it without resistance.
I had to realize that they have the power delegated to them to govern or manage the things affecting my life whether or not I liked them or agreed with them.

For instance, my coaches were the experts on basketball, and therefore, had major influence on my ability to play the sport. They had the knowledge and expertise to make me a better athlete or the power to end my career.

I encourage you to cultivate and maintain healthy relationships with people in authority by honoring and respecting them. As student athletes, begin exercising principles associated with this attitude, with your coaches. Begin by honoring them by giving what they require of you. Respect them by recognizing they have knowledge that will guide your athletic career.

Believe it or not you will have people like your coaches, in authority over you, for many years to come. Begin making this attitude a part of your identity so you will succeed and gain good relationships.