Cassidy Gale is a two-time wakesurfing world champion. Just 20 years old, the Michigan native is currently in pursuit of her third world title. She spoke with JWS about her path to success and where she wants to go in the future. 

How did you first get into wakesurfing?

I started wakeboarding when I was seven. That was kind of around the time when wakesurfing was just starting. And I tried it, but I was too small. So then I waited a few years and I tried again when I was turning 10. I just did it for fun and I eventually started learning more tricks and stuff. I entered my first competition when I was 15, and from there, I realized that I really liked the competitive side of it. And so I started learning more tricks and setting more goals to learn more and more tricks.

Was anybody in your family like, hey, let’s go try this? 

My older brother and my dad would do it. That’s kind of why I wanted to start it, because I watched my older brother do it. I was like, Oh, I want to do that, too. I grew up on a lake in the summers, so we would do every water sport we could.

Did you have any other role models in your sport? 

Yeah, when I first started I really looked up to Ashley Kidd, who is still the number one. She was one that I would always watch her videos and try to learn everything that she’s learning. And now we’re competitors. It was definitely surreal when I first turned pro, when I went from watching all those people to being in the same division as them. But it was really cool when I was first starting out.

What does it mean to be a professional wakesurfer in terms of training, competition, and sponsorship?

For me, because I live in Michigan, I obviously can’t train all year round. I think a lot of other pros live in Texas, or Florida, or Georgia, places that they can surf at least nine months out of the year. I have to go down to Florida at the end of February through May so that I can practice for the season, because the season starts in April. It’s definitely a lot of practice. When I’m in Florida in the winter, I’ll try to ride about an hour, every day. And then the same within the summer. That’s harder with competing and traveling, but I try to ride like an hour every day.

My main sponsors are Malibu boats and Tommy’s boats, so that’s a boat dealer and a boat company. For most companies that want to sponsor you, they want you to be at a professional level, or just right below it. Sponsors will support you with products and some of them give you incentives. But most of them want you to be almost at a pro level if it’s a bigger company.

You were a freshman in college when you won your first World Championship. Since then, have you balanced school and competition? 

It’s definitely not easy. Starting my junior year of high school, I started going down to Florida in the winter. So in high school, I would do online, and then college I’ve pretty much only done part time. I’m now a sophomore, only studying part time, because I’m really just focusing on training. But it’s definitely a balance. I mean, I’m sure there’s some people that can do it, but it’s just a lot harder when you’re a full time student and you have to surf for an hour a day and work out and travel.

How has COVID impacted your sport and your training?

For training it hasn’t impacted it too much. For competing, almost all of our competitions were online this year. Which is completely different. Mentally, it’s completely different from competing in person. There have always been online competitions but this year it was forced. If you wanted to compete you had to do them online.

I found that super frustrating because how it works is you could film it as many times as you want but your video had to be 45 seconds from the time that you threw the rope. You can do as many tricks as you want, but I found that so frustrating because I could never get it perfect. When you go to a competition you only have one shot and it is what it is, but I found for online, submitting your own video, it took me 300 tries to just get something that I was okay with. But it was definitely a whole different experience this year.

Besides COVID, what is the biggest obstacle you’ve had to overcome so far in your career?

I would say competing in general. I would get really nervous when I first started competing, to the point where I could barely even surf well. I’d surf really well in practice and then once I started competing, I would just get so nervous, and I would choke and I wouldn’t end up riding well. I think that that’s probably the biggest thing that I’ve had to overcome. Just learning over the years how to mentally handle competing and handle the nerves and be able to ride under the pressure.

What really helped me over the years to get over the nerves is just being more confident in my riding. So practicing my specific run, over and over and over, to the point where I was just like, Okay, well, I know I can do it. I’ve done it at home. I can do it here.

You’re already very accomplished, and you’re still really young. What are your goals for the future, both on the water and off?

I think for wakesurfing, it’s obviously to get another world title. That’s probably the biggest goal. Off the water, it still kind of has to do with wakesurfing. I definitely have goals to work with sponsorships with bigger companies. In the future, I want to build enough relationships where I can work at one of those companies or have it translate into another aspect of my life where I’m more working a job versus just being an athlete that is sponsored by them.

How do we get more young girls into wakesurfing?

I think getting them into the sport is so important because I know that wakeboarding is really common. It’s well known, but wakesurfing is fairly new. So I think just getting it more out there and having more people become aware of it, we’ll then get girls into it. I’ve always wanted to do a camp for girls, like a wakesurf camp for girls. It hasn’t happened yet, but that’s always been something that I’ve really wanted to do, whether it’s here in Michigan, or it’s in Florida, or I start up other little camps around the country. That’s definitely something that I think is really necessary to get girls into it.

The U.S. Women’s Open tees off tomorrow morning in Houston with the world’s best looking to end 2020 on a high note… and with a cool $1 million winners check in their pocket.

This is the first LPGA major to ever be played in December, and because of the shortened days, the first two rounds will be played on two different courses, Cypress Creek and Jackrabbit. The final two rounds on Saturday and Sunday will be played exclusively on the Cypress Creek course, which was originally slated to host the entirety of the major.

The TV schedule is as follows (all times ET):

  • Thursday: 12:30-6:00pm, Golf Channel

  • Friday:  3:00-6:00pm, Golf Channel

  • Saturday: 11:00am-1:00pm, Golf Channel; 2:30-6:00pm, NBC

  • Sunday: 11:00am-2:00pm, Golf Channel; 2:00pm-5:00pm, NBC

The field is stacked, but here’s 5 golfers we’ll be keeping our eyes on:



World Ranking: 1st

Recent Wins: ANA Championship (2019), Evian Championship (2019)

After a dominant 2019, Jin-young found herself in South Korea unable to join the tour (due to COVID-19) to defend her Rolex World Ranking and many other tournament wins. The South Korean international is now back on the tour, and while she hasn’t participated in any majors this year, she looked sharp during her only stateside tune up in the Volunteer of America Classic last week, taking fifth.


World Ranking: 2nd

Recent Wins: KPMG Women’s PGA Championship (2020), Pelican Women’s Championship (2020)

The 27-year old from South Korea is on a hot streak, winning her last two starts earlier this year. Heading into 2020, Sei-young was the most successful women’s golfer without a major win. She got the monkey off her back in decisive fashion, winning by 5 strokes at the KPMG Women’s PGA Championship in October. 


World Ranking: 4

Recent Wins: LPGA Drive On Championship (2020), Marathon LPGA Classic (2020)

The second highest ranked American (behind Nelly Korda) is the only other golfer on the tour besides Kim Sei-young with two title wins this season. She’s been competitive in every tournament she’s played this year; however, both her victories came early in the tour season. 


World Ranking: 26

Recent Wins: Honda LPGA Thailand (2018)

The older sister of the Korda duo is still searching for her first major title. With younger sister Nelly pulling out of her last tournament in October due to back pain, Jessica may have the best shot of winning a title for the Korda family. She started strong in the first two rounds last week in Texas (69,69) giving her a share of the lead, before falling off in the final rounds. If she can find that consistency, she’s got an outside shot.


World Ranking: 46th

Recent Wins: Volunteer of America Classic (2020)

Sometimes you gotta go with the hot hand. Last week, the veteran won her 7th LPGA Tour title at the Volunteer of America Texas Shootout. In a talented field, Stanford excelled in stretches where the world’s best struggled, shooting a four-under 67 to close the tournament, with a stretch on the back nine starting on the 13th that included four birdies in five holes. Can she surprise the field again?

Maddie Purcell is a professional Ultimate Frisbee player and a co-founder of the Portland Rising in the Premier Ultimate League. The Premier Ultimate League was created in 2018 with four teams, and has since expanded to include eight teams around the country. Below, Purcell talks with Just Women’s Sports about the foundation of the Premier Ultimate League and her journey with the sport. 

Can you give us a little background on the Premier Ultimate League and the Portland Rising? How did it all come to be? 

Ultimate frisbee started in New Jersey and was a grassroots sport for a while. With ultimate, there are men’s, women’s and mixed teams. Having a sport where multiple genders play on the field at the same time leads to what seems like an opportunity for gender equity all the way up. A professional men’s team started in 2012 and a lot of the community was like, “Wait, why just men’s?” Why are we feeding into this sports narrative that puts men first and then women as the sideshow? As a female athlete, it was extremely disappointing to see.

The community discussed this in different pockets for a long time. There were some showcase opportunities here and there for women’s teams, but it was nowhere close to equitable. In 2018, the idea came about for the Premier Ultimate League, which is for women and non-binary folk. We had a pilot season in 2018 with four teams who played a couple of games. Then, we had the full launch in 2019 with eight teams from across the Central, Eastern and Southern parts of the country, as well as a team from Colombia. The first season was so successful that we were able to expand by 50% in year two. And that’s where Portland Rising came into the picture. Portland has a lot of minor league teams who get a lot of support from the community. And yet, we’re just not seeing women on the professional sporting field. For us, it seemed like a responsibility and a privilege to make this happen.

How did you personally get involved in ultimate frisbee? 

I came to ultimate frisbee pretty casually. I first touched a disc in eighth grade but I couldn’t really throw. I had a group of friends who would play ultimate with like 25 people on the field — normally it’s 7v7. We would huck it one way and then huck it the other. It was not good ultimate, but I got a little taste of the bug. I started playing in the Portland summer league when I was in college.

I went to Colby College in Maine and when I graduated, I was like, “Okay, what now?” I had some tough personal things going on and I really missed physical activity and team sports. I started playing for club ultimate teams, since there weren’t any professional teams, and it was a lot of fun. At that point, a lot of people had started playing in college, so I wasn’t very far behind the curve in terms of disc skills.

In a lot of women’s sports leagues, players have to work multiple jobs to maintain a steady income. Is that a similar situation in the Premier Ultimate League? 

Yes. There are a few players in the men’s professional league who play for their career. I’m not sure if there are any in the women’s league. For Rising, our five year goal is to enable any rising player who wants to play ultimate as their career to be able to do so. We want it to be a combination of team pay, sponsorship endorsements, and things like that. For players on our team, that’s very exciting. Professional women’s ultimate didn’t exist until two years ago, so the concept of being able to get paid for something that players have invested so much into is awesome. And also, club ultimate can be very expensive — flying to tournaments and paying for your own uniforms. We’ve had a lot of conversations around who’s left out of that. My hope is that we’ll be able to change those barriers so everyone has the opportunity to access the professional level.

Can you talk more on how the league is trying to break down those barriers and bring people in? 

I think it’s imperative with understanding the world a little better to first understand the ways that systematic discrimination have impacted absolutely everything in our country. As a league, we are putting half of our resources into equity work to build a sustainable and equitable organization over the next year. Part of that is just because it is the right thing to do, but there is also opportunity there. What does it look like to build an organization that gives representation and power and prestige to folks who haven’t previously had it?

After George Floyd was murdered, a lot of people, myself included, woke up on a bigger level. As a league, we realized that we had gotten some social credit for being an inclusive and forward-looking organization. But a lot of the people benefiting from it, percentage-wise, were still just white women, who were getting more credit for being on the socially just side of things without necessarily spreading their resources to the extent that they should be. So yeah, we’re working on it really intentionally and we’re looking at the WNBA as great role models.

Why do you think it is so important for athletes to speak out on social issues? 

There’s nothing like rooting for sports and the emotional connection you can develop to teams and specific players. We saw it with Kobe, we see it with Diana Taurasi, Megan Rapinoe, and Colin Kaepernick. It’s incredible when you see athletes recognize that we love being fans of sports, and they take that attention and direct it somewhere where it can do some good.

One of our athletes, Hannah Baranes, did a birthday fundraiser recently and she was talking about how, as a young child, she was very behaviorally challenging. And because she’s white and because of the system, she was able to have those behavioral challenges addressed. She was given outlets, like sports, and now she is playing at the professional level. If she hadn’t had that privilege, maybe it would have looked like the court system or juvenile detention. So, I think there’s a lot of understanding on our team and a lot of desire to help create better outcomes.

Taking a step back here, but how do you recruit players to join the league? 

We’ll see moving forward. The first year, we held an open tryout because there had been no professional ultimate team in New England before. We sent out invites and opened it up to all corners. We had about 115 athletes come out and the energy in that room was insane. I was surprised the roof stayed on that first tryout. And the talent, too. Getting to see ultimate at that level and having it be inclusive was really cool.

We signed 27 players to the roster and then when it became clear that we weren’t going to play this year, we gave everyone an opt out clause. So far, 25 players chose to stay with the Rising through this extended offseason. Our hope is that many of those 25 players will be on the roster next year, and then we’ll see what we need and who’s available. I doubt we’ll do an open tryout again, but maybe we will have a community pickup game to give people opportunities to be seen.

How has COVID-19 affected your team and the growth of the sport? 

Honestly, I don’t think we’ll know the whole story until like three years from now. Within the team, people are dealing with it in different ways. Everyone has been affected in some way. People have lost relatives, people have lost jobs, and just the mental health struggle of it all is impacting everyone. Most players don’t have a gym, so it has been a challenge to keep our bodies in shape and our minds in shape. But people are also taking this time to educate themselves and take action. I’m really proud of the way everyone has dealt with it.

For the sport itself, that’s a really good question. I’m very optimistic about Portland, but the sport, as a whole, I don’t know. Ultimate will always exist, but a lot of ultimate companies are struggling without game play. I will say that, while every sport is important to the people who play it, most ultimate players find their identity in ultimate. I’ve never felt this almost cultish excitement and love for a sport until ultimate. So, yes, there is a pandemic and we have shut down for a year, but I’m excited to build from the other side.

What is it about ultimate frisbee that is so different from other sports? 

Are you familiar with “Spirit of the Game”? It’s the guiding principle of ultimate. Ultimate doesn’t use referees, except at the men’s professional level for some reason. And without refs, there’s this level of integrity. It’s also just the fun of it. For some people, Spirit of the Game means a dance party and for some people it means competing at the highest level. People have different definitions, but Spirit of the Game means something to everyone who plays ultimate and it creates this different culture.

What are your hopes for the future of ultimate? 

In Portland, we want to make ultimate a mainstream sport and the groundwork is there to do it. Our community in Portland loves being fans and loves supporting our town. The community is ready for a women’s professional team and we want to promote women competing at the highest level. Across the sport, there is a lot of work to be done to reach full equity and full inclusion. We want to make ultimate a safe community for everybody, not just the people who are at the core of it already. There are a lot of questions like is ultimate going to be in the Olympics soon? What kind of investment will there be at the pro level versus the youth level? But definitely all of it is moving towards growth.

Less than a week after the conclusion of the NWSL Fall Series, and with the Louisville expansion draft looming in November, the first of what may be a series of blockbuster trade deals went down yesterday. When the dust had settled, North Carolina Courage midfielder Crystal Dunn was on her way to the Portland Thorns, where her husband is the team’s athletic trainer.

The USWNT stalwart’s cross country flight had a layover by way of Tacoma, with OL Reign sending Casey Murphy and allocation money to North Carolina in exchange for Dunn, before trading her to Portland for an international spot for the 2021 season, the Thorn’s first round NWSL draft pick (2022), as well as some additional allocation money, some of which depends on Dunn’s future in the NWSL.

Needless to say, some members of the women’s soccer world were shocked while others rejoiced. One thing is for certain: next month’s expansion draft could get quite interesting, as Portland, among other clubs, now has some tough decisions to make regarding which which players to protect.

Here’s how Twitter reacted to the deal:







Kimberly Sass is a professional women’s hockey goalie who helped found, and now plays for, the Professional Women’s Hockey Players Association (PWHPA). Sass played collegiate hockey at Colgate University and has previously played for the Metropolitan Riveters in the NWHL. Below, Sass talks with Just Women’s Sports about the PWHPA’s partnership with the United States Premier Hockey League, how COVID has shaped her perspective on sports, and the future of the PWHPA. 

[Editor’s note: this interview took place the day of the PWHPA New Hampshire Hub’s first game against the Islanders Hockey Club of the USPHL]

How are you feeling coming back to play after so long?

Yeah, of course everyone hasn’t been on the ice for awhile. We just held tryouts last weekend and had one practice on Wednesday. We are trying to get acquainted with each other and just figure out who our teammates are. We are so happy the PWHPA has partnered with the USPHL this season — it’s offering us so much more competition and training. It’s so important right now especially during COVID because there are so many more options for teams we could play in just the Northeast alone.

It sounds like such a great opportunity.  

Definitely. I recently watched Billie Jean King’s documentary on HBO. It reviewed her Battle of the Sexes match and it made me think of this weekend and our partnership with the USPHL. For us, we are not trying to treat this partnership as a “Battle of the Sexes” but as a training opportunity and a way to get extra competition throughout the season. I do think it’s hard, though, to not want to try and prove yourself, you know what I mean?

What do you think it will be like competing against the men’s teams? 

A lot of our players grew up playing on boys teams. I played with boys for one year when I first started and then I actually played on my high school’s boys JV and Varsity teams. Overall, I think we are familiar with skating with men’s teams here and there. In terms of competing with them in more of a season formate, I think that might be new for some players. I’m sure there will be a transition period, but I think we will be fine.

This weekend will be the first of five Regional Training hubs to play this year. Can you explain more about that model and why the PWHPA chose it? 

Sure. Last year was the first year of the Professional Women’s Hockey Players Association (PWHPA) and we had seven regions for training. This year, two of the regions were eliminated because we moved towards a model where each region would have more of a team feel. So the five regions were selected based on the number of players that lived in that area. Most players lived in Toronto, Montreal, Calgary, Minnesota and New Hampshire. There are going to be some floater players who can’t relocate to those regions, but for the most part, we have enough players in those regions to hold high-level, high-tempo practices.

How has COVID-19 impacted the PWHPA’s mission and operations? 

When COVID first hit, we were waiting to see how it would all play out in terms of partners coming back for the second Dream Gap Tour. We were trying to figure out the logistics of travel and when we could actually play again. We were pleasantly surprised with how many of our existing partners returned and we actually have some new partners who jumped on board, too. In terms of the Dream Gap Tour showcase events which are typically hosted by NHL teams, we are shooting to begin those in January. Up until then, most teams will be selecting their own rosters and practicing in their hubs.

What are your expectations for game play given how much time players had to take off due to COVID?

It really depends on every player’s situation and if they had access to rinks or gyms. I think, for the most part, people were okay with the COVID break and just jumped right back in. As female athletes, we are used to high pressure situations. A lot of us work, too. Like, for this game tonight, I am working an entire day before I go step onto the ice. I’m on my lunch break right now. I’m in a hotel room working from home as an architectural designer. I found this quote once, and I forget who said it, but they said, “Pressure is a privilege.” I think we all just try to appreciate every time we are able to get on the ice.

I really like that. How has quarantine been for you? Do you have access to a gym?

I started doing a lot of home workouts, for sure. I actually moved from Jersey City back to my hometown in Buffalo, New York. Luckily, a local gym there called Revolution Buffalo started doing outdoor spin classes, circuit training and strength training so I try to do as many of those as possible. I purchased an indoor cycling bike, I have my TRX strap and my chin up bar. I got a slide board for my apartment to try and work on my lateral movement as a goalie. But it was definitely not as traditional as my usual offseason training. We all just made it work and now we’re going to put in that much more work to get to where we need to be.

What are some of your personal goals for this year? 

Just to enjoy every moment that I have on the ice. I’m getting older, I guess, in terms of ages of female hockey players — I’m turning 30 in November. I just want to give it my all this season in terms of training and really cherishing the moments because we don’t know how much longer we’re going to get these opportunities.

Has COVID made you appreciate playing more? 

I think, for certain players, the COVID break made them contemplate retiring. Some people considered not playing this season. I know that crossed my mind a little bit. I think that reflection and that realization that you don’t know when you are going to play next motivates you when you do have the opportunity to play.

How have you personally managed your architecture career with the PWHPA over the past few years? 

I graduated from Colgate University in 2012 and went right into my masters of architecture program in Buffalo. There were no paid professional hockey opportunities in the United States and I did not want to delay my career by moving to Europe, so I just went right into grad school. In my final year of the architecture program, I played in the NWHL. I just knew that I wasn’t finished with hockey. I ended up moving to New York to pursue an architecture job and I also played for the Metropolitan Riveters for two years. In 2019, many of us players decided to leave the league and form the PWHPA in hopes of creating a truly professional, sustainable league with a livable wage and plenty of resources.

I haven’t answered the question, but I think I’m just used to juggling all these things. I think being a student athlete teaches you that balance and, for me, stepping on the ice is a way to clear my head. I also think my personality is to just get things done. And I’ve always tried to be a leader in terms of women’s hockey, so I really appreciate my position on the board for the PWHPA.

What does the PWHPA need to do to advance its goal of establishing a viable professional league? 

I think we need to treat these exhibition games as opportunities to always be improving our skills and level of play. Once we do have that big stage to play on, we have to be able to prove to everyone that we deserve this.

After these regional exhibitions, is there a next step? What is the PWHPA going to do after? 

The next step would be to have a full Dream Gap Tour season. Usually the tour runs from October to March, but with COVID, we are hoping that the showcase tournament weekends start in January. And then, ideally, we want to create more of a partnership with the NHL and create more of a structure of an actual league with pay. That’s what we’re shooting for.

What would a successful season look like in your eyes? 

A successful season for the PWHPA players would look like players not having to work a full time job before going to a game. It would look like players being able to train on the ice whenever they choose and having access to workout facilities and full-size arenas. You know, the pay has to be there in order to attract the top talent. We’re shooting for a broadcast deal and just a total professional atmosphere with medical staff and equipment managers.

Do you have anything else you would like to add? 

I think the most important message is that we’re striving for something better. We’re trying to keep the movement going. The goal is a future professional, sustainable league for women’s professional hockey. We deserve it. We’re going to continue to prove ourselves over and over again in these games. So join us, watch us, follow us and look forward to great things happening.

The first No. 1 recruit to join Stanford women’s basketball since 2010, Haley Jones is a rising sophomore originally from Santa Cruz, California. This year, the 6’ 1 guard became the first Stanford freshman since 2001 to score in double figures in the first four conference games, before being sidelined with an injury after the season’s first 18 games. Prior to her injury in January’s game against Oregon State, Jones was named a Pac-12 Freshman of the Week three times. 

[Editor’s note: this interview took place before the Pac-12 announced it was postponing all sports, including basketball, to 2021]

What has your day-to-day looked like during the pandemic?

I ended my first season at Stanford with a knee injury, so I’ve been spending a lot of quarantine doing physical therapy and recovering from home. Basketball-wise, I’ve been able to do a little bit of on-court stuff, and I was busy with schoolwork, because I took on more units now that classes are online.

Any recommendations for good Netflix shows or fun hobbies?

Some other freshman teammates and I just discovered Netflix party. We watched season two of Dead to Me and we’ll be watching Dynasty now that it’s out. I’m trying to force my brother to watch Game of Thrones with me because that’s my favorite show ever.

As for hobbies, my mom is the greatest chef ever, so we’ve been putting all of her recipes ever into Evernote. Now I’m going to have all her recipes – I’ve been baking up a storm.

Going back a bit, how did you start playing basketball? 

My parents were varsity coaches at the local high school. I grew up being at practices, games, in the gym. Girls on the teams they coached were my role models. They would always want to babysit me, and I’d run around with them at the gym.

I played a bunch of different sports when I was younger. I did water polo, volleyball, soccer – I did everything. I started playing “real” basketball around third grade when I first played on a travel team. Most of my teammates were mostly in the fifth grade. People always ask me how I play guard when I’m so big –  it’s because I played above my age group when I first started playing basketball. Naturally, I was always the smallest on my team and had to play guard. Once I started playing for my actual age group, I became the biggest one but still had guard skills.

How else did playing above your age group impact the way you play?

Playing up always forced me to push myself. None of the girls that I ever played with ever took it easy on me just because I was younger, and that really helped build my competitive spirit. I’ve always wanted to be the type of kid that wanted to play against the best player, and playing up gave plenty of learning opportunities.

In high school you were rated as the No.1 player in the country – you’re the first No.1 prospect to sign with Stanford since Chiney Ogwumike. How did you decide to attend Stanford?

I first started getting recruited around the spring of seventh grade. By junior spring, I narrowed it down to around eleven schools. The summer between my junior and senior year, I narrowed my choices down to five schools: Notre Dame, Oregon, South Carolina, Stanford and UConn. I made five official visits and waited until the last possible day to decide to sign with Stanford.

I was the first female recruit to sign live on ESPN, which was so cool. They came  to my school with donuts with my face on it. I was like, “Oh, this is the real deal – this is my peak.”

My non-negotiable criteria when choosing a school included academics, future teammates and classmates. Everything from the coaches, to the opportunities I’d get at Stanford to the people I’d interact with on a day to day basis – it’s an experience I wouldn’t have gotten anywhere else.

And my expectations were true for the most part. For example, my freshman roommate who I was randomly assigned to – she’s the GOAT. She has her own nonprofit organization. It’s so cool getting immersed into these different communities; At Stanford, the athletes don’t feel separated from the rest of the community. And my team is amazing. They are some of my best friends now – they’re basically family.

At Stanford, you started off with an incredibly strong first season. You were the first freshman to score in double figures in the first four conference games since 2001. What was it like to transition to college basketball?

Coming to college, everyone on your team was that player on their high school team. They were that player on the AAU team. Everyone on our team was recruited because they played at the same level as me. I was so excited to get to play with everyone, because I saw it as an opportunity to make me better. No matter who you’re guarding, it’s a challenge. You can take them – and they can take you – on every given play. I had to understand that I was going to have to be competitive to get play time. But this competition came from a place of wanting to lift each other up.

Another thing about playing at the collegiate level that was so different was the pace. Pace is a mental challenge that you have to keep at the front of your mind at all times.

You had to stop playing after the first 18 games due to a knee injury. How are you overcoming this setback?

That game against Oregon State feels just like yesterday. I went down, twisted my leg – I just remember I was trying to stand up and couldn’t put any weight on it.

I’ve never had an injury before where I had to sit out of the season for so long. At first, it just took me a bit to come to terms with why this happened. You know, why me? Why now? My teammates were there for me every step of the way. Even so, it was really hard not getting to travel with them. It was weird not being at practice all the time, because I’d be at doctor’s appointments and physical therapy.

Additionally, it was really hard changing physical therapists from Stanford to ones local to home because of the pandemic.

I don’t want to say getting injured was a good thing, because it’s not. But, I think that my injury opened up new experiences. I’ve never really been on the sidelines. I really got to understand our system from a different point of view by watching our team and our games. I really got to understand all my different teammates’ tendencies. Usually during drills, I’m just focused on myself. But now I know where my teammates like to be on the floor – I got to talk to Kiana and Lexie a lot just about different things that they’re seeing on the floor so that when I’m able to come back, I can help them carry those ideas out. I’m able to hit them at the places they want to be hit. I think when I come back, I’ll really be able to understand everyone better.

Have you been keeping in touch with your teammates since your season was cut short?

One afternoon, Coach Tara VanDerveer called us. All of us on the team got in our circle in our locker room with all our staff, and she told us it was the end for this season. Just understanding that was the last time that this special group of people were all going to be together was really hard to grasp. The moment we got out of that meeting we were all looking for flights back home. It was a really abrupt ending to the season and that special team we had.

But since returning home, we’ve had a lot of Zoom calls with the coaches, which are fun. As a team, we text and Snapchat all the time. We get on team Zoom calls without coaches just to hang out and chat. I’m FaceTiming with the freshmen every day. We send each other memes. We’re trying to start Netflix partying shows together.

Certainly there’s a lot of uncertainty today and it’s hard to make plans for the future. With this in mind, do you have goals for your collegiate career? Are any post-college plans on your radar yet?

For my collegiate career, I’m not really thinking long-term right now. I’m really just thinking about how I want to come back this year. I’m not trying to come back as the same player I was before my injury – I’m trying to be better than I was. Post-college, professional basketball has always been a dream, but you never know what’s going to happen.

The WNBA season may not even be at its halfway point, but it’s never too early to start talking about MVP candidates. While anything can happen, these are the five players we’re keeping our eyes on as we head into the heart of the 2020 season. (All stats include games through Sunday, August 9th.)


  • 1st in points per game (22.3)

  • 4th in rebounds per game (8.9)

A’ja Wilson has had a blistering start to her 2020 season. With Liz Cambage opting out of the season, the 2018 rookie of the year has stepped into the spotlight for the Las Vegas Aces and currently leads the league in points per game. At just 24 years old, the young star seems to add a new skill to her offensive tool kit with every game she plays, and after hitting the game-winner against the New York Liberty, she is very much the frontrunner at this point in the MVP race.


  • 5th in points per game (19.4)

  • 4th in blocks per game (1.6)

  • 4th in steals per game (2)

Watching Breanna Stewart dominate teams in the bubble, you’d have no idea she missed all last season with a ruptured Achilles. Not only is she averaging over 20 points a game, but she’s also knocked in 16 three pointers so far (at a 43% clip, 12th in the league). Add to that her 1.6 blocks per game and Stewart is proving to be a problem for opponents at every spot on the floor. The 2018 league MVP is used to being in the conversation, and so far she’s arguably been the most complete player in the wubble.


  • 4th in points per game (19.7)

  • 2nd in steals per game (2.4)

Despite the Sun’s rough start to the season, DeWanna Bonner has been a bright spot. At various moments she has led the league in scoring all while continuing to make her presence felt on the defensive end. With the Sun sitting at 1-6, Bonner is likely on the outside of the MVP conversation looking in, but the 32 year old has proven she is still one of the league’s best. In the first four games of the season, Bonner scored an eye-popping 110 points.


  • 1st in assists per game (8.9)

The Chicago Sky floor general was just named the Eastern Conference Player of the Week after averaging 14 points, 9 assists and shooting 52% from the field during the second week of play. A nine-year vet, Vandersloot was All-WNBA First Team in 2019, and her 8.9 assists per game this season is far and away the top mark in the league. (Diana Taurasi is second, with 5.9 per game.) If Vandersloot can continue to keep the Sky in contention down the stretch, expect to see the underrated vet slip her way into some of end-of-the-year hardware talk.


  • 5th in points per game (19.4)

  • 1st in most points in a game (35)

Carter is the real deal. The rookie has already established herself as an elite scorer, becoming the youngest player ever to drop 30+ in a game when she scored 35 against Seattle. With the Atlanta Dream near the bottom of the standings, Carter likely has a better shot at winning Rookie of the Year, but if she can continue to put up 30 point games (and if some of those games can also be wins), she’ll have a fighting chance of becoming just the second player after Candace Parker to win both Rookie of the Year and MVP in the same season.

Sabrina Ionescu may be the most hyped WNBA rookie we’ve seen in some time, but she won’t be the only first-year player we expect to make some noise in the WNBA bubble. Here’s five other names to keep an eye on as the “Wubble” season begins.



The Atlanta Dream just about won the lottery with Chennedy “Hollywood” Carter falling to the 4th spot in the WNBA draft. With Tiffany Hayes opting out of the 2020 season, Carter will see time early and often. She is a sharp handler who averaged over 20 points per game throughout her three year career at Texas A&M. Just in case she needed higher expectations, legendary PG Sue Bird touted Carter as the draft pick most likely to star in the league. NEED WE SAY MORE?



After giving up her own senior year at Oregon, Satou Sabally was the second pick overall in the 2020 draft. Standing at 6’4’’, her post presence and rangy shooting abilities will be called upon early by a young Dallas Wings roster. At Oregon, Sabally thrived in a system run by (you guessed it) Sabrina Ionescu. Will she be able to step up for a relatively inexperienced Wings side? If she does, the German native is definitely one to watch as a sleeper ROY contender.



The final part of the 1-2-3 Oregon Ducks punch, Ruthy Hebard was selected 8th overall in the 2020 draft after compiling a 68.5 field goal percentage in college. Joining a veteran Chicago Sky roster this season, Hebard is only going to get better and better as she learns from the likes of Allie Quigley, Courtney Vandersloot and Diamond DeShields. We expect Hebard to shine in valuable minutes as she continues to develop her game without being forced to carry a team.



After breaking every single South Carolina assists record, Tyasha Harris became the 7th overall pick in the 2020 draft and the third pick by the Dallas Wings. The selfless point guard is one who constantly looks to set her teammates up for success. With the Wings drafting young and signing new shooting talent in Katie Lou Samuelson and Marina Mabrey, Harris will have ample opportunities to start racking up assists as she dishes the ball to a promising Wings squad.



The third rookie to be drafted by New York Liberty, Jazmine Jones is a young (but talented) guard on an extremely young (but extremely talented) Liberty team. Averaging 14.1 points and 5.0 rebounds per game while at Louisville, Jones will have to adapt her game quickly to compete. She has both the drive and work ethic to do so, and has already signed with Tarbes Gespe Bigorree to play overseas once the WNBA season ends. While all eyes will be on Ionescu, Jones will be one of six other rookies on the Liberty squad who will be pressed into serious action in their first years as pros.

As we head into the knockout stage of the NWSL Challenge Cup, here are 5 young players early in their careers who we’re excited to watch over the next round of games and beyond.



With Adrianna Franch out of the tournament due to an injury, Britt Eckerstrom was expected to step in as the #1 goalkeeper for the Portland Thorns. However Marc Parsons and second year keeper Bella Bixby had other ideas. Getting the first 4 starts of her NWSL career, Bixby has more than impressed. With two clean sheets and a 78.6% success save rate matching USWNT team goalkeeper Alyssa Naeher, Bixby is one to keep an eye on for league play and beyond.



Expectations were high from day one for the fourth overall pick of the 2020 draft, and Sanchez has delivered. The rookie has played in every Challenge Cup game so far, starting three, and been a constant threat around the goal for her side. She’s looked more and more comfortable as the tournament has progressed, and to top it all off, she flicked in one of the craziest assists we’ve ever seen.



Tziarra King started her NWSL career with a bang, coming in and scoring the game-tying goal in the waning minutes of the Royal’s opening match with Houston. King has appeared late in three of her side’s four group stage matches, and we expect her to continue to be a late-impact player as she grows in her role. Looking beyond the Cup, King will have the opportunity to learn from some of the best in Christen Press and Amy Rodriguez. She’s definitely one to keep an eye on in the long run.



Merrick quietly slid into the right back role, starting and playing nearly every minute of three of the Courage’s four matches. The 28th pick of the 2020 draft hasn’t skipped a beat since stepping up for the champs and, on a team like North Carolina, has proven that even though she’s young, don’t expect her to be the weak link on a seemingly unbeatable side. Her pass completion rate is 73%, and we expect her to continue her steady play as the Courage look to defend their title.



The 20th pick in the 2019 draft patiently waited 18 months to make her NWSL debut, but has since gone on to start in two of Chicago’s group stage matches. In those games, she’s done more than enough to justify getting further minutes in the knockout stage. St Georges has a 92% completion rate on passes in her own half and poses a threat downfield when she gets forward.



Cudjoe isn’t exactly young by NWSL standards, but she is one of our favorite stories and standout performers in the Challenge Cup. After spending three seasons in the WPSL, Cudjoe persevered and impressed the staff and players at the open tryout for Sky Blue. Against Houston, the 26-year-old from Ghana completed 85.6% of her passes and has since become a key player in Sky Blue’s midfield. If the team is going to make a run through the playoffs, they’ll need Cudjoe to continue beating expectations.

Ngozi Musa is a graduate of Harvard University, where she was an All-Ivy League sprinter for the Crimson’s track and field team. She is the founder of Aesthetics & Athletics, a platform and podcast designed to inspire and empower women in sports. We spoke with Musa about the importance of the current moment, why sports can be a platform for social change, and how she’s had to adjust her mindset since entering the professional world. 

How have recent events influenced your work, both professionally and personally?

We’re in the midst of a double pandemic. There’s COVID-19, obviously, but we’ve also been in a racial pandemic for over 400 years. Growing up, I put a lot of pressure on myself being a Black woman in an all-white neighborhood. I didn’t fully embrace my Blackness until I was 20 years old. I ran away from my Blackness because I felt like society told me I had to. Everyone has different Black experiences and you can’t blanket an entire group of people. So in terms of everything going on, I’ve had to take a step back.

Two weeks ago, I was supposed to upload a podcast episode on Friday right when everything with George Floyd happened. I had to pause and ask myself, “Okay, why am I doing this?” What value does this podcast add to this moment?” I had to ask myself, “How am I amplifying Black voices?” As a Black woman in sports, I lie at an intersection. I want to create a place in sports for Black women to feel empowered and inspired.

I’ve been trying to figure out exactly how to do that. Two weeks ago, we did a Zoom event where we had a group workout and then had a cultural conversation afterwards. It’s all about the conversation and bringing people together from diverse backgrounds. We have to be willing to meet people halfway — if we stay on our separate sides, we will just keep repeating history. So, I plan on continuing to use my work with Aesthetics & Athletics and with these podcasts to address the current climate.

Can you tell us about the No More Names campaign?

No More Names was started by Chris Egi, who was a Harvard basketball player. When Trayvon Martin was killed, he realized that was the reality for Black men in America and started No More Names in 2018. The idea is that there should be no more names, no more hashtags.

Chris realized that, as a student athlete, you have a platform — no matter how big or small your school is. So, he decided to get former and current student athletes together with No More Names. Now, we have over 2000 student athletes in the GroupMe and have built out onto Slack. No Mores Names, for student athletes, is a way for them to figure out how they can make an impact in their daily lives. It can be overwhelming to think about the whole world changing and how you can play a part in that change. But, if we can all start with our sphere of influence where we can add the most value, then we can continue to adapt and transform the world. Now, we’re talking about, you know, what does this look like in conferences? What does this look like in the NCAA?

Why do you think sports are such a powerful platform for change? 

Kareem Abdul-Jabbar said something to the effect of, “Sports are the only place where all races can come together and truly have meaningful dialogue.” I remember being on a club soccer team where I was one of three Black girls on an all-white team. But we didn’t even notice. In that moment, I didn’t even notice race because we were all playing the same sport, we all had the same goal, and we were all working together. In those spaces, I was able to connect with people I probably would have never connected with outside of sports.

We recently celebrated Juneteenth, as a country. You posted about your family history and about being a descendent of slaves. Can you tell us a little more about how your family background has influenced you? 

During my senior year, I took a class called Ancestry. I went into the class thinking it would just be a fun class, but it transformed my life. We talked a lot about slavery and the movements of the slave trade. I had known about my family’s ancestry before the course, but I remember one time in class I came to this deep realization that my ancestors were slaves. I knew it, but I was so disconnected from it. I realized that slavery is my history — it’s a part of me.

I started thinking, “Where do I go from here?” Yes, my ancestors walked through the gate to freedom, but we, in America, are still not free. There are still pain and scars and shackles from the slave trade that need to be released. Yes, Dr. King started the Civil Rights movement, but the Civil Rights movement didn’t begin and end with Dr. King. It’s still going.

I am not ashamed of being a Black woman. I am not ashamed to be a Christian. For me, personally, it’s all about having a hope in something greater than myself and having a hope in eternity where we are all equal. Maybe that won’t happen in this world, but we will make progress. We have to continue to fight.

What can people do right now to keep the conversations and progress going? 

A lot of people are asking that now. We see it being a social media moment, but how do we make it a social movement? We have to engage, reflect and act.

For me, one of the biggest things is reflecting — you have to reflect on your experience as a human being. What spaces and places are you in? What does it look like? I went to a predominantly all-white school. I’ve lived in a predominantly all-white neighborhood. I have had Black privilege a lot of my life. How am I helping people that look like me but might not have the same socioeconomic background as me?

And then, engaging. It is important that we engage in conversations, not only with Black people, but also with people who aren’t Black and who might have different perspectives than us. Civil discourse is important. I 100% agree that we should amplify Black voices, but I don’t think that means silencing people who disagree. If we silence people who disagree, we are never going to be able to reach across the aisle and reach an agreement.

It’s not about choosing sides or choosing parties, it’s about choosing people. It could be as simple as what are three actions items I am going to do this week to help the movement? It could be reading, it could be engaging in conversations, it could be listening, it could be donating. That’s how we sustain this movement.

You ran track for Harvard. What was it like being a successful athlete balancing your career with Ivy League academics? 

If I’m being completely honest, I didn’t like Harvard my first six months. I struggled mental health wise. I struggled being so far from home. I struggled making new friends. My coach was very hard pressed on academics. My athletic talent had always been praised and I always thought of myself as a perfectionist. To be in a situation where everyone is good at what they do and you are no longer the best at your sport or the best in academics, can be a big transition.

I had to develop a growth mindset and realize that it’s all a process. I had to change my mindset from perfectionism to progression. And that’s a big thing at Harvard — having a transformative mindset. I had to learn that I was going to make mistakes, but that’s how I was going to learn and grow. Overtime, I started to enjoy the experience more because I had a new mindset.

Is that mindset something that you have carried with you? 

You would think that as a student athlete, you carry that mindset throughout college and then it automatically applies to the real world. After I graduated though, I went to work for a company in New York and I struggled a lot with this idea of being perfect again. I think you constantly have to reevaluate your fixed and growth mindset — you always need to be learning and editing and trying to reach that growth mindset.

After moving to New York, you started Aesthetics & Athletics. What was your inspiration? What are your hopes for the platform? 

I think I was always meant to be an entrepreneur. Realizing that I needed to pivot was the hardest part. I ended up moving back home to Seattle a month before COVID hit. When I got home, I had to think about what I wanted to do. What is my identity? What are my hobbies? I did track for 13 years. That was all I did. I had to transform my mindset and realize that I can be an athlete at any stage in life.

I realized that the two things that most informed my life were female empowerment and athletics. Aesthetics & Athletics started out of those two concepts. I want to inspire and empower the athlete in every woman. From my experience as a student athlete, I saw the gap in resources for mental health, for body image, for nutrition. I don’t want a girl to go through the same thing that I went through. I want to change that loop and ensure that we are supporting people so that they can be their best selves.

Would you like to add anything else?

The importance of this movement is overwhelming. I think it’s important for people to understand that as much as this moment is overwhelming, people have been living these experiences for years — their whole lives have been overwhelming.

Also, in order to enact real change, we need to take steps to meet people where they are at. People are upset, people are uncomfortable. We have to be able to engage and meet people where they are at and have grace. That is something I’ve even learned in the last couple of weeks. At first I was upset because some of my friends weren’t posting anything. But you have to give people grace to process things on their own time. At the same time, though, just because you give grace, doesn’t mean you can’t hold people accountable.