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Becky Bonner is part of a trailblazing group of women working in men’s professional sports. Bonner came from a basketball family and followed her passion into the Orlando Magic front office as Director of Player Development and Basketball Operations. But she didn’t get there on her own. It took the same type of community support that AdventHealth and the Magic are fostering in Central Florida to help kids succeed.
By making the most of youth and collegiate sports and taking a “no half stepping” approach, Bonner excelled. She and others are showing young girls that the sky is the limit when it comes to following your dreams.
“Women are getting interviews, getting jobs, getting opportunities. Whether it’s on the court coaching, the medical staff, scouting, front office, public relations or financial positions, we are seeing qualified women fighting for these jobs and getting them. I think it’s important. I think it’s newsworthy. And I think it’s long overdue.”
Bonner’s Lifetime Love of the Game
Basketball is in Becky Bonner’s blood. Her family is tall — very tall. Her mom is 6’4”, her dad is 6’8”, and her brothers are 6’8” and 7’1”. One brother, Matt, played for the Florida Gators and San Antonio Spurs. Growing up in Concord, New Hampshire, Bonner says she took to basketball around middle school.
“When I was a young girl, I was on the middle school team and I just loved shooting. I loved being around the game and playing with my brothers and my teammates. I fell in love with the sport pretty early on, but it went to another level after my 8th grade year. I was that young when I received my first college letter of recruitment. And after that, my motivation went even higher and my love for the game grew.”
That dedication led her to play college basketball at Stanford University and Boston University. Becky also did what a lot of college students do: She got a part-time job. But it didn’t take long for her to realize that a normal job wouldn’t make her happy.
“I knew I couldn’t be in a regular office all day. I needed to be around active people. I needed to be around the game. I started to explore different ideas about how to work in basketball.”
Sports as a Starting Block
Doug Allen is the Manager of Clinical Quality and Education at AdventHealth and he thinks youth sports are a great way for kids to build strength, coordination and agility, plus the exercise can help improve their cardiovascular fitness. Beyond the physical benefits, kids who participate in sports often build lasting friendships and have increased self-esteem. “When you feel good, you can have clear focus and a better outlook on yourself,” Allen says, adding, “Kids in sports are also getting experience with authority figures who aren’t their parents and learning about discipline, all while getting exercise that’s fun.”
These skills and behaviors kids start to learn through sports at a young age can carry through to help mold their future, whether sports remain a part of their life or not.
Going Beyond Title IX
Most collegiate athletes don’t make a career out of their sport. This is especially true for women, as there are fewer leagues and opportunities. Even if a female athlete has a strong college career, she may have trouble after graduation.
“Title IX [which prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex in any education program or activity that is federally funded] has done so much to help level the playing field in college athletics,” Bonner explained. “But the culture of equality in college can often be different than in the business world. Wages and management opportunities may not be equal. Especially in sports, it’s just been the culture for so long.”
But Bonner is proof that with hard work, support and role models, you can achieve your goals.
“I’ve had such great experiences being around amazing women. I played for a Hall of Fame coach, Tara VanDerveer, at Stanford. I was surrounded by strong women at Boston University. The staffs were awesome. And I saw that I wanted to do the exact same thing, only my path led me to the NBA and the opportunity to serve the game at its highest level.”
No Half Stepping
Growing up with two brothers, Bonner developed a strong and competitive spirit. Her mantra became “no half stepping,” meaning give 100% to everything you do in life.
“Whatever it is you want to do — play basketball, play soccer, dance, drama — there is no half stepping. When you decide you want to do something, put your heart and soul into it. Work hard at being a student of the game of basketball or whatever your passion is. Immerse yourself. Compete, give it your all. You can have a balanced life and other interests, but when it’s time, focus on the thing you set your heart on. You give it your all, and usually, everything will take care of itself.”
AdventHealth Teams Up With the Magic
The Orlando Magic takes great pride in their involvement in Central Florida youth sports. Through free basketball camps and clinics, the Magic reach thousands of kids every year — and Bonner knows the great impact that can have on a child.
“I was one of those kids that benefited from these clinics. Even when it’s just a few hours, the impact it can have on a kid is immense. The experiences I had meant so much to me, looking back at them as an adult.”
Bonner is proud to be part of an organization that connects with the community.
“Our Magic family sees giving back to the community as part of their value system. So we are really fortunate to have them put their money where their mouth is, so to speak, and they live by these mantras themselves.”
It’s this shared community dedication that forms the basis of the bond between AdventHealth and the Orlando Magic.
“Both sides see it’s more than wins and losses,” says Bonner. “They see the importance of giving back to the community and mentoring youth teams for the next generation of players to continue this dedication to public service.”
Learn more about our exciting partnership with the Magic here.