INDIANA — Every child has one big dream job that gives them something to work toward, and for Harlem Globetrotters rookie Ariel "Mighty" Mitchell, her dream is coming true this week as her first season as a professional basketball player kicks off, including a trip to Indiana's Kovalchick Complex tonight.
Mighty said that for her, it's always been a dream to play professionally, but she's also pleased to have the opportunity to change lives and inspire young girls, as well.
"I played in all the leagues with guys when I was seven; I played on a full scholarship; and I've always had a dream to play professionally," she said. "And now, I have that opportunity. I get the best of both worlds, too. We don't just play basketball, but we do a million other things to touch kids around the world."
This season, Mighty and fellow rookie Tammy "T-Time" Brawner become the 10th and 11th women to don the coveted, colorful uniforms. Joining third-year player Fatima "TNT" Maddox, Mighty and T-Time represent the first lady GlobeTrotters since 1993.
"There are three women on the roster now, and I think it's great that they brought the women back, because it helps us reach out to the little girls who see us playing with the guys," she said.
Mighty also added that it's not just the youngest women in the crowd that the Globetrotters are reaching out to.
"This year, we'll be doing a breast cancer promotion, so it'll also be reaching out to the (adult) women in the crowd," Mighty said. "We're doing pink promotions to give some of the money we raise to the Susan G. Komen Foundation. I'm always proud to promote that."
While she had yet to take the court as a Globetrotter prior to this week, Mighty has been a part of the touring program to educate children on the very present problem of bullying.
"Our anti-bullying program shows that being a Globetrotter is about so much more than just playing basketball," Mighty said. "Action, Bravery, Compassion is our slogan, and we tour the United States and internationally teaching kids great ways to prevent bullying and to help them know what to do if they are bullied. Bullying is a very real problem, and it's taken to a whole new level with the Internet."
As a rookie, Mighty has limited experience on the court in the red, white and blue uniforms, but her work with the anti-bullying program has been beneficial. Now, she's ready to show the world what she's made of on the court.
"Being a rookie, it's my first season," she said. "We started in September, and I haven't been to many places yet. But I've been to the schools. Dec. 26 (was) my first time performing, and I'm really excited to show the fans what Mighty is all about."
Every Globetrotter is known by their own nickname, earned by making it through his or her initial training camp, and Mighty's nickname was no different.
"After training camp, which lasts for about two weeks, the players gave me my nickname because I play way bigger than I am. I play really big, and they also say I have a 'mighty sweet' jump shot," she said.
The surprise about Mighty's nickname, which implies one of great size, is that as a guard listed at 5-6, she's more well-known for her jump shot than she is her inside prowess. In fact, Mighty was recruited as a sharp shooter by the team.
"I'm known as a sharp shooter, so that's definitely my specialty," she said. "I also have some good dribbling skills, but shooting is what I'm known most for. There are different classifications that we're recruited by, including high-flying dunkers, dribblers, shooters or tricksters. You're recruited for a certain thing, but you try to develop all the skills you can."
Mighty grew up playing basketball, and while she said she's made it a career, her main goal is to teach youngsters that they can achieve whatever they set their minds to.
"I always had a dream to be successful, and I was always inspired by basketball, so I used it to motivate me through college," she said. "When I finished there, I wasn't ready to be done. I want to show girls that women these days can succeed in sports. Anything is possible; no dream is too big; believe in yourself, and you can do anything."
Mighty gave a large portion of the credit to the mentors she had growing up, starting right within her own household.
"My parents and family have always been there for me," she said. "They've always been a blessing to have."
Her influences didn't stop with her family, though, as she had many good coaches growing up, from the high school level with head coach Amy Blanchard at St. James High School in St. James, La. From there, Kiki Barnes at Dillard, where she played her college ball.
"My coaches have instilled a lot in me on how to be a good basketball player, but also a better person, which is a huge part of being a Globetrotter," she said.
To Mighty, playing basketball for a living is great, but being a Globetrotter means so much more.
"It's like being a role model," she said. "I've always kept myself in a proper manner because kids look up to you. That's what makes us so good for doing the bullying program and others like it. The kids love the Globetrotters, and they tend to listen to the things the Globetrotters say. So, I love being a Globetrotter, and it's nice to have that influence."
Another crowd that Mighty hopes to reach is the already-participating high school athletes, and she has a special message for those athletes.
"I would tell the high school athletes to always remember that school comes first," she said. "Without grades, you can't get through it. You're a scholar first and an athlete second. Stay focused on school and stay motivated, and the rest falls into place. Never let anyone discourage you, and always stay focused on your main goal in life."
For more information on the Globetrotters or tonight's game, which tips off at 7 p.m. at the Kovalchick Complex at IUP in Indiana, visit the Globetrotters website — www.harlemglobetrotters.com. Items for the breast cancer campaign and other memorabilia are also available on the site.