April 14, 2013
By Jon Cooper
All her life, Sharena Taylor has been on mission to crush dreams, primarily those of opponents on the basketball court.
Beginning in a few weeks, the December graduate from Georgia Tech will be doing a 180, fostering dreams, with a special focus on youngsters. Having completed an internship at Centennial Place Elementary School and taken her Georgia Certification exams, Taylor will soon begin training for a job with Teach For America.
“I think that experience is definitely prepping me for what it will be like for me in a classroom environment,” she said. “I’m excited. I’m mentally preparing myself and getting geared up for when the intensive training comes into play.”
The training will be extensive but Taylor has found that she won’t have to go it alone. She found an ally and a mentor in former Jackets track and cross country runner Betsy Kim, who graduated in May of 2012.
“She’s been amazing,” said Taylor of Kim. “I’m grateful that I have someone who is so amazing, so willing to help in any way and kind of go through the process with me. We both know what it means to be a student-athlete at Georgia Tech, I’m pretty sure that we’ll both be ready to help each other and conquer this next stage together. She’s definitely a great resource for me.
“We definitely leaned on each other,” she added. “I think I leaned on her more so than anything just to kind of keep me calm and just kind of lend an ear. I used her as a resource and she definitely was willing to help. I definitely look forward to finding out more about what we have ahead of us in teaching together and then making that kind of connection and friendship after we go into training because we both will be training right here in Atlanta, on campus.”
While Taylor was getting acclimated to her possible future in the classroom — the Teach For America training process is about five weeks in duration, from June until early July — she also tried her hand at coaching, taking the reins of a seventh-grade AAU team. That opportunity was a byproduct of her participation in one of Georgia Tech’s summer basketball camps.
“I made a connection with these two little girls and they also play soccer. I went to go see them play soccer quite a few times this past summer and I ended up giving their parents my information,” she recalled. “One of the girls’ mothers told me that she used to coach in college and she coaches AAU right now. Literally the weekend after, I started getting phone calls from her and she wanted to know if I was interested and I told her I’d like to try it out.”
The next thing she knew, Taylor was coaching a team called Peak Performance.
“It was quite an interesting experience, just being on the other side of the fence,” she said. “I think my experience as a college athlete will definitely shape me as a coach. I’m really starting to like it. I’m working with girls who are really young and who haven’t learned the fundamentals quite yet. So taking the time to develop them and to really get to know them and their game and trying to help is important. It’s been fun.”
Taylor has even found herself espousing some of the ideology of Georgia Tech Coach MaChelle Joseph. She recalled a weekend where the team split its games.
“I had a chance to speak and I just told them the one thing you cannot coach is effort. You have to play with heart and I didn’t think that they did that,” Taylor recalled. “When I said that I thought to myself, ‘Wow, that’s something Coach Jo reiterated to us constantly.’ You cannot coach effort. You have to have the effort and desire within yourself to want to push yourself to want to get better, to want to win. Then the rest will come. I’m pretty sure that’s one of many that are to come.”
Taylor is prepared to dip into the wealth of knowledge gained from her four years and especially her senior season, even if it didn’t go the way she or the team had hoped.
“Coach Jo always stresses is it’s not what happens to you. It’s how you respond. That adversity doesn’t build character, it rebuilds it,” she said. “I feel like it’s not something that somebody who wins or competes likes to hear, that you learn more from losing than you do from winning, but sometimes, that is true.
“I think that definitely happened for us this year and me, personally,” she added. “I learned a lot that I can carry on through my career and in life. I’m grateful I got that life experience. You take the experience and you learn from it and you grow. If you’re taking that experience and you’re not learning from it and not growing, of course, you’re going to have regrets. I think I truly learned a lot in this last year and definitely over my four years.”
Taylor can’t wait to start passing that knowledge on.