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Monday, December 29, 2003
From player to coach
Kayla Burt waxed poetically about her teammates the other day - extolling their progress, noting their improvements and detailing the joy she gets helping them from Point A to Point AA, as in the NCAA women's tournament.
Told that she even sounded like a coach, Burt shrugged and smiled.
"Everybody says that," she said. "I guess June (Daugherty) is rubbing off on me."
To call Burt's 2003 eventful would be an injustice to her well-chronicled tale of inspiration. Long story short: The Washington guard nearly died from a rare heart condition on New Year's Eve, five teammates and doctors saved her life, her basketball career ended, and her coaching and philanthropic careers began.
There were feature articles in major newspapers, appearances on "Good Morning America," "Inside Edition" and "Connie Chung Tonight." There were hundreds of letters, dozens of donations and at least one request per day from someone who wanted something - anything - from Kayla Burt.
"It's been a good year," she said the other day. "I've been through it all. But I'm alive, and that's the most important thing."
Burt then shifted into coach-speak, saying her emotions ranged "from top to bottom," her year has been "filled with adversity," and her recovery was "a nice way to bounce back."
She has settled quite naturally into her student-assistant role, setting up practice, preparing the team for road trips and acting out her captaincy. Burt is considering a career in coaching, but she isn't sold on it, despite her newfound fondness for the coaching language.
She spends the rest of her time going to classes, speaking to different groups and raising money for the American Heart Association. She laughs when she sees herself on television repeating words she's said hundreds of times before.
But deep down, coach Burt knows those words can make a difference. So like any good coach, she repeats them until they stick.
"It feels like I've shared my story so many times, but you can't change a story like mine," Burt said. "Sharing it actually helps me to cope. I know that through my words, others can realize how important life is. That's my goal, that's my focus - inspiring other people."
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