With the top pick in last month’s WNBA Draft, the Seattle Storm selected 6-4 forward Breanna Stewart, a four-time national champion at the University of Connecticut. Stewart is the only player to ever win three AP Player of the Year awards and four Most Outstanding Player honors at the Final Four. She recently sat down with Kaiser Permanente, a healthcare organization that partners with the Storm to host youth basketball clinics in Seattle, to discuss advice for young athletes and how she became the player she is today.
What advice do you have for kids who dream of becoming a pro player?
If it’s something that they’re really, really passionate about, work hard and have fun with it. I think those are the two most important things: working hard and having fun. Give your best effort, and if it’s supposed to happen, then it will happen.
What kept you motivated and inspired as a kid?
What kept me motivated was the fact that I constantly wanted to be better. I wasn’t satisfied with what I was doing. I knew that people behind me were trying to beat me.
What advice do you have for parents who want to help their kids reach their full potential in sports?
My advice is to be their biggest supporter. My parents are my biggest supporters and my biggest critics at the same time, but you’re walking a fine line. At the end of the day, it’s the kid that has the dream and they’re the ones doing it. You have to make sure to keep that in perspective.
As a kid did you learn any hard lessons about the value of good sportsmanship?
I don’t think there were any hard lessons. That was just the way my parents raised me, that no matter the outcome, you have to be a good sport about it. If I lose, it’s going to suck, but the other team probably worked harder and won for a reason.
How do you build mental toughness?
You can certainly strengthen your mental state. We talk about physical stuff on the court, but most of basketball is mental. It’s about not letting your confidence waver. I think the best way to strengthen your mental state is just getting in the gym, just continuing to see yourself having success.
Why should kids play basketball?
Kids should play basketball because it’s a great opportunity for them to get active, have fun and learn the whole aspect of what it’s like to be on a team. If I look back to when I first started playing basketball, some of the kids I played with are still my best friends today. You create relationships that last a lifetime. You don’t know if this sport is going to take you to the highest level, but you know that you’re going to have those great relationships.