I recently interviewed Ta’Dajah (Dada) Solomon’s Mom, Tamesha Stewart about Dada’s incredible journey and development as a basketball player. I had the pleasure of coaching Dada during several seasons in East Lansing. I hope you will find her story inspiring. I am particularly hopeful that youth players will read this article and identify with some of the same struggles and use this as inspiration as they work to achieve their goals in sport and more importantly life.
In the Beginning
When my daughter Ta’Dajah Solomon (a.k.a. Dada) was 5-years old, I wanted her to run track, she did for one meet, receiving a medal for the long jump. One meet and her track career was over. At the age of seven, she started playing basketball. We had just moved back to Michigan and she played Lansing Parks and Recreation Basketball. During 3rd grade, we moved to East Lansing and Dada played several sports including soccer, lacrosse, volleyball and tennis. However, basketball is the sport that she seemed to focus on the majority of the time. When basketball season came around, Dada participated in the East Lansing Parks and Recreation basketball program. It was there that she met Coach Jerry Rhead. Dada spent the next several basketball seasons with Coach Rhead and it is with him that she seemed to find a passion for the sport of basketball. She enjoyed playing with her friends, her coach and the game. She learned the basics of basketball and what it was like to be part of a team. Dada continued to play basketball throughout elementary school.
When she entered Middle School, she was still learning and growing on and off the court. She would play basketball outside everyday with my brothers who spent many of their afternoons working with her on her game. 6th grade found her playing for the Michigan Roadrunners travel team and she continued to play with them for several seasons. Before I knew it, she was a freshman at East Lansing High School. Dada tried out for the East Lansing School team and played junior varsity basketball as a freshman. She continued to progress in the sport and did very well over the course of the season. During the summer, she played for another travel team called Mid-Michigan Excel. It was here that she really grew as a player. Her team was extremely competitive and probably more advanced then she was, but she was able to keep up and continued to excel.
Dada was now a Senior in high school and measured 5’ 2” tall. Not all things were as good as they may have seemed. She could always work on getting better at the game but she couldn’t control one thing, her height. She was cut from several advance travel teams because she “just isn’t tall enough”. Dada would tell me she was fine and not upset but as a parent I could tell how hurt she was.
Dada did not let this “perceived” height issue stop her, instead it pushed her to work harder. She focused on her dribbling. She attended basketball camps. She would join in pick-up games at the park with boys who were much taller and stronger.
Dada recalled her 8th grade middle school season when two teams (A & B) were created with the talent distributed across the two teams. Dada was on the A-team, but when a teammate who was injured early in the season, was given the all-clear to return, the decision was made to move Dada to the B-team. Later that night, I received the following e-mail from Dada’s coach:
“I wanted to make sure I let you know how awesome it has been to see Ta’dajah’s development over the course of this year. She took a really hard situation (getting moved to B) and turned it into a positive. I have been really impressed at the way she immediately took on a leadership role on the team and I know that was a huge factor for the elevation of everyone’s play on the team. Many players might have sulked and not attempted to raise their game in that situation but it is a credit to Ta’dajah (and you) that she worked extremely hard to get better every single day and work on being a leader and a facilitator on the team. This was evidenced perfectly on Monday as Ta’dajah played outstanding the whole game and particularly in the last 3 minutes to will her team to victory. She elevated her level of play every single day in practice and during games and she is a better basketball player as a result. As a person that played high school sports, I know that there will be times where a player is not given the fair credit they feel they deserve. It is how a player responds to that that really determines the will and might of a player. I hope Ta’dajah and you can see the positive in all of this going forward. Like I said at the time it happened, it was unfortunate and my mistake for the way it happened but I hope she still looks back at this season fondly.”
This experience was truly a defining moment for her as a person and a basketball player.
During high school she had to deal with juggling a more difficult learning environment as well as the pressure of being the “leader” of her team as a freshman playing for Junior Varsity. She continued to work hard and do the best she could.
Despite all of her hard work, Dada did not make the varsity team the following season. She was frustrated to see many of her teammates and friends make the team mainly because of their height.
In her Junior year, we had to move out of East Lansing to be closer to my job. Dada was now a Portland High School Raider. It wasn’t easy for her to make this transition but she benefited from the smaller setting particularly in the classroom. In 2015, work had us moving again, this time to Nashville, Tennessee.
The transition to another new school was not easy. I had researched the schools and basketball programs. Dada’s new school had a good season the previous year so we felt comfortable that she would be in a good place. Her team had a rough season and not everyone in the basketball community had good things to say about my daughter joining them. Dada was upset too.
The following season, Dada was moved from the shooting guard position to point guard. This move had her playing a whole different game. The biggest factor was that the Coach believed in her and would complement her on her play and the play of the team instead of always focusing on the negative. Dada averaged 12-points a game that season and in one game she scored 21-points. She received All City Team and Honorable Mention All Team awards that season.
Dada has had to deal with so many challenges throughout her basketball career but has accomplished many things as well. At the forefront, she makes sure to focus on her education and her family. She has learned to be a leader. She has made so many amazing friends along her journey.
Dada will be graduating in the class of 2017 from John Overton Comprehensive High School. She has received collegiate scholarship offers from several schools and has narrowed it down to three: (1) Belmont Abbey (D2); (2) Indiana Tech (NAIA) and (3) Martin Methodist.