For most WNBA players, there is no "offseason." For the majority of us, the end of our season signals the start of another season overseas. Many times, we only have time to pack our bags and say hurried goodbyes to our friends and family before catching the first flight out of the country. Basketball has allowed me to travel the world and visit amazing places. I have played all over the world -- Russia, Turkey, Lithuania, China... the list goes on. But this year is different for me. This offseason, I decided to stay in Atlanta.
Since I arrived in Atlanta via trade in April for training camp, it's been a whirlwind. Spending the offseason in my new city has been really great. I am doing a lot of work on behalf of the team -- getting out in the community, attending business meetings, even getting on the phone and selling tickets!
It's been a great learning experience for me. I know that I won't be able to play professional basketball forever and I want to be prepared when that day comes. Learning the business and establishing connections and relationships in Atlanta is important to me. The city has been so welcoming to me and this is a chance for me to pay it back.
When I talk to young girls, I think back to when I was 12 years old and I had just moved to Texas from Alabama. My dad took me to a Houston Comets game and that was it. I told him right then that I wanted to play in the WNBA. I wasn't any good at basketball at that time and I had no idea the level of hard work and sacrifices that were in my future. I just saw strong women like Sheryl Swoopes, Cynthia Cooper and my favorite, Kim Perrot, doing what they loved. It was their energy, passion and personality that inspired me, and now I am in their shoes. It's humbling to see how I can impact someone else's life.
This time of year is a reminder for me of how lucky I am to be living my dream. This week, I visited Children's Healthcare of Atlanta. One of the patients I spoke with has been fighting leukemia since her junior year of high school and just underwent a bone marrow transplant. Before she got sick, her goal was to be a professional basketball player and she loves the Atlanta Dream. Talking to her really put things in perspective. Here is someone who looks up to me because of what I do on the court, but she is really the true hero. I admire her because she is far more courageous and stronger than any of us! It was great to meet her. She is going back to college this summer where she is majoring in sport management.
There are so many moments just within the last few weeks, where I take a step back and reflect. It's not always such a courageous story. Some are little moments -- finding common ground with a high school player who just tore her ACL; giving the pre-game speech to a local girls team that was in the midst of a 30-game losing streak (they got their first win that night!) or taking an hour out of my day to volunteer at a local women's shelter. In all those places, I see bits of hope and a lot of heart and fight.
I'm fortunate to be in a position where sometimes I can give that person a little extra motivation or encouragement that will hopefully inspire them to fulfill their dreams. But you don't have to be a professional athlete to help give someone a hand up or brighten their day. As we head into the holidays, we often forget about what the season is really about. Between coordinating family visits and doing our last minute shopping, sometimes we overlook the things that are really important. That's why I encourage every person to take the time out of their day this week to give back and help someone who is in need. You never know the impact you could have on their life.