Everybody has a dream. And dreams can become reality.

Tanya Crevier’s dream to be a professional basketball player began when she was twelve years old. Many people told Tanya that her dream of playing professional basketball was impossible—she was too short, and her school didn’t even have a girl’s basketball program! But obstacles and criticisms didn’t slow her down. They only fueled the passion within. She was determined to reach this dream and be the best basketball player she could be at every level of the game. She spent thousands of hours pursuing this dream by developing her dribbling, passing, and shooting skills.

Tanya’s determination paid off, as she reached her dream and enjoyed a successful college career at South Dakota State University in four sports before playing three years of women’s professional basketball.

Upon retiring from her professional competitive career, Tanya created the unique and inspiring, “Enthusiastic Spintacular” basketball-handling show. Recognized as one of the top basketball-handlers in the world, Tanya travels extensively, delighting and motivating crowds with her incredible skills and inspiring story. Her electric personality, gleaming smile, and amazing talents bring joy, hope, and encouragement to thousands.

I am one of the many who have been touched by the skills and heart of Tanya Crevier. I first met Tanya a little over a year ago when the two of us were paired as platform guests at a Bill Glass “Behind the Walls” prison event. Our common goal was to encourage the hearts of inmates with the love of Christ. I am quite sure that I was more encouraged than anyone. I returned home to my family inspired, challenged, and dreaming of ways that I could use my own story, passions, and talents to impact even more lives.

Since then, I’ve ministered with Tanya several times. Each time, her enthusiasm and love for the Lord stir me to greater things. Recently, Tanya and I took a moment out of our busy schedules to talk about her passion for basketball, prisoners, youth, and how the sport she loves has enabled her to travel the world and glorify God.

Here are some excerpts from our conversation. I trust they will stir your heart to greatness, no matter where you are, and give you the inspiration and courage you need to take steps toward your dream .

KOJ:Tanya, I remember the first time I met you. We walked together to the prison yard. You didn’t know it, but I was watching your every move, observing how you interacted with inmates, prison staff, and volunteers. I wanted to learn from you and the other ministry leaders God had placed in my life. What I witnessed was incredible. Every step you took left an impression of love, humility, and excellence. You made every person feel as though he or she were the most important person in the world…including me.

I remember one elderly inmate who was in a wheelchair. You stopped, looked him straight in the eye, and gave him 100 percent of your attention. It was a perfect picture of what Jesus would have done. Then you took his hand, isolated his index finger, and placed a spinning basketball on it. I’ll never forget the beautiful toothless smile that spread across his face and the sparkle that appeared in his eyes. Through you, God reminded me that He can use simple things to touch hearts in powerful ways.

TC:You’re right. God can use anything to touch people with His love. That includes a basketball or, in your case, a water ski! People think they have to have some big ministry to reach people, but the truth is, they only have to be willing to use their passions for God’s glory.

When I shared my time, a genuine smile, and a spinning basketball with that elderly man, I was able to connect with his heart and make a deposit of joy. Holding that spinning basketball was healing for him. Proverbs 17:22 says, “A merry heart does good, like medicine, but a broken spirit dries the bones” (NKJV). When I go into prisons with a basketball in hand, I am bringing a dose of medicine to heal the brokenhearted.

Everyone has special abilities and unique passions that God can use. I have a gift in basketball. But you know what? Even a smile is a gift. It can light up a room and bring joy to the darkest of places. A word of encouragement is a gift. Proverbs 25:11 tells us that a word timely spoken is like apples of gold in settings of silver! Our responsibility as individuals is to discover our gifts and share them with others so God can draw all men and women to Himself.

KOJ:So how did you discover that your gift was basketball?

TC:Growing upwith eleven siblings and parents who valued a strong work ethic, I was surrounded by people of excellence. Seeing the talents of my brothers and sisters made me want to be excellent at something too. Since I wasn’t musical like my sister and I couldn’t play football like my brothers, I sought to find my own thing. One day, my brothers came home from college and told me about a man named George Schauer who could perform all sorts of tricks and spins with a basketball. It was then I knew that basketball was the sport for me.

From then on, I wanted to be the best basketball player I could be. I had a dream to play professional basketball. Knowing that my dream wouldn’t just happen, I began to work toward it.

KOJ:I’m assuming the first step was to join your school’s team?

TC:No (laughing). At that time, our school didn’t have a girl’s basketball program. I had to motivate myself to reach my goal; I had to get creative. That included running sprints with my brothers, finding coaches who would help me, and playing in pick-up games. At five-foot-three, I had to work extra hard to make up for my height. Anything I could do to become stronger, quicker, and more efficient in my ball handling, I did it.

KOJ:You are obviously passionate about basketball. But I know there had to be disappointments along the way. Did your dream ever seem out of reach? Did you ever think about quitting?

TC:For me, it is always about being the best I can be, not about being perfect. It is about learning something new every step of the way. I had disappointments, sure. But most of my lessons came from my failures. Failure taught me how to do things differently so that I could achieve success. A lot of people give up on their dreams because of their failures; they don’t realize that those failures can help them achieve their goals.

KOJ:Obviously you were a great student of both the victories and the defeats. Because you pressed on through the hard stuff, you ultimately reached the highest level of basketball, and you’ve been inducted into several sports halls of fame. Yet even now, three decades later, you continue to press on to greatness. Haven’t you achieved all that you set out to do?

TC:My ultimate goal is to be the best I can be. Even now, I have a burning desire for excellence. I know there are still tricks I can learn and skills that I can master. And because I know there’s an eternal purpose to what I am doing, I keep pressing on.

Basketball isn’t just about me. It’s for God. It’s for His people. I want to use my gift of basketball to impact lives in a powerful way for Christ. I want to be the best I can be so that my show creates a better and bigger platform for me to share the hope that is within me.

This motivates me to keep practicing and learning new tricks.  Not to mention trying to keep up with my brother, Bruce! We’re always pushing one another and sharing ideas to come up with new tricks for our shows.

KOJ:I’ve seen your show—it’s excellent.

TC:Thank you. Whether I’m performing for a half-time show or on the yard in a maximum-security prison, I have one goal in mind: to give a show of excellence. Prisoners often get second-rate stuff. I have determined in my heart never to give less than my best. People are drawn to excellence, so I know that if I give an excellent show, they will be drawn to an excellent God. God gave His best for me. How can I do anything less?

KOJ:Your basketball talents are for God? Tell me more about that.

TC:It took me along time to figure that out. For many years, basketball was my life. It was my identity; something that I did for others and myself. I was Tanya-the-Basketball-Player. The problem with this was that my self-worth and security came from my performance. When I played great, I felt great. But when I had a bad game, I felt terrible about myself. I was on an emotional roller-coaster ride.

In college, people started telling me about Jesus and how my identity, purpose, and security could come from Him. At first, I couldn’t understand why I would need a personal relationship with Jesus. I was good at sports; I was successful and happy; I had a great life and awesome friends. I even attended church regularly. In my opinion, I was just fine. But there were still these nagging questions in the back of my mind. Who was I? Was I anything more than just a basketball player? Could there be any purpose in all of these basketball tricks and drills?

At the same time, several of my siblings became believers. I couldn’t help but notice how their lives were transformed. They had peace and joy, and they were courageous about sharing their faith. It was almost as if I could run no further. I wanted to know more. I wanted what they had, and I wanted to have purpose beyond basketball. My brother, Marc, sat me down and explained the good news of Jesus Christ. I surrendered and accepted God’s gift of salvation and began walking out my faith in my daily life.

At first I didn’t know how I could serve God. Was I supposed to give up basketball and become a missionary or serve in the church? But then I realized that my skills in basketball were a gift from God; therefore, I could use them for Him. That’s when basketball took on a whole new purpose. Suddenly, every practice session, every performance, every interaction with people had an eternal purpose. Each event was an opportunity to glorify God and lead people to Him. I’m just awed that God gave me a ministry to people doing the very thing I love.

KOJ:I can tell you love it.You’re always so pumped up, whether it’s first thing in the morning or after a full day of ministering. Do you ever get down or tired of ministering all the time?

TC:There are times when all the traveling gets to me. I’m human. But I never get tired of ministering to others, so I love what I do. I love bringing joy and encouragement to people’s hearts. It’s worth every sacrifice. When I grow weary, I remember that basketball isn’t about me. It’s bigger than me. It’s about God. There is real eternal significance in what I do. That keeps me moving every time!

When I do find myself discouraged by life’s challenges, I look up and I look out. By this I mean, I look to God. He is my source of strength. And then I look for others to minister to. When I focus on loving other people and ministering to their hearts, it’s impossible for me to stay discouraged. Serving others lifts me up. It will lift anyone up. We don’t have to look too far to find someone who needs help more than we do.

KOJ:Your schedule’s posted on your website. Wow! You are a busy woman! How do you stay strong spiritually in the midst of all your travels and show commitments?

TC:I do travel a lot. But no matter where I am, I look for God. I stay in tune with Him and listen for His voice. Whenever I can, even if it’s on a plane or in a taxicab, I get His Word in me. I quiet my mind as the world carries on around me so I can hear Him. Sometimes I’m only able to read a verse or two, but no matter how much or little, God never fails to show me something beautiful that I can apply to my life. I call these my spiritual nuggets—God’s wisdom that can be applied to me.

For example, today I read Luke 1:30–31, the account of the angel appearing to Mary. “Don’t be afraid, Mary,” the angel told her. “You’ve found favor with God! You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you will name him Jesus.” When I read those verses, I felt the Lord telling me not to be afraid, that I, too, have found favor with God. In response, I asked Him to help me courageously birth whatever He has conceived within me. I promised that I will allow it to grow and will carry it to full term, no matter the cost, so that it can touch the world.

KOJ:Why do you think so many people fail to birth the things of God? To carry to full term the dreams and calling God has placed within them?

TC:Many reasons. One is fear. People fear being rejected or ridiculed by others. They fear failure. But many times, people just don’t believe they can achieve their dreams. They only see the roadblocks—perhaps they lack experience or resources. Because of that, they never start taking steps toward a goal. They look at the big picture and think, “It’s too difficult and will take too long to get there,” and they stay put. The simple truth is this: You can’t achieve something you never start.

KOJ:Tanya, there are people reading this article right now, perhaps sitting in a prison cell, a hospital room, or even at their kitchen table, who feel there is no way their God-given dreams could ever be birthed. What would you say to them?

TC:I would say,success is a combination of baby steps. No matter where you are, you can take a baby step toward a goal. You don’t have to be great at something to start, but you do have to start to be great. So start!

I often ask myself, “What can I do today to move toward tomorrow’s goal?” Then, I do it. That’s my advice to everyone. Start right now, right where you are, doing what you can today, with what you have.

God places our dreams within us. If we’re willing to lay aside our fears, insecurities, and excuses and step out with God, nothing can stop those dreams from becoming reality. It doesn’t matter where you are or how talented you are. All God is looking for is someone who will start. He’ll bring the answers and opportunities.

KOJ:That’s great advice. Having chased my own dreams, I’ve found that surrounding myself with other champions was helpful too.

TC:All around us are dream makers and dream breakers. We have to surround ourselves with people who will encourage us, hold us accountable, pick us up when we fall, and spur us on to victory.

KOJ:Tanya, that is exactly what you do, for me and for thousands of others around the world. Thank you for being yourself and for giving of yourself. You inspire us all to dream big and never give up.

TC:Thank you for the opportunity to share my heart. You know, as I think back to the beginning of our article, I am just amazed. I never knew you were watching me as I was interacting with the inmates. I was just being myself and loving on people as I went through the prison yard—and to think I impacted you. Wow! It just goes to show that you never know whose life you can change and where you can have an impact. To God be the glory!

Interview with Tanya Crevier by Kristi Overton Johnson

Photo by dan carlson