Kendall Hackney wasn’t nervous about messing up the words to the national anthem for one reason.
She’s an athlete.
“I’ve heard it so much I feel like it’s impossible to forget,” she says.
That’s why, rather than standing with her teammates for the national anthem at the women’s basketball game against Minnesota at Welsh-Ryan arena, the Communication sophomore took the microphone at center court.
Christina Aguilera flubbed the anthem in front of millions at the Super Bowl. Hackney sang it perfectly in front of hundreds at a women’s basketball game. Why?
“Being a basketball player, we hear the national anthem about three times more than the average American.”
Before every game, athletes stand with their hands over their hearts, absorbing the lyrics to our nations song. Like the mother who plays Baby Einstein audio recordings in her child’s sleep, athletes learn lyrics through repetition. So, Aaron Rodgers should have sang the national anthem at the Super Bowl. Problem solved.
Hackney is a shower superstar and she isn’t afraid to admit it. With the locker room as her stage and the rest of the team as backup, Hackney sings before practices, after practices and after games (“the ones that we win of course”).
“We sing all the classics in the locker room,” Hackney says. “’Ain’t No Mountain High Enough,’ Whitney Houston; whenever one of us starts to sing the rest of the team just joins in.”
In the culture of shower singing, most dreams flow down the drain with the soap, but that’s where Hackney’s teammates discovered she had real talent. That talent moved Hackney’s singing out of the locker room, down the hall and onto center court in Welsh-Ryan.
“When I started singing the national anthem, I just thought, this is my team, I play here,” she says. “Basketball is harder than singing so I was like, this shouldn’t be a big deal.”
Singing doesn’t make Hackney sore or box her out in the paint. Singing doesn’t scream at her when she’s trying to make free throws on the road. Singing doesn’t try to post her up. For Hackney, singing is easier because it isn’t physical. Then again, basketball never goes out of tune.
After the game, Coach Joe McKeown praised Hackney’s singing performance, suggesting she audition for American Idol. With her 20 points in this 62-55 victory against Minnesota, he might want to reconsider if she decides to take her talents to Hollywood. Still, McKeown might not be far off the mark with his push to let Hackney sing proffesionally.
As a communication major with a music concentration, Hackney admits that she would love to sing for a living after graduation.
“I love musical theatre and I performed in high school,” she says.
Hackney had a leading role in two plays before playing basketball in college. Her schedule as a Division I-A athlete hardly leaves room for the casual musical on the side; however, as basketball winds down in the spring, Hackney hopes she can find time to make a transition from the hardwood to the stage to perform in a musical at Northwestern.
For the next month, any thoughts of Broadway will be pushed to the side as the ‘Cats try to muster a post-season run in the Big Ten tournament next week.
Hackney is not a multi-million dollar recording artist; she’s an athlete.
An athlete who sings in the shower and doesn’t forget the lyrics. Take that, Christina Aguilera.