Rhonda Windham's experience in the 1983 Festival at Colorado Springs will always play a major role on her outlook on life.
That summer Windham was coming off an outstanding freshman season at USC, which she helped lead to its first NCAA women's basketball championship. She was regarded as one of the best point guards in the nation, but her career took a different twist at the Festival when she suffered a severe right knee injury while playing for the West.
Total reconstruction surgery was required, and the 5-foot-5 Windham missed her entire redshirt sophomore season and USC's second consecutive NCAA title. It took 14 months before she was able to run again.
Still, Windham's view of the Festival is positive. She credits her injury and her treatment at the Festival for helping her with life outside basketball.
"I was only 18, and I did not really understand the importance to play in the Sports Festival when I played," Windham said. "I had tried out for the Pan-Am team, and when I didn't make the National team, I looked at the Festival team as a disappointment.
"But, that all changed once I got involved. I realized that the Festival is a steppingstone to further your career within the ABAUSA (Amateur Basketball Assn. of the U.S.A.). I have nothing but positive feelings about it."
Windham recovered to play again for the Trojans, and in her senior year she was named the Frances Pomeroy Naismith Award winner for players shorter than 5-6.
Windham's career since has prospered. She is in her second year as assistant public relations director at the Forum.
"The injury was a blessing in disguise for me," Windham said. "I try to make a negative situation into something positive at all times. I went back to school and got good grades and learned how to network. The injury just reinforced my belief that anything is possible, but it takes hard work and a good mental state."