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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.