Sports Illustrated and Empower Onyx highlight the diverse journeys of black women through sports – from veteran athletes to rising stars, coaches, executives and more – in the series, Elle-evate: 100 influential black women in sports.
Tiffany D. Tucker didn’t start out wanting a career in sports, even though she was almost six feet in college; grew up hooping with the best around Petersburg, Va .; and built up a busy career as a basketball player at the University of North Carolina. But none of that was taken into account when she thought about life after graduation.
“I wanted more than anything to be a motivational speaker. I was captivated by Oprah Winfrey and Les Brown, ”she says. “I wanted to write books and teach people how to do their best and be successful. ”
She hasn’t written her first book yet, but she can definitely tick the box to motivate people to be successful. Tucker established a legacy as a beloved trainer with races at Allegheny College, Radford University, Francis Marion University and Claflin University. She has worked in sports administration at Elizabeth City State University, Hampton University, and South Carolina State University. Currently, she is the Assistant Director of Sports at UNC Wilmington.
“To have a seat at this table and a voice, and to be able to speak up and fight for the needs of our women’s sports programs and our athletes is definitely a personal best for me,” said Tucker.
In the Tucker family, education and intellect have eclipsed sports and street credibility. Her parents intended to help her become culturally, socially, and politically aware. The backyard of her childhood home lined the Virginia State University campus, and Tucker says she spent much of her early teenage years at HBCU.
“After basketball practice in my high school, I would go to Virginia State and play pickup games with the boys,” she says. But it was the time she spent on campus with her parents that helped shape her life goals.
Tucker attended events where she listened to and learned from a multitude of black icons, including two of her favorites: renowned author and advocate for women, and Dr. Juanita Bynum, the most prominent black televangelist in the world. country.
Looking back, this exposure helped line everything up for his career. In 2006, Tucker graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in Philosophy and quickly landed a job as a mental health counselor. She was convinced that she was on the path to a fulfilling career in motivational speaking and counseling until she took on a job as AAU boys basketball coach.
“That’s when the training bug bit me,” Tucker says. She left her post as a counselor to work full time as an assistant women’s basketball coach at Allegheny College. Over the next decade, Tucker would focus on leading, mentoring and motivating varsity athletes while training along the East Coast.
“I focused on teaching them three principles: be open, because you never know where your next opportunity will come from; be authentic, because you don’t have to put on a mask to get to where you want to go; and invest in themselves, ”she says. “Investing in yourself is perhaps the most important, because you cannot pour into others from an empty cup. We need to understand that what’s in the cup is ours. God asks us to pour overflow.
In 2014, Tucker played a dual role as a coach of several women’s sports at Elizabeth City State College and, for the first time, worked as a sports administrator. In her new leadership role, she didn’t have the same one-on-one relationship with the players, but she knew it was important for her to step into a managerial position so that she could create opportunities for them at a higher level. .
“I realized that with the power I have now, I’m able to bring our young women into my space to help them,” she says, “as we work on their public speaking, their professional development or teach them more about women in athletics. “
This is especially important now that the United States is approaching the 50th anniversary of Title IX. Women make up almost half of all varsity athletes, which means the next decade could see a dramatic shift in gender dynamics and equality in varsity sports. Tucker plans to help lead the conversation to challenge traditional ways of thinking.
“It’s a good thing to say I want equal rights or gender equality, but I’ll be honest: there are women who are better than men,” she says. “And I don’t think a woman should be content with being equal when she’s better. Equality is not enough.
Tucker says this applies to the disbursement of college scholarships, team equipment and travel, coaching salaries and more. “I want my students to know, I want my coaches to know, I want my administrators to know that if I work and sacrifice to earn more or receive more, I want my more.”
And Tucker is determined to train college athletes to want more than just a highlight reel. When the NCAA changed its rules to allow players to capitalize on their name, image, and likeness, their department immediately delivered an introduction to help them understand their worth as amateur athletes so they could take smart decisions instead of a quick grab.
“We saw this as an opportunity for them to learn more about entrepreneurship, business, law, contracts and what it really means to be ‘adult’,” she says. “When you’re 18, that money looks great. But we wanted them to think about who and what they were lining up for, before embarking on a contract that a year later would leave them with regrets.
It goes without saying that Tucker feels responsible for the overall development of his varsity athletes and keeps a close eye on them, which for some can be a bit intimidating. “I’m six feet five inches tall with a seven foot wingspan,” she laughs. “It took me a while to acquire it, but I understand my presence, and it’s powerful, but I don’t use it for negativity. When people see me, they see an authoritative figure, but I want them to see my heart too, because I lead from a place of benevolence and transparency. And I believe they see it. Even though it comes in a six foot five inch package.
Madelyne Woods is a contributor for Empower Onyx, a diverse, multi-channel platform celebrating the stories and transformative power of sport for black women and girls.