We had the pleasure of talking to Leticia Galarza from Lincoln Heights, Los Angeles, about her love of the game, the limited options for female hoopers post-college, being the first-ever female coach of the Golden State Warriors, and more!
She's doing great work in the bay as the Director of Player Development for California (Berkeley) Women's Basketball. Scroll down to learn from her!
Can you start off by letting the audience know where you're from, and a little about yourself?
My full name is Leticia Galarza, Leti for short. I'm from Lincoln Heights, Los Angeles. I'm one of four kids, second youngest and I have a nephew I adore.
How old are you, and.or what age did you fall in love with basketball?
29 years old. I've had a ball in my hand since I could remember; Grew up playing in the backyard of my grandparents house; hitting buzzer beaters and dropping 30 on a nightly basis. The sound of the chain net is still so clear to me; every time I think of it, I fall in love with the game again. I grew up watching the Lakers, from the NBA Dynasty Series to home games at the Staples Center -- Section 104. Row 5. Seat 4. Show time was my favorite time.
Growing up, what was it like competing with and beating your boy peers?
When I was a kid, it didn't matter. Girl. Boy. Anyone in between. Every win was equally as sweet. It wasn't until I got older did I start to understand the stigma around women in sports. After which, there was a lot more pride in competing and beating the guys. It wasn't about getting validation, it was about proving a point. -- A bucket is a bucket, no matter who they are or where they come from.
At an early age, were you able to see the inequalities between girls and boys sports?
There are limited resources in East LA, so growing up the equipment and facilities were pretty equal. It wasn't until high school did the inequalities become apparent. Then once I got to college, it was even more evident; from accessibility and better facilities to prioritized schedules and lower funding. There is a lot more visibility now surrounding inequality in sport; platforms like social media have been used as tools to bring the disparities to light, showing just how much work needs to be done.
It says you majored in Math at SFSU. Have you always been good with numbers, and were you into player's stats as a kid?
Yes, I have always been a numbers person; I love a good math joke. However, I didn't get into stats until my junior year of college; the head coach at the time was an analytics heavy kind of guy. He built our scouting reports on each player's stats and tendencies. I got to see the game through a whole new lens and from there my courtship with basketball analytics began.
Do you remember going 5/9 from 3PT your senior year against Sonoma State and dropping 21 on them? What was that like?
Ah, I remember that game. There was a big crowd and the energy was palpable. A blast really. From tearing my ACL in high school, losing scholarships, having to go the JC route to walking on and earning a scholarship the following year, that night was more than catching fire from 3. It was a recognition of my journey and what the game is all about.
Can you tell us about your time with Oakland Rise and can you enlighten the audience about why that program exists?
Spent three years with Rise, but unfortunately there has not been a season since the pandemic. Oakland Rise is a part of the WBDA, formally known as WBCBL, a pro association throughout the United States dedicated to give female players the opportunities/exposure to be placed in the league or internationally (not directly associated with the WNBA). The reason a program/league like this exists is because of the limited options for female hoopers post college. There's 12 WNBA teams -- that's 144 players. Talk about limited opportunities. The WNBA is waiving players left and right, they're at a tipping point. There's a loud call for expansion, and I hope they answer.
You're the first ever female coach for the GSW. How did you go about getting that job, what exactly was your role, and how does that make you feel being the first ever female coach?
A core part of my job was using a program called SportsCode, I learned this through T.E.A.M Inc during the pandemic. T.E.A.M Inc builds "programs that intentionally disrupts the sports industry's hiring practices by training a diverse group of tech professionals and supporting them pursue careers in the industry." I went from a student to helping build a scripting curriculum. They saw my potential, invested in me and shared their network. My official title was Assistant Video Coordinator, in addition to being responsible for opponent scout film, I created personnel databases, finalized scouts, and helped implement player development workouts in addition to assisting in practices wherever needed. It was an honor to be the first female coach; As a gay Latina in the NBA, representation was minimal. It was hard at times but most of all, it was a blessing to show all the little girls back in East LA, and everywhere else, that it was possible. The NBA, Warriors included, have a lot of work to do when it comes to diversity and representation, and I hope they embrace it.
What player did you enjoy studying game film with the most, and why?
Each player was assigned a player development coach to go over film. Unfortunately, I did not have one-on-one film sessions with any players. However, I was responsible for putting together databases of player tendencies for each assigned opponent and sent that off to the player development coaches and to Steph. Due to covid protocol and travel restrictions, I only went on a few road games but staying back and hanging out with the recovering/injured players was a good time, Klay especially. I won a game of 'horse' against EP and Klay (mind you it was mid-range only and he wasn't allowed to jump but I'll take the W). It's stories like that I never imagined I'd be able to share. What a dream.
So you moved on from GSW, what are you up to now?
I am the Director of Player Development for California (Berkeley) Women's Basketball; I handle the Analytics, Video Department and assist in Player Development.
I see you participate in "Pick Her Up Ball." What is that and can you still get buckets?
Pick Her Up (PHU) is a 'structured weekly women's pickup basketball organization' in the Bay Area; it is a safe space created by women for women from all backgrounds and all playing experiences to gather, compete, and get buckets. Whether you're queer, straight, trans, non-binary, all female hoopers are welcome. PHU takes up space in a world that disproportionately provides very little and is working to create more space for our community. In terms of getting buckets, God blessed me with a jumper (even Steve Kerr said I have a sweet shot) and I fully intend to use it.
Basketball and Life parallel each other so much and it's beautiful when you can weave together your love for the game with your career. You have certainly done just that and have so much more to leave the sport and positive influence to impact humanity. What's one piece of advice you'd give your younger self?
Couldn't have said that better. It's been a true blessing for my career to merge both my passion for math and my love for the game. I guess one piece of advice I'd give to my younger self is: only you can stop you -- your dreams are not too big regardless of where you come from (although they will require a lot of work) and continue to give glory to God.