Teresa Edwards likes meeting new people, and they respond in kind.
A standout guard on five U.S. Olympic basketball teams, as well as a two-time All-American at Georgia, Edwards visited NBC’s “TODAY” show on March 11. Along with fellow Olympians Scott Hamilton and Shannon Miller, and Paralympian Sarah Will, she was on hand to announce the revival of the U.S. Olympic Hall of Fame.
She cracked a few jokes — “Hey, I’m a Baptist, so I can relate to revival” — posed for selfies and chatted up the crowd so long, her group almost left without her.
“Where are you, Teresa?” Hamilton finally called out. “We’re heading over for coffee, and I’m paying.”
Edwards, whose teams won four gold medals and one bronze, holds the unique distinction of being the youngest gold medalist in women’s basketball (at age 20 in 1984) and the oldest (at age 36 in 2000). She is one of the Women of Team USA being celebrated this week.
A self-described “small-town girl” who splits her time between Manhattan and her hometown of Cairo, Georgia, the 54-year-old is a modern-day Renaissance woman. In demand as a motivational speaker, she also writes; appears at basketball clinics and summer camps; and has coached youngsters throughout the greater New York area, most recently at Manhattan Day School and the AAU level.
“As athletes, after our (competitive) careers end, that’s what we do — we travel, we speak, we motivate, we inspire,” Edwards, who radiates positive energy, said. “I think it’s hard for most of us who have been at that elite level for a long time to do just one thing. Right now, I’m trying to finish my book and keep that going for myself.”
Teresa Edwards competes at the 1990 Goodwill Games on Aug. 6, 1990 in Seattle.
The book, which she may self publish, explores the mindset of elite athletes.
“It’s about what inspires you to be motivated, what it is to be an elite athlete — how our brains work and the motivation that goes behind our thinking,” she explained. “I’m more aware of that now than when I was competing, so I want to share it.”
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Last month Edwards joined the broadcast team at the City University of New York Athletic Conference to provide analysis and color commentary for the CUNYAC Men’s and Women’s Basketball Championships, held at the Hunter College Sportsplex in New York City and streamed worldwide via CUNYAC’s Facebook Live broadcasts.
“I went to lunch one day with Zak Ivkovic, the commissioner of the CUNY Athletic Conference, and he said, ‘Hey, why don’t you join us?’” she said.
Edwards, who was a member of the NBC commentary team at the Olympic Games Beijing 2008, said, “Why not?” and is glad she did.
“When I’m watching a game, a lot is happening before my eyes, and I’m told often in my ear to slow down a little,” she said with a laugh. “But it’s like holding a camera, taking a frame and clicking constantly. I truly enjoy commentating. I love the atmosphere, I love making the game exciting for people, I like helping them see it through my eyes.”
Whatever she’s doing, Edwards loves the energy of her adopted city. She makes her home in Washington Heights, a trendy upper Manhattan neighborhood brimming with fine ethnic cuisine, several museums and universities, and Hudson River views.
“I love the diversity, I love the sincerity of people and how in the smallest nooks of New York, you can have the most genuine neighbors,” Edwards said. “I take the subway, I take the bus. I can find privacy and peace in a crowded place, and that’s amazing to say. (New York) also provides neighborly love; it’s a city that has a personality of its own, and every day it can change.”
Of course, there’s no place like home, and Edwards makes frequent trips to Cairo, to be with her mother, Mildred. While there, she occasionally attends games at her alma mater.
“My four brothers still live in surrounding communities, in Thomasville and near the Florida line,” she said. “I will always be a Georgia Peach.”
There’s still one more job Edwards hopes to add to her resume. She’s coached in the WNBA, and she’s worked with youngsters — now, she’s seeking a college coaching opportunity.
“I think I’m ready for it. I’ve got a lot of experience, I understand the values and philosophy and what it really takes to get young individuals ready for life at the college level,” she said.
Edwards is applying to both men’s and women’s programs, and has sent resumes to several NCAA Division II schools.
“I don’t think it’s prestigious to coach; I think it’s an honor to have the opportunity to coach,” she said. “I’m intrigued with sharing the game, giving back to the game. I’m able to give people a piece of experience for life dribbling a basketball, and it’s really powerful to share that and to teach them how to be as great as they can be.”
Lynn Rutherford is a sportswriter based out of New York. She is a freelance contributor to TeamUSA.org on behalf of Red Line Editorial, Inc.