News: Marine officer reflects, brings basketball opportunities
Story by Sgt. Frans Labranche
NEW ORLEANS – The United States Marine Corps partnered with the Women’s Basketball Coaches Association to support their annual conference here, April 5-9. They reached out to collegiate coaches and students to discuss leadership and teamwork.
The Marines also offered coaches the chance to sign up for leadership workshops at their individual schools. Leading the effort was Maj. Karen Walker, of Bay Shore, N.Y., whose experience playing basketball at San Diego Christian College lead her to the Marine Corps armed forces basketball team after becoming a Marine officer in 1998.
The conference was held in conjunction with the NCAA women’s basketball championship.
Though busy, Walker spent some time explaining her past and what it has done to shape her future.
When did you first get into basketball?
“Growing up in New York we just played a lot. I’ve been playing basketball on a team since junior high school and haven’t stopped since. I’m a basketball junky so to speak. I played through high school, college, and once I got in the Marine Corps and found out I could play basketball in the Marine Corps, I made that happen.”
What is the All-Marine basketball team and how was being on the silver medal team?
“I’ve played All-Marine basketball for nine years. The Marine Corps is such a small force, it is hard to put together the same team consistently because of deployments. You have to try out every year. You train 30 days as a team and then compete. It was an honor to be on the silver medal team in 2006.”
What has your experience on so many basketball teams done for you as a Marine?
“Playing basketball, you get an idea about what it’s like to be a part of a team and come together for a common goal. It’s really a building block to use and pull from.”
How has the Marine Corps affected the way you play basketball?
“I became a better player once I came into the Marine Corps. Every base you go to, you are afforded the opportunity to play with a new team and you have to work harder, be your best and be at the top of your game.”
How do you balance your Marine Corps training and your basketball training?
“I always make sure my physical fitness test and my combat fitness test is done before I start my basketball training because I don’t want a basketball injury to prevent me from doing my job. That’s priority number one. Then, I love basketball, so training can consist of just me in the gym early in the morning.”
What message do you want to bring to collegiate athletes?
“Most importantly, is that once you leave college, opportunities to go to the next level and far and few between. If you aren’t walking into a Women’s National Basketball Association situation, the Marine Corps will give you so much life experience and put you in situations to lead Marines. It’s not comparable to anything else you could do right out of college. I left college and had a job and was able to lead Marines. I wouldn’t trade that path for anything.”