By Chennelle Miller
In case you haven’t heard, Raleigh CrossFit is participating in its 7th Barbells For Boobs Fundraising event. The fundraising culminates on Friday, Oct. 13 where our athletes will come together to perform a workout together, in costume for Barbells For Boobs.
Barbells For Boobs is a non-profit organization that raises funds, awareness and provides resources related to breast cancer.
“It serves the community as a proactive voice, a resource for early detection services and support post diagnosis with an emphasis on fitness and wellness for anyone affected.” – Barbells For Boobs.
As the owner of Raleigh CrossFit, I would be remiss if I didn’t share why taking part in this annual fundraising event is important to me. With that said, please take a moment to read my story below. I promise you that I am telling a story from my heart.
Back in 2002, I was an intern at Fresno State in Fresno, Calif., with the athletic media relations department. I had spent two years working as an intern and discovered that my passion for sports could carry over into the professional world of public and media relations. My boss at the time knew the compliance director at NC State and they spoke about a position that had opened at North Carolina State University to be the women’s basketball media relations director. He shared with me the opportunity, as he knew I loved women’s basketball after having played on the practice team for the women’s basketball team at Fresno State for two years. We both agreed that it would be a good opportunity to at least apply for the position. So I did figuring it was worth a shot. I knew the specs of such a position. There aren’t many people who have a chance at working for the ACC, basketball, let alone a future Hall of Fame Basketball Coach in Kay Yow.
As it turns out, they gave me a shot at an interview. So, I flew from Fresno to Raleigh, NC for the first time in July 2002 to meet with the athletic media relations staff and the women’s basketball staff, led by Coach Yow. Of course I was ridiculously nervous. It was my first actual post-graduation interview and it was with this legend, at this big university in the ACC. I went right from the airport to the campus to meet my future boss. We chatted for a bit, interviewed, you know the normal things bosses and prospective employees do, and then I met with the coaches.
If you guys know me, and many who are reading this post do, you know that I present a strong presence, and I did then (I think), but whew was I nervous. I was about to meet Kay Yow. Seriously? A Gold Medal winning coach, a Final Four coach, one of the winningest coaches in NCAA history and I was about to interview for a position to promote her as a coach and her team. Again, seriously? Was I even ready for that? What I didn’t know was that Coach Yow and her staff had a different approach to seeing the best in people. Looking back and after having spent four years working with her and the staff, I can see now that they knew exactly what they were getting into with me as a rookie. I mean, to be fair, they brought in rookies every year, whether it was for a USA National Women’s Basketball team or a future NCAA Tournament team. They knew what to do with rookies, how to mold them and bring out the best qualities. I just didn’t realize they could see in me what I had no idea existed.
Even to this day, it’s hard to believe there was that moment of uncertainty for me and yet they all believed in me before I did. Coach Yow had that way about her. She knew how to speak with you, not at you. She had a plan for every single person that she interacted with that meant something to her. And believe me, you meant something to her. Everyone who has ever interacted with her, knew that and that fact can never be disputed.
So as I said earlier, she was special and so was this interview. We didn’t sit in her office. We all got into her Ford Explorer and went for drinks and then to dinner. I didn’t even know if I was supposed to have a drink on an interview! So I sat with her Associate Head Coach and chatted and then we all had dinner together. The purpose of this as I can later realize, was to get to know me. They already knew I could do the job, but they wanted to see how I fit in with their Wolfpack family. Thankfully I did. They asked me to join them as a member of their staff, as Coach Yow’s media relations director. From that moment, I had no idea what was ahead of me, but I knew it was going to be special.
I flew back to Fresno, packed and made the drive to Raleigh to begin working with Coach Yow and her staff. My first assignment, promoting Coach Yow as she was being inducted into the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame in 2002. Again, seriously? This is a big deal! She was being put into the Hall of Fame with Magic Johnson and the Harlem Globetrotters. Wow! A little out of my element, but it all worked out.
As I continued to spend my four years at NC State, I grew to love Coach Yow and really the entire Wolfpack family. Together we went to three NCAA Tournaments, hosted the first Women’s Jimmy V Classic and Hoops For Hope events. I helped to set up the NC State women’s basketball Hall of Fame and the design that is currently at the facility at NC State. Sure Coach Yow had many, many more memories than I did at NC State with women’s basketball, but I hold each one of them very special to my heart. During my time with NC State, Coach Yow had a relapse with breast cancer. Unfortunately, this was also something new to me. I had not known anyone to have breast cancer or worked with someone who was so much in the public eye and who meant so much to so many people. I felt an enormous pressure to protect and to help her as much as I could. I wasn’t the only one. We all did at NC State and especially those within the women’s basketball family.
So, for awhile, many people did not know that this had happened, but eventually she was ready for the world to know. We worked together to decide our approach to informing the public and fielding all of the questions about her and the cancer, her life, her career. To be in the public eye and to handle such an enormous and terrible situation had to be something that no one is ever prepared for. Coach Yow however, was just as determined as ever to keep people as informed as possible about what was going on. She knew people looked to her for guidance and inspiration. Of course there are certain things that are private, but she wanted to be an example for everyone. She continued to fight and to coach and to be a leader. She was a role model in every way…
She was my mentor.
And even today, I still think about things she said to her players, to her coaches, to me. She made every person feel special and see her have to leave us so soon, was a very sad thing. To this day, it still makes sad, but also motivated. Coach Yow passed away on January 24, 2009. I was able to attend her funeral. I was able to say good-bye. To me though, I knew I would never let her persistence in fighting, to be as good as you could be, to be truthful and honest, motivated and strong, go undirected. I promised myself that one day I would do something to help her and her foundation and I really meant it.
So this is why I want each year we participate as a fundraising CrossFit affiliate for Barbells For Boobs.
I realize you all have lives outside of the gym – I certainly hope you do, but I also hope that as an athlete within our community that you find something special about that role. I hope that being a part of something as special as raising funds and awareness for breast cancer, for providing resources to those who need them, helps to add a little more happiness to your personal journey of wellness.
My goal in hosting this event, to promoting its importance each year is to raise as much money and awareness as possible for Coach Kay Yow, for her own Kay Yow Cancer Fund and for Barbells For Boobs. We are all in this together.
We are able, healthy, strong and in a position in which we can help, so let’s do this together. We are STRONGER together.
Thank you to everyone who has and will continue to support the fundraising efforts.
On Friday, we will come together to perform the workout “Grace”, which is 30 Clean and Jerks for time. It’s an opportunity to perform a workout in honor of someone, something bigger than a workout and to just take the seriousness out of such an event, we will do the workout in costume.
When things get hard out there, when the bar just won’t come of the ground, don’t give up. As Coach Yow always said when things got hard, “Don’t wallow in self-pity. Swish your feet and get out.”
Special Quotes About Coach Yow
“When life kicks you, let it kick you forward.”
“Live one moment at a time and be thankful everyday.”
“If you start to dwell on the wrong things, it’ll take you down fast,” Yow said in 2007. “Every morning, I wake up and the first thing I think of is I’m thankful. I’m thankful for another day.”
“There were so many times I felt like giving up,” forward Khadijah Whittington said after the Wolfpack’s loss to Connecticut in the 2007 NCAA tournament’s round of 16, “and then I see Coach Yow and she never gives up.”
“When they say that (‘You’re an inspiration to me.’), it really gives me a lift because it’s at that time I know for sure that I’m not going through it for nothing,” Yow said in 2007. “That means a lot to me. I have to go through it. I accept that, and I’m not panicked about it because the Lord is in control. But it just would be so saddening if I had to go through it and I couldn’t help people.”
Barbells For Boobs – How Your Fundraising Efforts Are Used
– Over 23,000 Individuals Served
– Nearly 45,000 Procedures Provided
– Almost 350 Cases of Breast Cancer Detected
-By Chennelle Miller, Raleigh CrossFit Owner