Finding Myself: Former McAlester girls basketball coach talks about life

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Derek Hatridge, McAlester News-Capital, Okla.
·3 min read
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Apr. 24—Crystal Robinson's life has led her to a lot of different locations. But she's always found herself drawn back home to southeastern Oklahoma.

Robinson was a standout basketball player at Atoka High School, and went on to play at Southeastern Oklahoma State University before a professional playing career. After her playing days, she moved into coaching.

She coached at the professional level for a few years when life sent her down a new path.

"I was coaching at the WNBA Washington Mystics, and I was Tree Rollins' assistant. Tree had got fired, and so I lost my job," Robinson said.

That's when she said she got a phone call asking if she'd be willing to coach high school basketball — in McAlester.

"I ended up down there and ended up taking the job. No one thought we'd be very good because we'd just lost Jaci Bigham, who went to ORU," Robinson said.

Robinson spoke with the News-Capital about her career and her upcoming book, "Finding Myself," which is set to be released April 26.

She detailed her childhood, her playing career, and what it was like taking over at McAlester.

Players were nervous to get to meet their new coach, but Robinson said she helped put their fears at ease when she began to show them that she was more than their coach.

"Anytime you're coaching, you have to build relationships. You have to build trusting relationships," Robinson said. "If you can do that, then your players will do the things you ask them to do...We built good relationships, and I was really proud of that team. They took on my personality."

The Lady Buffs fought and persevered all season long — and beat the top three teams in the state to be named 2010 Class 5A State Champions.

Robinson said that she knew from the onset that team was going to do big things that year.

"We just all kind of fit together," Robinson said. "I don't know if you've ever been in a sports season where you feel like it's going to be a special season, but every time I've won a championship, I've felt like that."

Relationships and memories have been a driving force in Robinson's life, which has led her on the path to releasing her memoir "Finding Myself" on April 26. She said the book is a culmination of writings about her life that she's put to paper for more than a decade.

"I didn't just sit down and pen it. I started journaling a long time ago," Robinson said. "It just kind of turned into a book...It's kind of been a thing in progress for over 10-12 years. But now, I just think, is a good time to release it. With everything going on in the world, what women are going through — it's a shining light, I would say."

And even 11 years later, the memories and relationships she forged in McAlester are still going strong. Robinson has been around the world and met a lot of people, but still has deep roots in her home state.

"Most of them still reach out to me," Robinson said. "I'm proud of the friendships that I made, and the fact that I think that there's a lot of girls on that team that I taught they can do things they didn't think they can do."

Contact Derek Hatridge at dhatridge@mcalesternews.com.