Olympic Gold Medalist Dionna Harris Speaks to Wilmington Student-Athletes at Academic All-Star Banquet
Friday, March 16, 2012 - New Castle, DE
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1996 Olympic Softball Gold Medalist Dionna Harris
The 1996 Olympic Gold Medal from Atlanta, Ga.
From left: Chelsea Botsch, Brooke Berger, Brittany Biddle, Shelby Thompson, Katie Warrington, and Jessica Hassman
Unable to attend the Third Annual Wilmington University Athletics Academic All-Star Banquet because the team was away enjoying the Sun Shine State on Spring Break, members of the Wilmington softball and volleyball team received a special honor as they held their portion of the banquet on Thursday night.
In addition to 2012 Academic All-Star recognition and a few being inducted into the 2012 Chi Alpha Sigma National College Athlete Honor Society, Brooke Berger, Chelsea Botsch, Brittany Biddle (volleyball), Jessica Hassman, Shelby Thompson, and Katie Warrington, as well as family, Wilmington administration and staff members were honored to hear the story from 1996 Olympic Softball Gold Medalist Dionna Harris.
Harris, a Delcastle High School and DelTech CC graduate and now a guidance counselor in the Christiana School District, shared her story through not being heavily recruited out of high school, getting cut, and working hard to realize a dream.
Never letting go of her Gold Medal during her whole speech, Harris described five aspects of her life that she now looks back on realizes those moments are what kept her going.
After becoming a two-time All-American at Del Tech, Harris moved onto Temple University to complete one of her life dreams: compete at the NCAA Division I level. At this point, her only dream was to play on the US Olympic Softball team, not knowing the Olympics did not feature the sport when she got to Temple in 1989. She encouraged the audience to dream big because everything you do in life starts with a dream.
Her second aspect of life and growth is that although it may go unnoticed, opportunities come in disguises. After college, Harris tried out for the Pan-Am games and performed on the diamond unlike any other week of her life, only to find out she didn’t make the roster list to join the team. Instead of re-joining the likes of All-World Lisa Fernandez on a summer team, Harris wanted to face the world’s best to join the world’s best. Playing for the California Jazz, Harris batted 6-for-7 off the likes of Michelle Smith and finished .611 in the national tournament to earn an invite to try out for the Olympic Team.
Not quite sure where they wanted to put her, the Olympic team coaching staff threw Harris all over the diamond, testing her patience and will. From center field, to second base, to all over the outfield, Harris had to learn to overcome her obstacles to obtain her number one dream.
After pouring everything out onto the field, this time Harris did not want to see the outcome of the coaches’ decision and waited it out in the room, not expecting to make the Olympic team. After a teammate came to the door to inform her she made the team, she realized there are only two things in life that you can control: your effort and your attitude. Harris’ effort and patience on the field that week not only inspired the coaches to pick her up, but was noticed by everyone at the camp and undoubtedly left an impact with the others trying out.
Finally, after going to Atlanta and winning the inaugural Olympic Softball Gold Medal, Harris’s fifth aspect in life is to always give your dream back to help others reach their own dream.
Following the awe inspiring speech, Berger, Botsch, Biddle, Hassman, Thompson and Warrington were recognized for their academic success through this past year. In order to qualify as a Wilmington University Academic All-Star a student-athlete must carry at least a 3.5 GPA for the academic year.
Wilmington, the second university in the state of Delaware to hold Chi Alpha Sigma National College Athlete Honor Society status, also recognized Hassman, Thompson and Warrington as 2012 inductees into the national honor society.
Chi Alpha Sigma’s purpose is to: encourage and reward high academic scholarship of college athletes at four-year accredited colleges and universities; to recognize outstanding academic achievement by intercollegiate varsity letter winners; to encourage good citizenship, moral character, and friendship among the high academic achievers in college athletics, to recognize and honor the individual athlete, his/her team, sport, athletic department, and college or university; and to mentor and to provide leadership to other athletes.
Although Harris is among only a select number of individuals that can say they participated on a USA National team at an Olympic Games, she left with making the room feel there is still something out there for everyone.
“The hard part is getting there,” Harris said as talking about reaching your goals and dreams in life. “But once you get there, live it.”