The young girls gathered at the recent New York City event “She’s on Point: A Celebration of Girls in Sports,” likely would have been impressed by any successful WNBA player. But Tina Charles is an extra special reflection of where sports might take them.
Charles, who currently plays for the New York Liberty, was the number one pick in the 2010 WNBA draft, has set numerous records in the league, and is headed to the Olympics this summer. Before all that, though, her coach was driving her across the Triborough Bridge from her home in East Elmhurst, Queens, to spend long hours practicing in the very park they were all standing in: Roberto Clemente State Park in the Bronx.
And when we caught up with Charles the day before she was scheduled to talk to the young girls, the main thing she wanted to talk about were the women who inspired her.
Why are you excited to participate in She’s On Point?
For me, a lot of it was about giving back to Karen Pedrosa [who was the park manager at the time]. She was always keeping Roberto Clemente open late so we were able to scrimmage against the guys. She would travel with us to the AAU [Amateur Athletic Union] games. She’s just an awesome individual. She’s the Deputy Chief of Bronx Recreation now, and it’s a testament to the impact she’s had on the community.
It sounds like she really supported your interest in basketball. As a young girl, did pro sports seem like a possible career path?
My mom and I, now, when we’re alone, we say, “Who would’ve thought?!” And not even in terms of the accomplishments on the court, but just to be playing in the WNBA, because for me, it just started as something fun to do. My mom was very in tune to things I loved—which was basketball. When the recruiting started and letters started to come in, we started to see this is an opportunity. And then it became competitive, and then it became, “I want to see if I can be the best at this.” My mother dedicated herself to me. She took me to all the games and was there for me.
Did you have other female role models?
The women’s league started in ’97, and so growing up in New York, I was able to watch The Liberty and see “Hey, this could be a future.” Karen would get us tickets to go the games. At half-time at the games, sometimes we’d play against another AAU team on the court. Having a women’s league in New York really played a role in me being able to dream even further.
Psyched about the Summer Games? Another (hopeful) Olympian, track star Allyson Felix, spills her secrets in our latest Wellness Confidential. Plus, check out what fellow WNBA star Skylar Diggins is doing for female athletes everywhere.