by Patrick B. McGuigan, editor
Members of the Sooner Stilettos have emerged as role models and leaders in a program that emphasizes scholarship and pride among the young women who pass through the OU women’s basketball program. Bonds of friendship destined to last a life time have emerged over the 13 years professional women across Oklahoma have worked through the “Stilettos” to mentor and develop accomplished athletes into model citizens.
University of Oklahoma women’s basketball coach Sherri Coale founded the Sooner Stilettos in 2003 to channel the energies of OU graduates and team supporters. Her energy and personality remain an inspiration for the group’s mission. In her own words, it is clear Coach Coale started something that she hopes will last far beyond this generation.
In a 2011 news article, Coale told The Norman Transcript, “The Stilettos have proven to be a source of encouragement, strength and inspiration for our young women. As our program continues to evolve and excel, so must our support systems. Thus, the Sooner Stilettos are poised for record numbers of involvement and a depth of impact unparalleled.”
Mary Blankenship Pointer, who now leads the organization, told The City Sentinel she draws her inspiration from the players and from her colleagues in the Stilettos, explaining:
“Youth is 50 percent of our population, however, they are 100 percent of our future. These amazing ladies are the future leaders of our city, state and country. It is an honor to be a Sooner Stiletto, we are able to see the world through a different prospective.
“Someone once asked me to describe our impact on the lives of the students. I would say, it is the students that are impacting our lives. They make us better people.”
Pointer became president of Sooner Stilettos last summer. Her colleagues on the board of directors include Susy Calonkey (ex-officio), Lindy Ritz, president-elect, Karen Rieger, Jeannine Baker, Kathy Bentley, Beth Brown, Misti Connelly, and Karen Renfroe.
Pointer, who is senior vice president at Republic Bank and Trust, takes an active role in growing the organization and reaching out to leaders throughout the state. Days ago, she posted an alert to the ladies, encouraging them to attend a “wine, cheese and shopping” gathering at the Ruth Myers store in Nichols Hills the evening of Thursday (February 4).
An essay from Sooner Athletics, provided by Associate Director Tyler Pigg, explained the ongoing purpose of the organization: “While many athletics departments measure academic success in APR and GPA, the University of Oklahoma’s counts in CEOs. … The Sooner Stilettos are unique among college athletics programs. The Stilettos meet regularly and host a variety of events, usually bookended by meet-and-greets and business card exchanges that help student-athletes gain valuable networking connections as they seek career advice, and future internship and employment opportunities.
“The multiple events held throughout the year champion the synergy that OU Athletics has commanded in recent years as it incorporates its invaluable resources to off-the-field support as much as it does for its on-the-field training.
… Supporters get to enrich their life by networking with successful women in the community while inspiring the next generation of women through mentoring female student-athletes and supporting OU Women’s Basketball.”
A few years Mo Anderson, an accomplished Realtor brimming with confidence and ability, confessed to a student reporter she was nervous before speaking to a group of mentors and players at an event on campus. She spoke from the heart, and remembers, “I could tell from the minute I said, ‘a mediocre mentor tells, a good mentor explains, a great mentor demonstrates, and a champion mentor inspires,’ I knew I had them,” Anderson recalled. “So I thought, ‘I’m just going to go for it.’”
The formal mission statement for the Stilettos reads: “Leaving a positive legacy for woman today, tomorrow and beyond through mentoring and career connections and empowerment opportunities.”
Reading testimonials from past and present OU basketball players, it seems clear that Coale, Pointer, Anderson and their colleagues are achieving that mission.