Morgan Pressel is a professional golf player. At age 18, she became the youngest-ever winner of a LPGA major championship when she won the 2007 Kraft Nabisco Championship (now known as the ANA Inspiration). Earlier in her career, she became the youngest player to ever qualify for the U.S. Women’s Open as a 12-year-old. She has five professional wins and a career-high ranking of fourth in the world. 

Pressel spoke to Just Women’s Sports about her partnership with Wasserman and Orreco, which seeks to provide information on the impact of menstrual cycles on athletic performance. 

(To read an overview of the partnership, click here.) 

I’m sure you first heard about the Orreco partnership from your agent, but I wanted to hear from your perspective how that came about and what was your initial reaction when you heard about it?

For a lot of women, and a lot of female athletes in general, the question of “how can I improve performance by better managing my menstrual cycle” is not something that they think about often. Those words never came out of my mouth before. I was like, Wow! That makes a lot of sense. Why have I never thought of that? I think that women just kind of go about it. They deal with it. It’s a very personal thing in that respect, and not something that’s talked about.

For me personally, I didn’t have any massive debilitating symptoms, but I would know that every month my back would get quite tight and get hard to turn. That’s hard. My timing would go off. I never thought that there would be things that I could actually physically do to help minimize those symptoms and improve my performance. I was very uneducated on it. I think so many women, especially female athletes, are uneducated on what they can do about it.

What is the biggest insight that you’ve learned so far while partnering with Orreco?

The whole idea was so surprising, but it shouldn’t be surprising. It should make 100% sense, but people don’t think about it. It’s understanding exactly what happens in your body through the hormonal changes of your menstrual cycle. And then from there, to be able to understand: Why do we have PMS? What causes that? How do we do our best to mitigate that? For me, a lot of it is eating anti-inflammatory foods. That’s been a really big help for me. I think what’s really great about what Orreco has put together with this FitrWoman app is that it’s all free. Yes, I have worked personally with them to develop a program specifically for me, and it’s still a work in progress every month. But they want to give all women access to this information, which has not been talked about very much before.

Do you think that having more of these conversations would help make discussion about the menstrual cycle’s effect on athletic performance more mainstream? 

Obviously everybody’s different on what they want to talk about, what they want to share, and what they consider to be very personal information. There are parts of the child-bearing process that we like to talk about and some that we don’t. I think the more education that’s out there and the more people are aware of that, especially from the female athletes’ side, the more that can be done to improve your performance around your cycle.

I think it’s going to take time to really get the education out there, because it needs to not be taboo to talk about.

You mentioned eating anti-inflammatory foods around your cycle to help with recovery. Is there anything else in addition to that that you’ve been doing or something that you’ve changed that has directly impacted not only your training, but your recovery as well?

Before I listened to my body, I kind of pushed it away and just kind of pushed through it. But I would say to people—listen to your body more, and take the time when you need it. Make adjustments, because nothing is set in stone. In my career, I’m always traveling to different places, and there’s nothing that is black and white or exactly the same every time. It’s constantly changing and adapting. I have to continually tweak little bits of my preparation.

What does the rest of the year look like for you? In terms of upcoming tournaments and training?

We have about three or four tournaments left for the rest of the year. There will be an off season that’s shorter than usual. Hopefully, next year at some point there will be a little bit more of a return to normalcy. We’re in full training practice mode now. When it comes to the off season, I’ll probably take a little bit of time off especially around the holidays, and then get back to work.

Is there anything else that you wanted to discuss about the Orreco partnership that I didn’t mention?

I think education about it is so important and helpful. It’s really helpful to those who want to be the best, and that’s the majority of female athletes out there. When you’re at the top level, every little bit makes a difference.

Rachel Corsie is a professional soccer player currently playing for Birmingham City FC in the FAWSL while on loan from the Utah Royals in the NWSL. She is also the captain of the Scotland national team.

Are you in lockdown right now? 

Yeah, supposedly, although I would say that it’s fairly loose right now. It’s strange. As footballers, the biggest thing to take from it is that you have a different moral responsibility than the general public. I think there’s a lot of people still bending the rules a little bit. We need to be a little more cautious; If we bend the rules, we’re probably scrutinized more heavily.

I know you said you have to be more careful, but how else does the lockdown impact training and games? Do you have to do more testing or what does that look like?

They have a fairly comprehensive testing regime across the league. You’re tested typically once a week, but that will be increased if you have more than one game a week. It really ensures that people are following the rest of the protocols. I think there’s more work done behind the scenes that we don’t see, because a lot of the clubs now are affiliated with their men’s team, and you need to be careful. With teams overlapping, arriving at the same time using the same facilities, you need to make sure you come in through different entrances and don’t overlap. As players, we probably don’t quite see the full extent of everything being rolled out. I think a lot of work has gone on to make sure that we can continue.

There’s been a few positive tests, but if you think of how many tests have actually been done, there’s been a really low percentage of cases within the game. It’s a privilege to keep on being able to play. Also the wider community, I think, enjoys being able to watch some kind of sport. We’ve grown our audience a bit, because I think people just love watching sports. If there’s live sports on, then they’re going to probably turn it on. I think we need to capitalize on that, but also remember that we have a responsibility to make sure it keeps happening.

That makes sense. You signed with Birmingham City a few months back on loan from Utah. What went into that decision?

I came back [to the US] for the season and we had the Challenge Cup, which was great.

However, at the end of that, I was excited to come home. I’m not someone who’s typically a home person — I’ve played in the U.S. for five and a half years. I’ve lived away from home for 10 years. However, how everything was playing out… the virus and just everyone’s health…. I don’t know, it was just different. So as the Challenge Cup finished, I was looking to spend some time at home. It happened around the same time that they weren’t quite sure how the NWSL was going to use the next couple of months and what game schedules would look like.

What I did know was I was going to have national team games. I was very conscious that I needed to be in an environment that offered competitiveness in both training and game capacity. It was quite clear that while there might be some opportunity for that in the U.S., there wasn’t going to be a lot. I was quite keen to explore options in Europe, particularly in England, because I know a lot of players here and it’s close to home. But it all happened very last minute.

And how has the transition been for the past few months both on and off the field?

Honestly, I hate that whole process. I hate the stress of new loans, new clubs, and change. I’m a real routine person. I know what I like. But on the whole, it’s been pretty smooth. I’m probably fortunate in that I was able to come over quite quickly and find somewhere to stay.

There’s three other Scottish players playing for Birmingham at the moment. So there’s always that little bit of comfort there when you have people who are from the same place that you’re from. I’ve played in youth national teams with Christie Murray, who’s the captain of Birmingham at the moment, since I was 15, 16 years old. When you’ve known someone for almost half your lifetime, then that’s obviously something that can be really comforting.

I think football-wise, I was quite comfortable moving into this environment — knowing the level, the standards, and the type of football that’s played here. I think I was less concerned by that and more apprehensive for the general change in life.

How would you compare the playing style versus the NWSL?

It’s definitely a lot quicker in the U.S. I’m always reluctant to say that, because when you say that people just think, “Oh, the American style is just all about physicality and all about being fast and fit.” I think that’s a disservice to the American style, because I think there’s also some of the most talented technical footballers playing in the NWSL.

I just think that as a whole, the game over there is quicker. Speed of play is definitely quicker. On top of that, in the U.S. you also have the heat in a lot of places. So physically, I think there’s just a much greater challenge in the U.S.

Over here, I think, there’s probably a little bit more analysis done over the tactical side of the game. But again, I don’t want that to sound like it’s not done in the U.S., because there’s certainly a huge component of the game and the NWSL that’s very, very tactical, and there’s teams that are very effective both in possession and out of possession. I just think the biggest difference is that speed of play and the physical demands.

We’ve seen other NWSL players and specifically other Americans going on loan to European teams over the past few months. What do you think that means for FAWSL? 

It’s hard to say. A lot of people look at it and try to generalize: They try to say the league is growing because of it. But I think everyone has gone for different circumstances. I’ve gone for my reasons. It is definitely a reflection that the league is competitive, but I think the league should naturally adopt the fact that it’s growing. I think the growth of the game will come from the continued infrastructure that comes within football and from the FA to make sure that the game grows in the right direction. A lot of things will be impacted more by building a framework that allows the game to grow, instead of just having superstar names.

Do you have any specific personal goals for this season with Birmingham?

I want to come here and perform. I’ve come to a club that is considered one of the smaller clubs, and that puts a different pressure on your game. I’ve enjoyed that. So far, it’s been a really positive experience.

We had a really good month in October and had some great results. That really lifted up everyone. That was just such a powerful message to see and to be part of. In sports, there’s these kinds of moments and roller-coasters — up and downs. I think there’s going to be some of that while I’ll be here, but it’s really powerful to see those big moments with a number of players who are really together and just are so desperate to fight for one another. I just think it’s just a unique kind of challenge.

We’ll have some huge national team games coming up. We had a bit of a, you could say, poor result against Finland last month. I know that we feel disappointed by that, but we have the opportunity to put that right in the next window. We definitely want to qualify for the Euros again. We don’t want it to be a one-off and a different expectation on the group. I think that’s what is expected of Scotland now. The men qualified already and that brought back a lot of emotions. It’s something that just makes you really proud to be Scottish. So that’s another huge goal for the year.

Mel Reid is a professional golfer from England who recently won her first LPGA tour at the 2020 ShopRite LPGA Classic in New Jersey in October. Reid spoke to Just Women’s Sports about what winning this tour meant to her and the lessons she’s learned about perseverance from a career defined by hardship and resilience. 

You just won your first LPGA tour event in October. Congratulations!

Thank you!

Just a month earlier, you had the lead in the final round at an LPGA event in Portland, but it slipped away. How were you able to get over that disappointment and ensure that it didn’t affect you at the ShopRite classic?  

I learned a lot from my experience in Portland. Georgia Hall obviously played amazing to win, but I felt like I let that one kind of slip out of my fingers a little bit. I learned a lot from that experience, though. Going to ShopRite, I felt I was so determined to win that somebody definitely had to play out their boots to beat me.

You were quoted saying the win was a life-changing experience. What about that win was so monumental for you?

It’s hard to win in the LPGA. The women are so talented and so good. Especially in the last four or five years, it’s just been a very difficult thing to do. People try their whole careers and never achieve it. People look at you a bit different and have a different kind of respect for you when you win it. And obviously, opportunities come along with that respect. I like having the bigger platform now that I have my own voice.

I saw that you celebrated like a true champion, filling your trophy with beer. That’s awesome and well deserved. 

Typical Brit celebration, filling it up with beer. It’s all been a little bit of struggle, but ultimately worth it. I got fined for breaking COVID rules, but it was definitely worth every penny. Yeah, I wouldn’t have changed a thing.

I’m sure you would have loved to win a title a little bit sooner in your career, but how much sweeter did it make it given everything you’ve been through?

I mean, that’s the thing, isn’t it? I think a lot of people can relate to me because I have been through so many struggles, on and off the golf course. I think that’s what made it a really cool win for a lot of people. The messages that I received and the overwhelming support from people that I got meant more to me, because I feel people can really relate to the struggles that I’ve been through. Everyone goes through struggles in life. To overcome them is a big feat and it’s tough. That’s why I felt it was such a special win — not just for me, but for everybody else as well. No matter what you go through, you can get over things if you work hard and keep trying to be the best version of yourself.

I think some of the best athletes are those who can overcome adversity, and I imagine it makes winning that much sweeter. Speaking of adversity, we’ve seen a lot of athletes struggle during the pandemic to stay both fit and focused. How were you able to keep up your game during this time? 

I needed that time off. We’re on the go all the time, and we’re constantly traveling. Honestly, it was a blessing in disguise for me, because I think, like a lot of other athletes and especially golfers, I wanted some months where I could work out at home. I wanted to stay in my own bed, be in my apartment and just live a life of normalcy for a little bit. I got to work on things that I wanted to work on. I got to be with my friends and people here that I’ve never been able to do for that amount of time. I actually really enjoyed it.

It seems like your positivity during these tough times has led you to play better overall too. 

It allowed me personally to kind of just — stop. We’re on the go all the time and don’t really switch off. It allowed me to stop and just do things I wanted to do. As athletes, you don’t live a life of normalcy. After you do it for so many years, it is hard. To live a little bit of normalcy and to actually have some sort of home routine is actually really refreshing. So for me, it was a really good thing.

I know you’ve spoken before about how your life kind of fell apart after the passing of your mother. Have you given yourself a moment to step back and reflect after this win and just look at the personal journey you’ve been on since then?

A little bit, yeah. I mean, there’s obviously loads of things that happen in my life where I’ve kind of had to stop and reflect. For me, moving to America, leaving family, going about it on my own, and then winning — it’s the nice thing after all the sacrifice, having to leave everybody, going my own way, believing that my decision was the right decision and going with my instincts. And then the silver lining, winning this tournament. I love those kinds of moments.

Those are definitely times when I’ve stopped to reflect on my journey over these past five, six years ago. I think it’s important to go back and reflect. It’s important to see where you’ve come from, where you are now and who you’ve become: That’s all part of the journey, isn’t it? I think it’s extremely important to do that.

Was there any point in the last few years that you came close to walking away from golf?

Loads of times. This game drives you nuts. It’s a difficult craft, and when things aren’t going well, it’s awful. You just have to stick with the process. I wouldn’t be who I am today if I didn’t have those struggles and those thoughts of quitting. It’s all part of the process.

What motivates you now at this point in your life and your career? I know you mentioned your family and I’m sure your partner and having big wins under your belt.

I want people to look at me and go, “She doesn’t look like the stereotypical girl we see in magazines because she’s got tattoos and she’s a little bit different.”  I want people to feel that they want to take up the game of golf. Whenever I get somebody to say, “Hey, you’re my favorite golf pro” — that, to me, means the world. Whoever wants to take on the game — at any age, any gender, any background — if you want to take up the game of golf one day, do it! I think that would be a pretty cool legacy to leave.

I love that. And I know you have not only inspired people on the golf course but also off of it in your advocacy for LGBTQ+ rights. What does being an advocate mean to you and how did coming out as a gay athlete in 2018 change your view of yourself as a public figure?

I was obviously a little bit nervous about it, but I think it’s the best thing that I’ve ever done. You’re going to get some criticism, but the number of people that message me saying that I helped them — they come from all kinds of backgrounds and all ages. I went to the golf club a couple of days after coming out, and this 75-year-old bloke came up to me and said, “My granddaughter’s gay. And I struggled with it at first, but reading your story has really affected me. And I’m going to change it with her.” I had a bunch of messages saying thank you so much, which really helped me.

I now feel more comfortable in myself. I am who I am and I’m proud of who I am. And everyone should feel the same. No matter what background or what sexuality you are, just be the best version of yourself and be proud of who you are. I think it’s huge for any sport when somebody’s just themselves.

There are a lot of people in the world right now who are having to deal with the loss of a family member or a job. What’s the biggest lesson you have to share about what it takes to persevere through difficult times?

The biggest thing is you never get over certain things — you just learn to deal with it or you learn to live with it. You should use it as inspiration, whether it is becoming a better version of yourself, a better mother, father, son, daughter, or hard worker. You can get through anything. The human mind and the human body are very resilient things. As long as you work on it and you just keep making baby steps forward — no matter how small the steps are, as long as you just keep moving forward — you’ll look back one day and be very proud of where you’ve come from and where you are now. That’s probably the biggest piece of advice I can give.

Caylee Waters is a lacrosse goalie who will suit up to play for Athletes Unlimited Lacrosse in their inaugural season next summer. The new league will feature a unique, player-focused scoring system, with teams being redrafted each week as players compete for individual prizes. Waters is also a member of the US Women’s National Team and was a two-time National Goalie of the Year as a student-athlete at the University of North Carolina.

What originally sold you on the vision of Athletes Unlimited?

What sold me was the opportunity to continue bringing exposure to the game of lacrosse. Lacrosse is a sport I love, no matter what, and this an opportunity for us to grow the game. Even though the other leagues may not have worked out, we still had fan engagement, and people still refer to those leagues as ways to get to know players. After the Women’s Professional Lacrosse League folded, there weren’t any other options out there to play professional lacrosse apart from the U.S. national team, which only happens every four years. I was excited that there is now an opportunity, and having this league as a resource for the sport is what made me excited to hop on board.

What was the recruiting pitch and have you been recruiting other players since joining the roster? 

It hasn’t been my role necessarily to recruit other players. They had reached out to me about a few months ago and pitched this idea on a deck. It was totally a brand new concept, so I sat on it for a bit. They were great about letting me take my time with the process and ask questions.

I heard from softball player Gwen Svekis about her experience with the softball league, and she shared areas in which it was awesome in addition to what they learned they can work on as a league, and as players, to make it better next year. I was glad to hear it wasn’t all “hey, here’s all the great things that it’s going to be,” but that they were honest.

Lacrosse stats aren’t as clean cut as softball’s. What have you heard about what the point system will look like? And what are your overall thoughts on how it will work? 

I’m not too familiar with how it’s going to work specifically with lacrosse. I think they’re still coordinating and ironing out those details regarding the point system. I think it’s going to be an adjustment. It’s different.

Additionally, coming from a background of four years of college lacrosse, where you hear a lot emphasis on a team, this feels like a big mind shift to now focus on your individual stats. But what’s important to note is that although there are individual stats, these individual stats are dependent on other factors. A goal often depends on multiple players. So there is still that team concept, in addition to the fact you get points based on your team’s win. The game is not entirely individualized, which I like.

Another unique aspect of the AU format is how teams are re-drafted each week of the season by whichever players scored the most the week before. Do you have any initial thoughts on how you think that’ll go?

This is very different, so I’m excited to see how it goes. I’m not sure what it’s going to be like.

It’s similar to being back on the playground where you pick teams, and there’s always someone who has to be last, but no one ever wants to be that person. But at the end of the day, we all get the opportunity to play lacrosse.

We know the play will be fast because of the field size and shot clock — what other impacts are you predicting on play?

The game’s going to be a lot faster and it’s going to require people who usually are defenders or attackers to build their skills on the other side of the field because the ball will be moving back and forth so much. That will be fun to see. The game is going to be a lot more engaging given it has less players and smaller space. Each player is more involved than they would be in a bigger field with more people, where sometimes you could not see the ball for a long period of time. I think there will be a lot more involvement all around the field.

Obviously, there’s been a big push to get lacrosse in the Olympics in the near future. How do you think this league will impact that effort? 

Hopefully this inspires lacrosse players around the world. In the WPLL, they took a couple of trips to Japan and played lacrosse with them, in addition to getting a player from Japan involved in the league. Hopefully lacrosse will grow, and people all over the world can see it, aspire to be part of it, aspire to level up their game. And hopefully there being a lot more representation of the sport across the world leads to it being considered for the Olympics.

I know you have a full-time job, and I’m sure a lot of the other players have full time jobs too, or at least coaching positions that are full time positions. How do you balance that with being a professional athlete? Especially, when this is going to be a six week season. 

I have some confidence, because I have experience working from home while balancing training for the U.S. team. I think it’ll work out, since the games are on the weekend. The AU softball league had people who were able to work full time. They had people with kids and families who had to balance family time with being away. The league is understanding, and I feel it will be balanced. It’s what I’m used to: In college, you have to put academics first and then athletics. When you have a passion for something, you find a way to make it work.

Meghan Duggan recently retired from her decorated career as an American ice hockey player. During her 14-year tenure on Team USA, she captained the US women’s hockey team to their first gold in 20 years at the 2018 Winter Olympics, and won two silver Olympic medals as part of the 2010 and 2014 U.S. women’s hockey team. Duggan also won seven gold medals at the world championships. 

What have you been reflecting on these past few weeks after announcing your retirement? 

I’ve just been looking back on all the wonderful experiences and opportunities I’ve had and reflecting on all sorts of aspects of my career. Mainly, it’s been so fun to have some laughs with teammates. Obviously we’ve had wonderful opportunities with each other standing on podiums, and have been through a lot of adversity together. It’s been really fun to reflect on all the road trips, the hotels, dumb things that we did just to have fun or pass the time, and card games.

What are the conversations that you’ve been having with your now former teammates since making the announcement?

I’ve been just so blown away and overwhelmed with some of the kind words that my teammates shared with me. Throughout my career,  people have been the cornerstone. The people are the center of everything — my teammates, my family, coaches, organizations, fans, young girls — and it has been amazing to hear kind words from all these people, whether it was my impact on them or different experiences that we had together. I cried multiple times (happy tears). For some of the players who have been on the national team for 10 plus years together like Hilary Knight or Kacey Bellamy — we’ve been through a lot together through the ups and downs. Having conversations about that has been great.

We have a close relationship with Hilary — she’s actually one of our athlete partners. You’re both pioneers in the sport and obviously have a close relationship, which is cool to see!

It’s hard to put into words what the two of us have been through together while we were both on the national team for so long. We talked a bit about how we’ve grown up together through the sport. It’s been special, and we’ve leaned on each other a lot. I thank her for the role she’s played in my life and career. Hilary and some of the other women on the team — these are relationships that last a lifetime. I’m really thankful.

When you look back on winning Olympic Gold in 2018, what stands out? What are some of your favorite moments from that tournament? 

When I think back to that win, the games, the team, and the ride that we went on four years leading up to the games, I just think of unity. I think of how we had to transform together as a group. We did everything as a pretty tight knit group. It wasn’t always easy: We hit bumps along the way and we faced a lot of challenges. We had to deal with adversity off the ice with our plans for boycotting the World Championships in 2017. The unity along the way was such an unsung hero for us. To cap it off by being united on the ice and celebrate together as a team, and with our families… it was just really special.

In your piece for ESPN, you highlighted your negotiations with USA Hockey in 2017 as a highlight of your career. Can you explain to those who don’t know what happened there and why it was so instrumental for both you and the team? 

I think it was crucial for our team, our sport, and girls and women in all other industries to see what women can achieve through unity and collaboration. We were seeing inequities with regards to the support of the women’s team. After a while, enough was enough. We had to come together and come up with a plan and move forward. That’s one of the things for which I’m super proud of our team. It will definitely be a legacy of the group, and it really fills me with pride.

The contract you negotiated expires next year. What are your hopes for the next round of negotiations? 

My hopes are that both sides can agree that the terms that we came to previously were awesome, and that these terms were really good for our sport and for girls and women everywhere. We only need to continue to work together to drive it forward. Certainly, we’ve come a long way and made a lot of changes, but there’s a lot more ground to be made. My hope is that we can conquer some of those changes as well.

Do you have any advice for the players involved in those negotiations?

It’s all about unity. Unity doesn’t mean you have to think the exact same way or understand everything in the exact same way. But you have to be open and honest, have conversations, and mobilize together. That’s something that was really important for our group, and the reason why we were able to accomplish what we did.

I know that you and your wife welcomed your first child, George, in February. I am sure he keeps you all busy. In addition to your duties as a mother, what are your plans for the near future and the long term? 

I think being a new mom is at the center of my life right now, and it’s incredible. I’ve learned a lot about myself while going through pregnancy and becoming a mom. It’s the greatest thing I’ve ever done. I look forward to continuing to tackle all the adventures and challenges that come with being a mother, and putting my son in a position to thrive.

I obviously want to continue to make an impact in hockey. I think the best part is taking the space and time right now to figure out what that might look like. I will always be a champion for equality across many different avenues, whether we’re speaking about race, gender, or sexual orientation.

It’s so cool that your son is going to have two former professional female athletes to look up to. On a separate note, I read that a NHL GM position may potentially be in your future. What are your thoughts on what that path would look like?

I’ve always set really big goals for myself. When I was 10 years old, I said “I’m going to go to the Olympics and captain Team USA to a gold medal.” I think setting big goals and dreams is something I like to do for myself.

Becoming a NHL GM is certainly a big goal. There has never been a female GM of an NHL team. There’s a lot of learning I have to do, but I thought, “don’t stop now at setting big goals for yourself.” It’s something that certainly I would love to do one day, but I obviously recognize getting there requires a lot of hard work.

Athletes often have a hard time retiring because of the lack of goals and structure. How are you planning to keep motivated day to day?

Transitioning from being an elite athlete into the “real world” is known to be difficult. I think the biggest thing for me is going to be taking the space right now to really think about what I want to do next. I don’t want to just jump into something because it’s there and I don’t have structure in my life.

I want to take space and time for my family as well. Being an elite athlete is the most incredible thing in the world, but you can tend to be selfish sometimes, too. There’s a lot of me I want to give to other people, especially my family.

I don’t sit idle very well, so I imagine I’ll have my hands in a handful of different things. I plan to follow my heart, my mind, have the conversations I need to have, reach out to mentors, and hopefully have a great transition.

But, I also know it’s not going to be easy — that’s the advice that I’ve been given and I try to give all the time. No one’s perfect. You have to love what you’re doing, regardless of what it is. You have to know it’s okay to face challenges. Learning in adversity is how we move forward. I’ll see what comes at me.

Will you stay involved with the PWHPA? 

The Professional Women’s Hockey Players Association is very close to my heart. For a large group of women in this country and North America who have been working on women’s professional hockey over the years, our ultimate goal and dream is to one day see girls and women be able to make a living playing professional hockey. The PWHPA is working tirelessly for this goal. I will definitely be involved in advancing women’s professional hockey in any capacity I can.

What are your long term hopes for the organization?

Simply put: a sustainable place for women to play hockey professionally and be paid a living wage sufficient to make a living. I hope women won’t have to work a hundred other jobs at the same time or live with their parents or their significant other just to be able to play a professional sport. That’s the goal, it’s as simple as that right now.

In addition, the group takes a lot of pride in using the platform to advance social issues, empower young girls who want to play hockey or other sports, and encourage physical activity.

Toni Pressley is a defender for the Orlando Pride of the NWSL and a breast cancer survivor. As part of Breast Cancer Awareness Month, Toni has partnered with Chestee to create a limited-edition sports bra which benefits Libby’s Legacy Breast Cancer Foundation. 

JWS spoke with Toni and Nicole Biscuiti, Chestee’s Founder and CEO, about Toni’s journey, their collaboration together, and what they’re doing to raise awareness this October. 

You can shop the new Toni Tribute Bra from Chestee here.


For those that don’t know, do you want to give a quick summary of your story, from when you were diagnosed until today? 

Our team nutritionist came in to speak to us about her experience with breast cancer, and she reminded us to be regular with our physical checkups. At the time I was already kind of feeling different in my body. I was noticing a small lump, tenderness, and soreness. I made an appointment with my gynecologist and asked if I could please get a mammogram, because at that point I just needed to know and get a peace of mind either way.

After a month and a half or so going through different appointments last season — doing the mammogram, a biopsy, doing an MRI — it was determined that I had breast cancer. At the time, it was considered non-invasive. But because it was in my milk ducts, I needed a mastectomy.

The day that I found out, there were still some games left in the season. It was tricky to schedule my surgery, quit training, and tell everyone. One of the hardest parts was telling my coaching staff and my teammates that I have breast cancer, need to get surgery, and wasn’t sure when I’d be back. It was pretty emotional.

After my surgery, I ended up having my final diagnosis of stage one breast cancer. They did find a small amount of invasive cancer. I needed to focus on recovery, but since I didn’t need chemo or radiation it could happen pretty quickly.

I soon asked myself: “Okay. Well, how do I get back on the field as quickly as possible and in the safest way possible?” About two weeks later, I was at training again on the sidelines, which was nice because, as an athlete, it was torture being told not to do anything. And then, maybe a month later, I was able to rejoin team training.

At our final game, which happened to be a breast cancer awareness game, I was able to get in  as a sub, which was surreal. I didn’t know joining a game would even present itself as an opportunity that season.

My doctors did such a great job of making me feel comfortable removing the cancer and helping me monitor my path right now with medication. My reconstructive surgeon kind of guided me through the whole process. They all gave me a peace of mind. It was helpful to know I was cared for and doing the right things. I don’t think I was too stressed. In addition, the club and our strength and conditioning coach helped me return to fitness after recovery.

It has been almost a year since you returned to play after your diagnosis of breast cancer and your surgery. Can you put into words how your life has changed in the last 18 months or so?

The biggest change for me is more mental rather than physical. For example, I don’t really waste opportunities, or take things or people for granted. I know that can sound so cliche, but I think this has become more important for me.

How do you think that mental shift has impacted your soccer career?

I try to remain in the moment as much as possible and try not to think too much about the future. While setting goals for the future is important, I find that I tend to forget about the present moment and make the most of being present with people.

At the end of the day, I know playing soccer is a job. We’re all here to perform, do our best, and do well. That’s why we’re paid to be here. But I also don’t want to miss out on other opportunities that soccer provides us. When you’re always trying, always looking to perform towards something, and looking forward to future games, I think we can kind of get lost and not really focus on what we’re doing in the moment.

Do you feel obligated to now share your experience on the chance it could lead someone to make that trip to the doctor? 

I definitely have a platform to use to help people to be more aware of their bodies, themselves, and the importance of their health. Going to the doctor regularly, sooner rather than later, is always important. For breast cancer, we’re not really told to go get a mammogram until you’re 40, but women in their 20s are getting diagnosed. It’s important we make more people aware and educated that “hey, it can happen to anyone.”

You are doing an awesome collaboration with Chestee for Breast Cancer Awareness month. Where did the idea come from to work with Chestee on a custom bra?

I really liked the work that Chestee was doing. And when I brought up the idea of collaborating to Nicole, she was very open to it. She’s so well established in the athletic world and doing so well with her company and its great products. I just wanted to jump on board and see if we could help at least one person in any way we could. She was willing to collaborate and make this special edition bra with proceeds going towards a nonprofit. I’m so fortunate that she was willing to be a part of that.

You had the chance to design your own Chestee top. What was that experience like? 

It was awesome. It’s a swim top as well. I really liked this design and I was like, “Hey, what do you think about making this bra a neutral color? Like a black or a white or something. And then the tie in the back could be pink, like a breast cancer ribbon.” I’m excited to see the final product out in the world.

You’re giving your portion of the profits to the Libby’s Legacy Breast Cancer Foundation. Can you talk a little bit about the foundation and why you chose to donate there?

Libby’s Legacy is wonderful because they absolutely advocate for anyone who needs help in getting doctor’s appointments or support with medical expenses. I chose them because they’re helping real people in real time. You never want someone to not be able to get the care they need because they can’t afford it, they don’t know the right things to say to doctors, or they don’t have people advocating and guiding them with this whole process, which is scary.


Can you just give a quick introduction of Chestee and how the product and company came about?

I’ve been an athlete almost my entire life really. Growing up, I was always outside playing. I was that kid who you had to hose off in the driveway before coming into the house for dinner, because I would just track mud everywhere from playing with my hands and my feet in dirt. In college, I played basketball as a walk-on. I was a runner, and I also started weight-training while I was doing all those team sports. After college, I found CrossFit and ended up being pretty decent at it, so I started competing at a pretty high level.

It was at an event called Wodapalooza (W-O-D for “workout of the day”) where I came up with the concept of the Chestee. I was doing a workout using a 145 pound barbell, which at the time was my body weight. It was very heavy, and the barbell was sitting in the Miami sun outdoors. As soon as my skin touched the barbell, I literally contact-burned myself a bit.

I took my shirt off and stuck it into the straps of my sports bra in the front, kind of like a backward cape, to create a barrier between my skin and the barbell. That was my aha moment.

The following week I went into the gym and I took a pair of compression knee sleeves, cut them in half, and sewed them into a rash guard that’s used for surfing, which was the tightest, most form-fitting shirt that I could get my hands on at the moment. That was the first unofficial prototype of the Chestee. I wore it for a couple of front squats and it felt really good. The barbell landed on my neck and like it was landing on pillows.

But that unofficial prototype was really ugly. It wasn’t something I’d be proud of. I started talking to everyone I knew who was in the garment industry — seamstresses, people who worked at manufacturers, fashion designers,  people who produced fashion shows — and tried to get it to the right place. That process took years. But we’re here today. It’s pretty awesome.

How did you first get connected with Toni and what made you guys interested in doing a collaboration with her?

I’ve always been into soccer and female athletes. Through a mutual contact, I ended up finding Toni’s social media page and started following her. I liked what she stood for. It was very clear she was a strong, resilient, and interesting woman. She’s super accomplished yet very humble.

I reached out one day and said, “Hey, I love what you’re doing. I’d love to send you a Chestee. This is my product. This is what it does. Let me know what you think.” And she was like, “Cool, great.”  She posted about the package.

She told me later she really liked the product but she didn’t necessarily find a need for the collarbone protection all the time in her sport. The conversation then shifted to the design and how she visualized the design for female soccer players.

Ultimately, the conversation went to “Well, how would you like to do your own line?” Our first real project is this Chestee that she designed. We took a core item and redesigned it so it would be more approachable for any athlete, regardless if they train with a barbell or not. To give a nod to Breast Cancer Awareness and Libby’s Legacy, she wanted to make all the accent colors this bright fuchsia.

What has made working with Toni different than other athletes you’ve worked with?

Toni isn’t about Toni: She is about helping everybody out. It’s a quality you don’t encounter every day, and particularly not what you always encounter from an elite athlete. She’s strong but gentle. She knows what she stands for but not aggressive. She’s really collaborative.

When we were talking about Libby’s Legacy, she asked me how it would work and how we could best support the cause. When we finally discussed the profit sharing model with her, she said, “Oh, I don’t want anything for doing this. Actually, if it’s okay with you, would you be willing to take the portion of the proceeds that you would normally give me and give it to the charity instead?” At that moment I literally got goosebumps. I said, “Absolutely. We can do that. Yes.” And at that moment, I just thought, “Wow, I hope I get to work with her for a really long time, because this isn’t a everyday thing where you meet people like this.”

What are your hopes for this collaboration in terms of spreading awareness during Breast Cancer Awareness month?

Toni and I both want to support women. We are telling the story of a female athlete and a cancer survivor who hasn’t been out of this for very long. We also want to spotlight Libby’s Legacy Breast Cancer Foundation, which is a small, grassroots, and tightly-run organization that needs and can use every single dollar very wisely.

Amanda Chidester is a professional softball player who was selected as a member of Team USA for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. Chidester is a catcher for the Chicago Bandits of the National Pro Fastpitch, and was named the 2019 NPF Player of the Year. Most recently, Chidester joined Athletes Unlimited, where she was selected as the first-ever No. 1 pick in the inaugural AU draft. 

What went into your decision to join Athletes Unlimited?

I was originally asked to be part of it from the beginning. At that time, for me, it was just like it’s an interesting concept, but I was really pushing to be on the USA team and make that final roster towards the Olympics. When the Olympics got postponed, I wanted to keep playing. I believed joining Athletes Unlimited would be an opportunity to grow this sport, and it would be an opportunity to play competitively against the best in the world.

The league format puts the power in the players’ hands. You are the ones choosing even coaching your team. How has that dynamic affected your mental approach? 

In the beginning, when we were doing the mock stuff, I feel like I was a little too invested. It was exhausting thinking about who drafted who. And I was like, “Okay, I cannot do this. This is way too much.” You have to find a balance, because you can get consumed in it, and then it takes away from you playing, and the fun of all of it, you know? At the end of the day, I realized we all are going to be on a team. We all are going to be competing, and it doesn’t matter, really, when you get picked. As much as this appears to be an individual game, it’s not, because you need to win innings. The most points you get is winning innings. You can’t win innings by yourself. Everyone is just as important, and everyone is so good that it really doesn’t matter when you get picked.

When I can put all of that into perspective, it’s going to make it more enjoyable just to go out there and compete. You need to fill the team with gamers —people who are just going to go out and grind each inning, because you need to win the inning. And then when you win the inning, then you win the game.

The season is six weeks with a lot of back-to-back games. What are your expectations in terms of maintaining that pace of play? 

We all love playing games, so I’m excited about it. As a softball player who’s been playing for a lot of years, one of the biggest things in our game is to find a rhythm and to find consistencies. In this case, you can’t do this easily, because you’re constantly switching teams. It’s challenging each of us players to figure out how to find a rhythm. You almost have to create a rhythm within yourself. For example, one week you might be batting fourth, and another week, you might be batting seventh. Those are all completely different spots in the lineup, so you have to be resilient, and be able to just step into that role and go. You can’t overthink it. That’s the name of our game, to not overthink it, but it’s almost impossible not to sometimes.

I know you just spoke about how it doesn’t necessarily matter where you’re drafted, but I can imagine getting drafted #1 overall in the inaugural draft was pretty exciting. 

I mean, it was fun. I think that it was pretty awesome of Haylie to choose me. It helped that she was a pitcher, because other position players would have probably drafted a pitcher first. But then Haylie even said it afterwards, “two Wolverines making history,” and I thought that was so cool. Later on, I’ll probably be able to appreciate it even more. But it’s awesome. I haven’t been able to find the words yet, because this is all so new, and it’s so amazing. The experience here has just been so great so far.

How much of an impact do the few team practices have before game play?

It really impacts the communication on the field. We did relays the other day, just for our middle infielders and our outfielders to get a feel for each other. You try to figure out all those different, tiny details of the game that make a difference, like figuring out whose arm strength is greater, or coordinating communication with fly balls, or figuring out our bunt defense. You’re playing with different people every week, and everyone plays at a different speed. You have to understand who you’re playing with, in addition to what you can and cannot do on the field. The practices are so important for this.

With the unique scoring system, there’s an emphasis on individual points. With that in mind, do you have any individual goals that you’re focused on this season?

No. I want to win the innings. I want to play my part each time up to bat to win that inning for the team. After the first day, I realized how important it is to win each inning. From that point on, it was just like, “I need to play my part to get on base or score a runner to help my team win the inning.”

Athletes Unlimited has redesigned the way you play pro sports. They just added volleyball and there are other sports in the work. What do you think this type of a league will do for women’s sports at the pro level? What does it mean specifically for softball?

It stinks that it’s only six weeks, but it means a lot for the sport. It draws traction. It’s going to gain interest. Nothing goes unnoticed, nothing goes missed. They’ve thought everything through. What they’re doing for women’s sports and the money investing in it is huge for us. I think it’s the start to growing an actual professional league that’s even longer than six weeks.

Sophie Cunningham is a guard for the Phoenix Mercury of the WNBA. A University of Missouri alum, Cunningham was the highest former Tiger ever drafted into the WNBA when she was picked 13th by Phoenix in the 2019 draft. We caught up with Sophie to talk about life in the Wubble, playing alongside some of the game’s best, and what she’s looking forward to the rest of this season. 

[Editor’s note: this interview took place before Phoenix announced that Brittney Griner would be leaving the bubble for personal reasons.]

What are your thoughts on how the team has been playing so far?

We are a brand new team. The only two people who’ve been playing together for more than two years are Brittney Griner and Diana [Taurasi]. You have to kind of show us a little bit of grace considering no one’s really ever played together.

But when you have the big three – BG, Diana and Skylar Diggins-Smith joining the squad – those are three big time players, and Diana is the GOAT. As a team, we’re still trying to figure it out. When we’re on, we’re really freaking good, but when we’re a little bit off, we just have to stay together and stay as one. By the end of the season, I think that we’ll be able to gel and make a long run.

It’s your second year in the league, and you’re already starting games and making an impact on the team. How were you able to excel in what is often a difficult transition?

Well, thank you. I think for any rookie in any type of sport the first year is really just a learning experience. There’s so much change that you just have to embrace it and don’t be too hard on yourself and try to remain confident. I think everyone in the league was formerly a big time player, but now it’s time to adjust and own your role, whatever that might be. I’m starting for our team, but I probably only average about four points a game. I know my role. My role is to bring the energy, bring the intensity, hype up my teammates and do the dirty work. Get on the floor for balls, get rebounds and make good passes into BG. When the opportunity is given, when it’s time for me to score, then I can do that too. But I think that when you’re new to the squad and you have three big players, the focus is to give them the ball when they need it.

What is it like playing with the GOAT, Diana Taurasi? 

It is awesome. Getting to know her, personally and as an athlete, I realized why she is the way she is and it just freaking kills me. I think she’s so funny. She’s so nice. But I’m also very thankful that I’m her teammate, because I would hate to play against her. She is just so ruthless and reckless, but I just freaking love it. I think it’s good for women. I think it’s good for our sport of basketball – she is who she is and she owns it. I just love it. I ask her so many questions. She gives me advice – I mean, you have to. She’s the GOAT.

There’s still a good chunk of games left in the season, but what needs to happen to get back on track?

Our offense is really good – we just have so many threats from top to bottom. So that’s really not our issue, but defense is something we can work on.

You obviously aren’t traveling this season, but you’re playing a ton of games. How has that been on your body and recovery in general?

Traveling sucks. I think when everyone’s little they’re like, “Oh yeah, you want to travel. You want to do all that.” But when you’re doing it for a living, you don’t really get to enjoy where you are. You go to the gym, to the hotel and back home. So it’s been nice not traveling. It’s not as tiresome.

But at the same time you’re playing so many games consecutively – I think that’s pretty hard on our veterans. For me as a young player with fresh legs, I enjoy it. You don’t play one good game, you have literally two days until you can prove yourself again. So I like it, but I do see how it can be pretty difficult if you’re one of the vets.

You had COVID twice before entering the bubble. Can you describe that experience?

Last year was my first year going overseas and playing. I played in Australia and when I got back around March 7th—you’re interacting with so many different types of people from different countries. And I think I got it traveling back. I lost my sense of smell, taste and had a headache for about a week, but that one wasn’t bad. But then this last time kind of got me, and I don’t know how I got it, because I was following all the rules, doing what I was supposed to just so if we had a season, I’d be able to come play. But that second time got me. I had a really bad headache, sore throat and even getting up to go to the bathroom, I was just so exhausted and out of breath. So that one sucked.

That’s terrible. How long did it last for?

All the bad symptoms only lasted for four or five days, but I can still feel the after effects from my sternum and my ribs—they just feel way different than they did before. It is what it is. It’s a new thing. Nobody really knows about it. And so it’s hard to kind of know what to believe. I’ve just tried to follow the protocols, staying away from people as much as possible because back home we have a family farm and we’re around our grandparents a lot. And so I just want to make sure that, if anything, that them and my parents are safe. I’m following protocols in the bubble and will keep following them after the season ends.

Before you all went to the bubble there was some skepticism around the situation. Now a few weeks in, it seems like living in the bubble has exceeded expectations. Are you concerned at all about bubble fatigue as the season goes on?

I think one huge positive is that you get to meet and spend time with players outside of the court. Last year, we were kind of missing on our team that chemistry off the court and it showed on the court.

Our team has hung out a lot – you have no one else to hang out with. You spend every day together. So it’s been really nice, just being able to relax and watch TV together or have dinner. As a whole, I think the bubble has just been really good. People are embracing it. It’s new, it’s different. It does suck that you can’t see your family and friends like you normally do, but it’s just one of those things that we have to embrace. And I think this season we’re playing for something much bigger than just basketball. And so it’s been real fun to come together.

How has it been playing without fans?

You don’t really notice it. At the end of the day, we’re elite athletes, it’s competitive, and you’re just so focused that you kind of forget that you don’t have fans. So I don’t really notice much of a difference, honestly. The only weird thing is doing free throws. It’s almost too quiet. You can literally hear everything. You can hear people talking.

You talked a little bit about your role on the team. How would you define that role this season?

It’s hard because you think you know your role, but it could change any given day. You just have to be really flexible and be able to adjust. What they need from me is I’m the one who brings the energy. I’m the one who communicates on both ends of the floor. I bring that fierce, competitive attitude to the court. And I know that’s what my team expects from me and that’s what I expect from myself. So that’s what I do.

And what are your expectations for the remainder of the season?

I would like to finish the regular season in the top three. I think we have the power to do it. We have the players and the mindset. So now we just have to go do it on the court.

Amazin LeThi is a Vietnamese American competitive bodybuilder-turned-sports activist who dedicates her time and efforts to advocating for the AAPI and LGBTQ community. She is the first Asian ambassador for LGBTQ rights organization Stonewall, and has been recognized by the Human Rights Campaign for using her platform in sports to fight for equality.

How were you first introduced to sports? 

I was trying to find my place in society, as I struggled with my sexuality and did not see Asian or LGBTQ representation anywhere. I really wanted to find a sense of community, so I went into sports.

I love sports. I was very athletic as a kid, and I felt like it was a channel to get a sense of escape. Sports gave me a sense of purpose. It gave me a sense of self-worth and confidence that I much needed as a child because of all the bullying and racism that I received. Sports really made me the person that I am today. I can’t remember a moment when I wasn’t doing sports – it’s like brushing your teeth.

But as one of few Asian athletes in sports as a kid, I faced a lot of bullying. Some people thrive and find their spirit through team sports – I did not at all. I found team sports very unwelcoming.

And then how did you get into bodybuilding? 

I fell into bodybuilding at six, which is an unusually early age to begin. I literally fell into bodybuilding. There were some dumbbells lying around the house, and I would spend days doing dumbbell curls, sit ups and pushups. I started going to the gym when I was seven or eight. Bodybuilding gave me a sense of self-worth and confidence. And it was something that I could do alone, away from team sports.

At the same time, bodybuilding is a very heteronormative, masculine and toxic sport that revolves around men. Women are in this male dominated space – trying to create muscles and a perceived sense of masculinity within the realm of femininity. We face pushback from men as we try to break down gender norms. I received a terrible amount of misogyny and sexism as a child – at age seven or eight.

When did you seriously start competing as a bodybuilder?

I started competitively competing as a teenager in natural bodybuilding competitions – often with no other Asian athletes competing alongside me. Most athletes were white, two to three times my size and very, very muscular. I was able to compete a number of times and place every single time as well, because I really worked on the craft.

But I knew as a competitive bodybuilder I wasn’t able to go as far as I would have liked to, just because I just didn’t have the physical stature for bodybuilding and being able to pack on the muscular size that I needed to compete against white athletes. I felt that I accomplished everything that I wanted to do within competitive bodybuilding in the few years I competed.

I can imagine bodybuilding is really tough on your body after a long time.

Because I started bodybuilding at such a young age, I was lifting an enormous amount of weight as I was still growing. For me, I felt the only way I could gain credibility in a completely male dominated environment was by lifting as much or more than them. By the time I was a teenager, my body was already very strained. I was squatting nearly 500 pounds. I was leg pressing nearly a thousand pounds.

The competition really took a toll on me – the amount of dieting that I had to do in a tight timeframe. For many female athletes the dietary restrictions and the pressure you put on your body upsets your natural cycle. At times then you don’t have your cycles. Competing at that level, for me, wasn’t a sustainable plan.

Tell us about your transition to becoming a health expert. 

Through all my years in bodybuilding, I just kind of wanted to create this platform where I could share my knowledge and insight with others. Bodybuilding has given me a very holistic approach to fitness. When you’re working on your body you have to be very precise with the food you eat and what you do with your body. I wanted to share what I bring to the table in sports specific training, and sports nutrition, and psychology.

You are an internationally published Vietnamese health and fitness author. Can you talk to me a little bit about your published work and what it means to you?

I started writing as a freelance health and fitness writer – there are few Asian health and fitness authors that have been published. For me, publishing my writing was a golden moment where I could share the knowledge that I had in my head with the public. To be one of a few Asian health and fitness authors to have their book published was a very strange feeling, because I’d wanted to for so long to see an Asian health and fitness author for so long – I had no idea that I was waiting for myself.

You’ve become a very vocal activist in sports. What does it mean for you to use your platform to advocate for the LGBTQ and Asian community? 

As a child, I did not feel supported by my teammates, coaches or the athletic community at large. I suffered a terrible amount of bullying and homophobia.

In 2020, we still don’t see enough representation of Asian athletes in sports. For example,  Jeremy Lin is one of the few Asian-American basketball players to ever play in the NBA. I remember reading a title that one of the mainstream press had written about him. The headline read, “The chink in the armor.” [ESPN fired the writer who used the offensive racial slur in a headline referring to Lin.] And they thought that was okay. The amount of racism that he received at the professional level and the amounts of racism he has shared about enduring while young – that’s also my story. It’s the story of the Asian community, and a reflection of how sports media has negatively framed Asian athletes.

I need to use my platform and speak up. If I don’t, I’m part of the problem. As a member of the Asian community, I know what it is like, and I know what Asian people are still going through. We have very few Asian athletes in sports, let alone Asian LGBTQ athletes. It’s important that we continuously have conversations on how to create welcoming environments for all athletes that want to participate in sports. I know that Asian athletes are still struggling to get to pro level. If I wasn’t resilient and I wasn’t persistent, I would have dropped out of sports given the level of bullying and discrimination I suffered. I don’t want kids to grow up as an adult and think, “I wish I could have continued, I could have been that pro athlete.”

What’s next for you and the work you do?

We’re in a very special time in sports history where several major sports events will be in Asia over the next few years. [The next two Olympics will be hosted in Tokyo and Beijing, respectively.] This gives us an opportunity to open up conversations with Western countries on the question of how “you’re sending your best teams to Asia, but you’re not sending your best Asian athletes to Asia.” I’m having a lot of these conversations as we head into Tokyo 2021. Sports are coming for everyone.

Sydney Wiese is a guard for the Los Angeles Sparks of the WNBA. An Oregon State graduate, Wiese was a Wooden Award Finalist and Naismith Trophy Semifinalist as well as a 4x All Pac-12 guard for the Beavers. She spoke to Just Women’s Sports about playing in the “Wubble,” using her platform for social justice, and the bond she shares with her Sparks teammates. 

You’re a few weeks into the season. Do you feel like everyone has found their rhythm or do you expect there to be some ups and downs?

There’s always ups and downs. This season is obviously unprecedented with the quick turnaround, and how condensed the schedule is. Injuries are going to happen unfortunately, and so we want to make sure to take care of ourselves. It’s going to demand everything that you got individually, collectively. Every team is going through their own journey – I think it’s just about peaking at the right time. Then continuing to ride that momentum towards the end of season, through playoffs, and making sure that you capitalize when you carry that momentum.

On one hand, you no longer have to travel for games. But you are playing a lot more games back to back. How has that affected your ability to recover and stay healthy?

There’s pros and cons to both, for sure. All of us in the WNBA are facing this same schedule – this same quick turn around. We’re all in the same time zone. I think it just comes down to making sure that as a group, we monitor the opportunities where we can take a step back from basketball to do that, so that when we’re on, we can just grind it out. There’s no other way around it. You just gotta push through it.

What we’re doing right now is historic. We are a living part of history, so we’ve just got to roll with it. Down the road, I’ll be telling my kids about this one day.

What is your team specifically doing to recover and stay healthy? 

We do pool workouts for recovery every once in a while. We do yoga as a team before we start practice. It’s good for our mind, body and spirit – just to realign and slow down, and breathe a little bit. We have ice baths downstairs. We have all hands on deck to make sure that our bodies are good, and that our minds are taken care of as well.

You are third in the Western Conference standing so far. What do you think needs to happen to stay in championship contention?

I think it’s just all about doing what we can and adjusting as quickly as we can when we’re in those moments, because we don’t have time to practice certain situations. You can watch a film, you can talk about it, but it’s going to come to shifting our actions, and actually making those changes real when we’re on the floor, because there’s not a lot of time to drop any games. It’s just continuing to communicate with one another.

Because of how the season is set up, you don’t have time to learn while you’re losing. You have to learn lessons while winning games. About a month from now, we’re going to be in playoff mode. You want to be in the top seeds, because then you can get a bye, and that gives you extra rest. Especially after a season like this, that’s going to be super critical for recovery.

Before you all went to the bubble there was some skepticism around the situation. Then, after a few weeks, people seemed generally upbeat about the ‘Wubble’ life. But are you concerned about bubble fatigue the longer the season goes on? 

I have to give a shout out to our union and our league, because I know back in June and May, when they were having the negotiations for our season, they put in a lot of work. We asked a lot of questions as players, and they covered every base possible to make this a safe environment for us – for our wellbeing first and foremost. They also gave us an opportunity to use our platforms to be vocal about social injustices, police brutality and ‘Say Her Name.’ It’s been really cool.

I know as time goes on, we have to make sure that we continue to take care of ourselves as we play basketball, play these games back to back… That’s going to be really crucial as we continue forward in the season. We’ve got to take care of ourselves and one another – that’s going to be key to fighting off any fatigue.

Heading into the season, you signed a two year contract extension with the Sparks. What went into that decision? 

I’m super fortunate. When I was a kid, I dreamt about being in this league, and then once I got here, it became real in good ways and also gave some tough lessons that I had to learn. I don’t take for granted the opportunity to sign an extension like this, because I think it is rare to be with the same organization for a career for multiple years. Nothing is guaranteed in this league.

I value loyalty. In this professional world, that’s rare. I love representing this organization. I love learning and being a part of these women’s lives, and they’re a part of my life as well. And I’m so thankful that I’ve had this time to build relationships, to get to know who I work with, who I get to play with. That’s super big for me. So it was a no brainer, honestly. I love who I get to work with. And Los Angeles isn’t a bad city to live in either.  I’m from Phoenix, so it’s also an hour flight from my home. I love being on the West Coast.

What are your personal goals for this season?

I don’t really have any personal goals. I want to be of service any way that I can to this team. I recognize that all of us chose to be here under these circumstances. I totally respect our teammates that chose to stay out for their own reasons, but the rest of us that chose to be here – we sacrificed and we made the choice to be here. So I just want to make sure that whatever is needed on the court, off the court, that’s what I want to provide. I also want to make sure that we’re taken care of as a group, as people more than anything. I just want to make sure that we leave this place having enjoyed this experience.

The league has been at the forefront of social justice issues for so many years, but what did it mean to you to have social justice be an official part of the league’s platform this year? 

I think it shows that this league has been beyond the curve. They’ve been vocal, they’ve been advocating from the very beginning. The very existence of our league is a form of protest, because you have a league of majority Black women, of majority LGBTQ. It’s not a coincidence that this league has had to fight for survival because it goes against the societal norms that have been put in place, which, to be frank, have not empowered Black women to succeed. They have not empowered LGBTQ Black women.

Now it’s cool to protest, and it’s cool to be vocal. But this league has always done that. It’s such an honor to be in this league because it’s a form of protest. We are going to rise above the oppression that is trying to be placed on us, and we’re going to overcome it simply by being who we are.

Each week, we are highlighting a Black woman or a woman of color who was killed by police. This past week, we highlighted Michelle Cusseaux. She was killed by police in 2014. We had the opportunity to speak to her mother and her sister and hear her story. And now we’re going to honor Michelle and we’re going to say her name. Even though it happened six years ago, we’re still seeking justice.