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Friday, December 17, 2010

Alicia Brannon- Start of 20 Wins

We went 35-14 my first two seasons at Galesburg. Then over the next six seasons, we had one winning year and were a combined 65-85. We definitely were headed for mediocracy. Why weren't we winning?  Maybe part of the problem was the school district eliminating junior high sports. Maybe part of the problem was an inexperienced coach. Then in 1988, we won 20 games (20-8), and we continued to win 20 games for the next 21 years. What turned things around? I think it was simple, we got some good players who were great people.

Earlier this season, assistant coach Andie Allison asked me if I was putting an all-time Galesburg team together, who would I put on it. That is one of those no win deals for me. There are too many quality players. If you asked me to name the top 10, I would want to name 15. If you asked me to name the top 15, I would want to name the top 25. My answer today would be different than may answer tomorrow. I know you could take anyone of about 100 Galesburg players, make up a team, and have a great year.

Alicia Brannon is not the best shooter or the best ballhandling point guard who has played at Galesburg. But if I was putting together a team, I would want Alicia on my team. She was a tough competitor, who always played hard. She was loyal to her teammates and she was a leader. They always say that the measure of a great player is whether they make their teammates better. Alica had the ability to do that for Streaks basketball.

As a soph, I brought her up to the varsity at the end of the year. She didn't want to. I viewed it as being defiant at the time. Later I realized it was a case of her lacking confidence. She started her junior year as we went 12-15. Then she started her senior year, averaging 6.3 assists and leading us to a 20-8 season. Why did things turn around in Galesburg basketball? It is simple- a whole bunch of quality people like Alicia Brannon made us winners. Did Alicia turn around Galesburg basketball by herself? No. But she did with the help of a lot of other quality young women.

As you read this interview, you will find that Alicia Brannon's story is an extremely inspiring story about a Galesburg girl who had big dreams. She is a winner in everything she has done in life. And just like she made her team better, she seems to have made everything she touches in life better. I know I am thankful for having gotten to coach Alicia- she has been an inspiration to me.

Is she one of my favorites? Yes- one of many- I have a great job.

How did you first get involved playing basketball?
When I was younger I played a lot of sports. There was always a basketball hoop near my home and I was usually the only girl playing basketball with the boys. I was definitely a tomboy.

I don't know if you remember but your soph year, we either had someone get hurt or someone not performing well, and I told you that we were moving you to play with the varsity. You told me, "No, I don't want to." Eventually we had a meeting of the minds. How do you remember this? Did you think about quitting? Feel free to say what you really wanted to tell me.
Yes, I remember that conversation. I was a very shy young lady growing up and I didn't like doing anything that would draw attention to me. I also wasn't as confident in myself as others were. I was too shy to tell you that I didn't think I'd do well on varsity. I actually never thought of quitting because I didn't want to let you down or disappoint the team. I was fortunate to have mentors such as yourself who believed in me.

From my perspective, you were part of the teams that started winning at GHS. For me that was exciting time, people had low expectations for us and we surpassed others expecations. What are some of your favorite memories as a player?
One of my most favorite memories is a home game in which I set a record for assists. I remember the game vividly because I remember you pulling me out of the game early in the 4th quarter. I assumed it was because I was not doing well and I remember being sad sitting on the bench. I was shocked when I read the newspaper the next day and there was an article highlighting how I was a big part of the success of the team. I will never forget that day and I still have the article. I also have very fond memories of the strong team dynamics.

What was the best class you had in high school?
Psychology and any class taught by Mr. Devore. I always had a love for psychology and that was my undergraduate major. Mr. Devore was a great mentor and he made me believe in myself.
Alicia and I share something in common- great respect for Hal Devore. Hal was my supervising teaching when I student taught. He is one of the greatest teachers to ever walk the halls at Galesburg. He and Joe Patterson developed the American Studies course.

You were a very dedicated student, where did you motivation come from?
Frankly, I never felt that it was an option for me not to do well in school. I am the oldest of 5 children and once I started to get good grades it was expected that I would continue to get good grades. I didn't realize it then but I truly enjoy learning. My mom and my grandmother always made me feel like I could do anything and that was an incredible motivator.

You went to University of Illinois. What did you major in? How special was it to you personally to become a college graduate?
My undergraduate degree is in psychology and my masters degree is in Human Resources. I can remember as a young girl I always thought I would go to college. No one else in my family had attended a 4 year university and we were not financially prepared for my college education. It was extremely important for me to attend college AND graduate. My siblings were looking up to me and my family had high expectations for me. Graduating from college is one of the highlights of my life. I was truly blessed to receive a full academic scholarship to the University of Illinois.

Everybody always claims that sports help prepare you for life. Are there things you feel you learned in sports that have helped you in your career?
Yes, definitely. Sports helped me learn patience, perseverance and it honed my competitiveness. I didn't realize it at the time but it also helped me learn how to be a leader and how to encourage/lead a team.

What are you doing and where are you at now?
I have been in Chicago since 1992. I completed my Masters degree from Loyola University and I am currently the Human Resources Director for Kester, Inc.

You said you do distance running now. How did you get into the marathon running? What is your training program now?
Several years ago I started running 5ks. I was bored with my usual cardio workout at the gym. Last year I trained for a 1/2 marathon as an early birthday gift to myself. I turned 40 this year so I decided to train for the full marathon. Unfortunately I was not able to complete my marathon on Sunday in Las Vegas. I had a minor leg surgery two months ago and by mile 9 my leg was killing me. I'm disappointed but my health comes first. Right now my training program consists of a long run on the weekends (10+ miles) and 2-3 days running during the week (5-7 miles).

What was the best part of growing up in Galesburg?
The best part of growing up in Galesburg is the diversity and the small town values. I never realized how diverse Galesburg was until I moved to Chicago and saw the segregation within the city. I am also so grateful for the values instilled in me while growing up. Although I live in the "big city" I always tell people that I am a "small town girl".

How often do you get back to Galesburg? When you come back, where do you always want to go?
I come back to Galesburg every few months to visit my family. I used to have favorite restaurants to visit like Taco Hideout but I'm a vegetarian now. Honestly, I like going to the mall with my nieces and nephews and reminiscing about the good old days at Sandburg Mall.

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