Sports Illustrated and Empower Onyx are putting the spotlight on 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 nearly six feet tall in high school; grew up playing with the best of Petersburg, Va .; and built a storied career as a basketball standout at the University of North Carolina. But none of that took into account when he thought about life after graduation.
“I wanted more than anything to be a motivational speaker. Oprah Winfrey and Les Brown captivated me, ”she says. “I wanted to write books and teach people to be their best and to be successful.”
You haven’t written your first book yet, but you can definitely check the box to motivate people to success. Tucker has established a legacy as a beloved coach with careers at Allegheny College, Radford University, Francis Marion University, and Claflin University. He has worked in athletic administration at Elizabeth City State University, Hampton University, and South Carolina State University. Currently, she is the deputy athletic director for UNC Wilmington.
“Having a seat at this table and a voice, and being able to articulate and advocate for the needs of our women’s sports programs and athletes is definitely the best for me,” says Tucker.
In the Tucker family, education and intellect overshadowed sports and street cred. Her parents intended to help her become culturally, socially and politically aware. The backyard of his childhood home bordered the Virginia State University campus, and Tucker says he spent much of his teens at HBCU.
“After basketball practice at my high school, I would go to Virginia and play games with the boys,” he says. But it was the time she spent on campus with her parents that helped shape her and her goals in life.
Tucker attended events where she listened to and learned from a bevy of black icons, including two of her favorites: renowned author and women’s advocate bell hooks, and Dr. Juanita Bynum, the nation’s most prominent black televangelist.
Looking back, that exposure helped align everything for her career. In 2006, Tucker graduated with a BA in philosophy and quickly landed a job as a mental health counselor. She was convinced she was on track for a satisfying career in motivational speaking and counseling until she took a side job as an AAU men’s basketball coach.
“That’s when the coaching bug bit me,” says Tucker. She left her counseling position to work full-time as an assistant women’s basketball coach at Allegheny College. For the next decade, Tucker would devote himself to leading, mentoring, and motivating college athletes as he worked his way up to training along the East Coast.
“I focused on teaching them three principles: be open, because you never know where the next opportunity will come from; be authentic, because you don’t need to wear a mask to get where you want to go; and invest in themselves, ”he says. “Investing in yourself may be the most important thing because you cannot serve others with an empty cup. We need to understand that what is in the cup is ours to keep. God requires that we pour out of the overflow. “
By 2014, Tucker was fulfilling a dual role coaching various women’s sports at Elizabeth City State College and working, for the first time, as an athletic administrator. In his new leadership role, he did not have the same personal connection with the players, but he knew that moving to an executive position was important in order to create opportunities for them at a higher level in the future. .
“I realized with the power that I have now, I can bring our young women into my space to help them,” she says, “whether we work on their public speaking, professional development, or teach them more about women in athletics. . “
That’s especially important as the United States approaches the 50th anniversary of Title IX. Women make up nearly half of all college athletes, which means that the next decade could produce a dramatic shift in gender dynamics and equality in college sports. Tucker plans to help steer the conversation to challenge traditional ways of thinking.
“It’s good to say that I want equal rights or gender equality, but I’m going to be honest: there are some women who are better than men,” she says. “And I don’t think a woman should settle for equality when she is better. Equality is not enough. “
Tucker says it applies to disbursement of college scholarships, team and team travel, coach salaries, and much more. “I want my students to know, I want my coaches to know, I want my administrators to know, that if I make an effort and make sacrifices to earn more or receive more, I want my more.”
And Tucker is determined to coach college athletes to want more than just a featured reel. When the NCAA changed its rules to allow players to take advantage of their name, image and likeness, their department immediately released a manual to help them understand their value as amateur athletes so they could make wise decisions rather than quick money making. .
“We saw this as an opportunity for them to learn about entrepreneurship, business, law, contracts, and what it means to really be ‘grown up’,” he says. “When you’re 18, that money looks great. But we wanted them to consider who and what they were aligning with, before jumping into a contract that, a year later, would leave them with regrets. “
Needless to say, Tucker feels responsible for the total development of his college athletes and keeps a close eye on them, which for some, could be a bit intimidating. “I’m six feet five inches tall with a two-meter wingspan,” he laughs. “It took me a long time to own 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 also see my heart, because I lead from a place of affection and transparency. And I think they see it. Even though it’s wrapped in an eight-foot package. “
Madelyne Woods is a contributor to Empower Onyx, a diverse multi-channel platform that celebrates the stories and transformative power of sports for black women and girls.
Eddie is an Australian news reporter with over 9 years in the industry and has published on Forbes and tech crunch.