Number 10-14: The University of Notre Dame's 2018-2019 Women's Basketball Team
Though they did not defend their national championship title, the Irish came VERY close. Losing to the Baylor Bears in the another exciting game 82-81, I was aware that Easter baskets are exceptional.
This team however deserves recognition for the very fact that they became "the first program in which all five starters were selected within the top 20 picks. They also join the 2008 Tennessee squad as the only two instances in draft history in which all five starters were selected in a three-round draft. Furthermore, Jackie Young became the second Irish player in program history selected No. 1 overall, joining Jewell Loyd." (ND Athletics)
The photo created for social media says it all.
Basketball is obviously a team sport, but great teams are comprised of outstanding athletes—who get better because of one another. I always hold this symbiotic relationship in mind as I celebrate individuals on a team sport. Great job Irish!
Number 15: Coco Gauff
Look at 15-year old Coco Gauff and you can see much more than the future of women's tennis. She's tennis' future.
Awarded as SI's Breakthrough Athlete for 2019, most sports fans learned about the American teenager when she defeated Venus Williams in the first round of Wimbledon 6-4, 6-4. She is worth profiling for she has demonstrated "why she is already so damn good but also why she is likely to get even better." According to L. Jon Wertheim, "Her greatest assets: her low center of emotional gravity, her perspective, her ability to reset when a call doesn't go her way or she hits a rough stretch during a match. Or even when she finds herself with a shot in a tournament after a disheartening flameout in the qualifier rounds. Already, she gets it." Impressive.
I appreciate her personal story, especially her emotional and physical DNA—if you will. The daughter of two Division I athletes,
at seven, inspired by Serena Williams, Coco discovered tennis. "It was," she says, "the perfect sport for me." She could use her speed and agility and coordination. The need for power, leavened with accuracy, played to her strengths. And, maybe above all, it allowed her to draw on both her parents.
Let her explain: "I feel like my dad, we are both pretty stubborn people. We are both fiery—though I think my dad has more of a temper than me. But my mom, she is more chill. She is more like, O.K., let's take things slow and have patience. I am literally right in the middle."Though an individual sport, no tennis player gets to play in a Grand Slam tournament on their own. Coco's parents made sacrifices support their prodigy!
To accommodate Coco's tennis, the family moved from Atlanta to Delray Beach, Fla. By 13 she reached the final of the girls' event of the U.S. Open (18 and under). Coco's success put some stress on the Gauffs financially. Tending to their eldest became a full-time undertaking. "We went from a two-income home to a no-income home," Corey has joked.
Beyond that, there was a sort of existential strain. The Gauffs had aspired to raise their kids, including brothers Cameron and Codey, amid comfort and convention—youth sports and proms and carpools in the minivan. Suddenly they had to recalibrate for a prodigy. "We wanted her to have a quote unquote normal childhood," says Corey. "But—and this is a term I always use—we didn't want to be dream-killers."Coco Gauff is pursuing her dream...doing what women like Venus and Serena Williams have done, seeing that the future is indeed female...whatever that might mean.