ANSLEY - - JoAnn Scott has had a passion for sports for as long as she can remember. The 1982 Ansley High School grad excelled in several sports in high school, and went on to compete at UNK. It was there that she would fall into a random “job” that would shape the rest of her life.
Monday morning Scott returned to her alma mater of AHS where she addressed the 7-12 students about her experiences. Her presentation was not one of simply listing accomplishments - rather it was a call for the students to never give up on their dream.
As a student athlete at the University of Nebraska - Kearney, Scott began working for some of the coaches. For this young woman who was a self-admitted sports junkie, it was a perfect fit.
After college, she moved to Colorado and went to work for a brokerage firm. While it was a good job, it wasn’t long before Scott says she realized that was not the right career for her. She began searching the local classified sections of the newspaper for help wanted ads and ran across one that peaked her interest. It was a job with USA Basketball; she applied and was hired for a secretarial position. Though that was not the type of work she was looking for, it got her in the door of a place she knew she wanted to be.
Scott says in her early days at USA Basketball she had a very good mentor, and attributes much of her success to that relationship. She compared that mentorship to the relationship between teachers and students in a small school like Ansley, telling the students that while they may not realize it now, their small school is a benefit.
“Here you are not just a number - your teachers know you. And having that one-on-one education is an advantage,” said Scott.
A year after beginning her job with USA Basketball, she was sent to Georgetown to manage a training camp. In 1992, she had an opportunity to work with the “Dream Team” and traveled all over the world with the team. She says that was a great learning in experience.
She shared about rides on the team bus, and sitting in the fourth seat with an empty seat between her and Coach K. “I sat in the fourth seat because throughout the bus ride players would come up and sit in the empty seat to ask the coach questions, and I wanted to hear what they were asking. These were the 12 greatest basketball players in the world - maybe of all time! I learned if they could ask questions, I should never be afraid to ask questions.”
Scott worked for USA Basketball for 10 years, when she took a job with the Nike corporation. She is now a marketing executive with Nike, where she has been for the past 16 years. She and her team created a special campaign for the 2012 Olympics, which she takes to heart and was the theme of her message - “Find Your Greatness.”
She showed videos of several of the advertisements they came up with during that campaign and talked about how the team worked together to develop ads, apparel and marketing strategies that would appeal to young people. She says to achieve that they shared real stories rather than so much scripted material. The goal, says Scott, was to encourage young people - like these students - to embrace their stories and share them.
“Don’t ever sell yourselves short - you can do anything.”
At the conclusion of her presentation, Scott fielded a few questions from both students and staff. One question in particular, from Ansley Principal Lance Bristol, brought out a great deal of emotion in Scott. The questions was, “if you could go back and change anything about your high school experience, what would it be?”
Scott thought about the question for a moment before answering. “I wish I would have stood up to those who were bullying some of my classmates.” Wiping away tears, Scott continued. “It was really terrible you guys. You need to go to people’s defense. Trust me, if you don’t you will regret it later. I empower all of you to step up and find your greatness - and bullying is not your greatness.”
While she says most of us will never be professional or Olympic athletes, “there is a greatness in all of us.”