Today we’d like to introduce you to Toccara Ross.
Toccara, can you briefly walk us through your story – how you started and how you got to where you are today.
Chicago birthed me; the South Side of Chicago to be exact. Growing up, I shuffled between both Iowa and Illinois regularly; raised by five beautiful black women who rooted me in love, compassion and grace, molding me into the woman I am today. The Midwest will always hold a special place in my heart. It’s where my mother was laid to rest and my family resides, yet home is a place I’ve learned to carry within MYSELF. I moved to LA in 2014 and have lived there ever since. As a Professional Athlete, I’m constantly on the road and away from home, and for most female athletes, that means being abroad most of the year.
I’ve spent the last ten years traveling the world bouncing a ball, living out of two suitcases and experiencing a world many only dreams about. I wouldn’t change anything about my journey one bit. Basketball has been a vessel for me to live my wildest dreams. As a kid, if you asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up – everything aligned with playing basketball. I was the new kid every year, as my family couldn’t stay settled long enough to plant their own roots. Sports allowed me to assimilate in ways that helped ease the unbalanced lifestyle I grew accustomed to. Sports kept me focused and out of trouble, disciplined when I needed it the most. Basketball saved my life in more ways than one.
Up until now, I’ve traveled to over 60 countries and mouthed over ten native tongues. It’s an honor to have prayed on foreign soil, a privilege to have seen the moon in a different time zone other than my own, to breathe air, taste rain and wander on indigenous lands. It’s there where I learned some of my greatest lessons of life and realized basketball is not life but merely a tool that has awakened who I am truly meant to be.
Today I find myself navigating avenues I never knew I could. Mentally I find myself earning my fourth academic degree; challenging my intellect in unimaginable ways. You see, my mother never graduated high school; she became a mother sooner than expected. Every time I reach an academic milestone; I take her with me. In spirit, I hope she celebrates these moments as if they were her own. As I wrap up my 10th season as a Professional Athlete, being good to my body is a priority. I’ve grown to love this body of mine, not because I am an athlete and taking care of my body is my actual job but because she has been through so much. While she is strong and resilient; she is also broken and tired. I suppose all of the women in me are tired on any given day pending its daily excursions, therefore treating it the right way must take priority. Spiritually, I never knew this journey as an Athlete, Black woman, Queer person and human could be so challenging. Coming home to myself and the INNER work that it takes is one of the most humbling experiences of my life. Where I am today having faced so much adversity my faith is a testament of my truth and understanding of everything happens as it should.
It’s only fitting that alongside playing the game I love, I have been able to open parts of myself I never knew existed. This has allowed me to create a better life for myself. I currently teach others how to document their legacy through traditional publishing. Writing books is something I have always wanted to do and I can finally say that I am currently writing my own. It’s been a gift to not only be able to share my journey with other aspiring athletes but also mentor and speak to our youth about the role athletics can play in their lives and how to use this vehicle to overcome huge obstacles in their lives. Using my platform as an athlete has also allowed me an even bigger stage to advocate for not only the sport but LGBTQ youth and fellow athletes. I’m currently a Pro Ambassador for Athlete Ally, an organization that educates and advocates for the LGBTQ athletic community. A force behind ending homophobia and transphobia in sport which empowers athletes like myself to mobilize in order to advance LGBTQ civil rights and use our voice in opposition to laws and policies that discriminate against the LGBTQ community.
Today I stand in my truth, continually pushing myself and setting much-needed boundaries. This has afforded me with many opportunities lately to use my agency and voice to share my story on healing, moving forward, the cultural impact of rape and the power of self-truth after sexual assault.
I am more than an athlete. I am a human. I am a healer. I am a survivor.
We’re always bombarded by how great it is to pursue your passion, etc – but we’ve spoken with enough people to know that it’s not always easy. Overall, would you say things have been easy for you?
Every time I tell someone I’m a professional athlete; they think it’s the coolest thing in the world! I mean yes – it’s pretty fantastic to be traveling the world doing what I love. I am extremely grateful! What people don’t see is the countless amount of hours I spend in the gym and with my trainers. I am an athlete 24 hours a day. There are no days off –REALLY! You are constantly thinking about your body, your meals, how much rest you need and how to maintain your fitness.
As you get older, how you recover becomes a priority as well. Your longevity in this sport is dependent on your offseason grind and your recovery. Can you stay healthy?
I’m extremely grateful that even after ten years and four knee surgeries, I can still play this game at a very high level. This isn’t the case for everyone.
In other scenarios – you could find yourself on a team that doesn’t pay. In most cases we are paid monthly. I have been on teams that have promised to pay and it just never comes. Navigating through that can be tricky if you don’t have the right Agent.
We’d love to hear more about your work and what you are currently focused on. What else should we know?
I am currently a Forward playing summer basketball in Cranbourne, Australia for the Casey Cavaliers. I have spent the last two years playing in France. I had the privilege of spending the last eight months in Paris.
When I’m not on the court, I’m teaching others how to document their legacy. As a Publishing Consultant, I teach people from all walks of life how to document and self publish their stories.
So, what’s next? Any big plans?
I’ve spent the last few years documenting everyone else journey; I am excited to finally document my own.
Basketball has been such a rewarding experience for me. I have given this game so much of my life. As I celebrate ten years – I am in awe of how far I’ve come. I did not get here on my own; and I owe it to the people who have mentored and loved on me so fiercely to document my journey. Including them amongst that story will be the ultimate thank you.
The sport has also allowed me to develop good platform and with that platform, I am curating a brand that will allow me to engage better with young athletes.
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