Ann Strother Wants to Change the World
Former UConn star and WNBAer starts non-profit: Outward Bounce.
I remember it like it was yesterday…
It was a relatively normal August day in Castle Rock, Colorado. The year was 1998. I was a new student at Castle Rock Middle School and couldn’t have been more nervous. In fact, I think I vomited that morning. I’m fairly introverted and extremely shy by nature; being the short, funny-looking new kid was absolutely terrifying.
As I made my way through the main hallway, I spent a few minutes trying to spot other kids who also had no clue where anything was.
“Well, apparently, I’m the only new kid,” I remember thinking. “This blows.”
“Excuse me,” the voice said. “Do you know where 8th homeroom is?”
I turned around to respond.
“I…um…I have no id…,” I said, smoothly, while performing a double-take.
There stood Ann Strother. All six-feet of her, or so it seemed. I had never seen someone my age who was that tall, much less a girl.
“Wow,” I said, stuttering. (Again, so smooth.) “Ball…you…er…I mean, you play ball?”
“A little,” said Ann with a smile.
And so our friendship began.
We eventually figured out where our classes were and hung out all the time. We played one-on-one after school and would go to each other’s basketball games. Ann would go on to star at UConn with Diana Taurasi (winning two National Championships) and was selected in the second round of the 2006 WNBA Draft.
Fortunately, we’ve managed to keep in touch over the years. I caught up with Ann recently to discuss her new non-profit foundation, Outward Bounce.
Ben York (BY): Ann, my friend, you and I go way back. So, let me start by asking: How did it feel to destroy me in basketball nearly every day after school?
Ann Strother (AS): Middle school basketball was so much fun! I didn’t destroy you…but I was a lot taller than most people in our class and that always helps. Those were some of the best times and really why I wanted to start my non-profit foundation, Outward Bounce.
BY: How so?
AS: I want to make a difference in the world through basketball. This organization will help give youth the opportunity to get involved with basketball in a very isolated area that really does not have many after school activities. I hope that someday there is a little girl from a small village in Colonial Libertad that believes she has the opportunity to play collegiate or professional basketball one day.
BY: Tell us more about your non-profit organization. How did it form? What is the mission?
AS: I was playing basketball in Russia when a friend of mine was working on a macadamia farm in a small village in Colonial Libertad, Costa Rica. The time she spent teaching English and working on community projects really opened her eyes to the lack of after school activities for the youth. The kids really wanted a basketball court so she reached out to me to help create it. Basketball is not only a game but a way for communities to come together and for the youth to get involved with positive after school activities. In a small village that is fairly isolated, drugs have become prevalent and without positive influences they will begin to take over. I hope to build this court to encourage healthy lifestyles and build community involvement.
BY: Why is it a passion for you to give back?
AS: I know how much basketball affected my life. I got to travel the world. I have been to China, Russia, Spain, Italy, Czech Republic, France, Dominican Republic, Cuba, Mexico, and all over the United States as a result of basketball. It has opened my eyes to a much broader world. Although these are far and foreign places, basketball and sports in general are a common language that bridges cultures from across the world. I’ve had incredible opportunities and I hope that by building these courts, I am able to inspire other young girls/boys to dream big.
BY: You played at UConn with Diana Taurasi and spent several years in the WNBA. What do you remember most about your career?
AS: Traveling the United States and getting to live in different cities has been great. As a female athlete, it’s amazing to have the opportunity to continue to play the sport you love after college. I can’t imagine leaving UConn and not having the option to continue playing basketball. The whole process was truly a dream come true for me. Being drafted and living the life of a professional athlete was something I always aspired to and to finally reach that goal felt great. When I was a little girl, my mom and dad asked me to write down what I wanted to be when I grew up and I wrote down that I wanted to be a basketball player for the NBA. So…I wasn’t too far off.
BY: Have any current/past players reached out in support of your organization?
AS: A few of them have donated items for my basketball camp but if they would like to they can visit my website (www.OutwardBounce.org). I would love to have a few of them come down to Costa Rica to help build a court! It’s an absolutely beautiful area in the rainforest and it will be an incredible experience.
BY: Where can we find more information on Outward Bounce?
BY: What’s next for you?
AS: I am also working for the Metro Denver Sports Commission as the Assistant Executive Director for the Women’s Final four that will be here in Denver, CO this coming April. If you are interested in getting involved or purchasing tickets email me at firstname.lastname@example.org!