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The key to Stefanie Dolson’s multi-championship season

(Chris Marion/NBAE via Getty Images)

Stefanie Dolson had a banner 2021, winning Olympic gold with Team USA’s 3×3 squad in Tokyo and a WNBA championship with the Chicago Sky. At 29 years old, Dolson is hitting her stride after playing eight years in the WNBA and competing with USA Basketball since her U18 days.

The Sky center made history alongside Allisha Gray, Kelsey Plum and Jackie Young when they clinched the first-ever 3×3 basketball gold medal at the 2020 Olympics, a run that Dolson said re-energized her.

“It was just such a nice break from 5-on-5. I think if I went and played 5-on 5 basketball, it would’ve been a little bit harder maybe, or easier to feel burnt out,” Dolson tells Just Women’s Sports. “So I think it helped that I played 3-on-3. It kind of gave me that break from the season of the W.”

Riding the momentum from her Tokyo win, Dolson came back from the break ready to close out the second half of the WNBA season with her Sky teammates, who were some of her biggest supporters during the Olympics.

“Winning kind of brought me back on a high. My team was amazing, they were so sweet when I got back,” she says. “They had, like, these shirts made. It was really cute. I hate the attention, but I appreciate the statement, so they were really nice.”

The team chemistry Dolson attests to was on full display when the Sky went from the sixth seed in the playoffs to WNBA champions, securing the first title in franchise history.

Dolson’s landmark season, however, didn’t come without its challenges. The 29-year-old revealed in early 2020 and that she and her entire family tested positive for COVID-19 and her mom was hospitalized with the virus. Dolson experienced symptoms herself and didn’t return to the court for five months. During the 2020 season in the WNBA bubble, she played a career-low 18.2 minutes per game.

So, going into the 2021 offseason, Dolson decided to fully commit to her overall health, including changing her approach to nutrition. In an Instagram post celebrating the Sky’s championship, Dolson opened up about the hard work she put in during the winter months.

“I worked my ass off this offseason to lose weight, get quicker and be my best version of myself to help my team and I did just that!” she wrote.

“For me, this was probably my biggest year when it comes to my body and stuff. I lost weight in the offseason, I decided not to go overseas,” Dolson says. “I lost 30 pounds.”

Nutrition and conditioning have been paramount for Dolson since she was a college athlete at UConn and learned she had to go the extra mile to refuel her body.

“Even at the end of last year, I wasn’t able to run the floor very hard,” Dolson told the Hartford Courant during her senior season in 2014. “I think that has improved immensely. I know how hard to work now. I have the instinct now to know how I have to work.”

That mentality helped Dolson overcome a foot injury, isolation and underperformance in 2020.

“I feel like my injury was from the weight that I gained from quarantine and from being home,” she says. “So I had to lose it. I got more fit, and then that’s when I started using this product called UCAN.”

The all-natural, zero-sugar energy product has become essential to Dolson’s training regimen in 2021, helping her overcome a grueling schedule to reach new heights. With UCAN, Dolson said that she doesn’t “crash because of the sugar,” something she has become hyper-aware of over the course of her basketball career.

“Just using products like UCAN, watching my carbs, my sugar, like all that stuff, it’s just helped me kind of be the best player that I can be,” she says.

UCAN’s wide range of products, including protein bars and energy powders, helped Dolson “maintain my weight throughout the season and still stay energized.”

“What the nutritional quality translates to for women is the ability to have a fuller capacity of their fuel source for training,” says Dr. Cathy Yeckel, an Assistant Clinical Professor at the Yale School of Medicine and a nutritional consultant for UCAN. “It’s a healthier choice and it can translate to a bigger fuel repertoire when they come to the line to train.”

As for Dolson’s favorite flavor? “Cookies and cream, of course!”

After an eventful year, Dolson enters the offseason as an unrestricted free agent. She joins Sky teammates Courtney Vandersloot, Allie Quigley and Kahleah Copper on the market.

While the future of the Chicago squad — and the possibility of a WNBA title defense — is uncertain, Dolson has found a recipe for success mentally and physically.

Clare Brennan is an associate editor at Just Women’s Sports. Follow her on Twitter @clare_brennan2.

(Editor’s note: UCAN is a sponsor of Just Women’s Sports)