SYLVIA HATCHELL

My key to success (in sports and fighting cancer): The Mental Aspect is Major.

“Basketball has been my life. Along with my family and my faith, coaching is what I do. I’ve been at it for over 40 years — with most of my career as Head Coach of UNC Chapel Hill Women’s Basketball. Coaching is who I am.”

“I've been doing this work long enough to know that the mental aspect is major. Success is about a mentality that you choose to have. You make a decision. My teams have mostly decided to be winners. But one night I had a dream. I was sitting in the stands watching my team play. I wondered: why would I be doing that?”

“I hadn’t been feeling right. And then, I got the call, from the UNC Lineberger Cancer Center. I had acute myeloid leukemia. The doctors told me that it was treatable and curable, but that I needed to stop coaching and start chemo immediately. I thought I had perspective. I thought I handled pressure well, thought I had my priorities in order. But you don’t realize how much something is part of you, how much you love it and have a passion for it, until it’s taken away from you.”

“There are times when you've just got to make a decision -- Am I going to be strong through this, because that's all I have right now?”


“Success is about a mentality that you choose to have. You make a decision… You decide to be a winner.”


“When my hair started falling out, I could've sat there and cried, but we had a party. I had my hairdresser came over and shave it off. I got a Mohawk, then a rat's tail. The doctors painted ‘Go Heels’ on the back of my bald head.”

“I refused to wear a hospital gown. I would never lie in the hospital bed unless I was sleeping. Most days, I'd walk and do strength training. Even when I felt bad I would work out. Every time I exercised, I felt better.”

“So many times, we get so much junk in the way. Distractions and things, and trust me: Cancer filters all of that out. You see much more clearly what really makes a difference.”

“In my fight to live, I had four rounds of chemotherapy, and I missed the entire 2013-14 season. In May of 2014, my doctors pronounced me cancer-free. On November 5, 2014, I coached my first game in over a year — and it was a win for the Tar Heels. I tell you, I felt great. Like a kid on the first day of school.”


Sylvia watching from the sidelines

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