SEATTLE -- “There is no question, walking into an arena, hearing the sound of the ball hit the court. The smell of fresh popped popcorn. And then the lights go out. There is no exception, every single time I’m overwhelmed by, wow, what a cool work space.
Alisha Valavanis is a driving force behind the Seattle Storm. As CEO and general manager, it’s her job to ensure the team is passing the ball -- from the hard wood to her hardwood corner desk in the front office.
“The scope of work moves, and you’ve got to be able to pivot,” says Valavanis.
One of six kids, she didn’t have to look far for inspiration.
“I grew up a Hoosier, so, they throw you a ball before you can walk. My mother was my first coach and still to this day is someone that I talk to, and we talk about business and we talk about relationship and connection. I always knew that I wanted to be a part of a team. I moved immediately from playing to coaching, stayed in the team space, and then coaching at different levels along the way.
"On the court is so similar to off the court. How can a business thrive? How can you ensure that the team is passing the ball to the people that need it at the right time?” says Valavanis.
Basketball is a contact sport. And it’s the connection that she thrives on.
“The players mean a lot to me. Jewell was my very first draft pick. Obviously, Sue is, you know, the soul of this whole thing,” says Valavanis.
“You know, the WNBA is a growing business and, obviously, we have great basketball on the court, but we’re still trying to get some things done off the court,” says Storm star Sue Bird.
“She’s way more than a GM. She’s a friend. She’s a mentor. She’s a leader,” says Jewell Loyd.
“The incredible thing about leadership is, you don’t have to be in a leadership role to lead. That is not a pre-req,” says Valavanis.
Alisha leads by example. She doesn’t just call the shots, she has the courage to make them, too. It's proof that success is found in the pivots, and the passes and the follow through.
“It’s a noisy world who’s telling you exactly who you should be. But the truth is, we all just need to be exactly who we are. It’s really pretty similar, what it takes to win on the court what it takes to win off the court. At the end of the day, it’s about team. That’s what makes you win,” says Valavanis.
Valavanis says the Seattle Storm’s focus is on families in our region and the opportunity to inspire kids to reach their goals.