My daughter is starting to understand and appreciate the game of basketball. She's taken a few basketball classes since last spring, and it has been so fascinating to see her develop. Camilla works hard during these classes. She runs, dribbles, passes, learns, and sweats (a lot). I love her positive attitude, her desire to improve, and her respect for her coaches. She now says basketball is her favorite sport. I'm trying to contain my grin. I've been a hoops fan for as long as I can remember. I played and coached as well, so basketball is a sport that I know and love.
Now, my daughter is really enjoying watching basketball, specifically the WNBA. We go to games, watch highlights, and support the league. She has a favorite team (the Liberty) and favorite player (All-Star point guard Skylar Diggins of the new Dallas Wings). I love that my daughter can watch sound, yet fun basketball when watching the WNBA. Even All-Star Draymond Green of the NBA Champion Golden State Warriors agrees. “In the NBA there’s always a guy who is only around because he can jump. He doesn’t have a clue about the fundamentals. I learn more from the WNBA. They know how to dribble, how to pivot, how to use the shot fake.” After watching a WNBA Watch Me Work video focusing on Skylar Diggins, Camilla told me she wanted to show Ms. Diggins how hard she also works at basketball. So, before her basketball class started one morning, I recorded my daughter on the court running, dribbling, and shooting. I created a short video and posted it on Twitter for Skylar, her team, and the WNBA. They and many others seemed to appreciate the video with many likes, retweets, and kind words. Camilla was thrilled to receive a tweet from her favorite player. But little did we know that would not be the end of the video.
This year, I vowed to get my daughter to the Liberty game vs. Skylar Diggins and the Dallas Wings. We missed Skylar play at the Garden the last two years. Last year was especially tough, as Skylar suffered a knee injury and missed the game vs. the Liberty. Trust me, when I told Camilla we were going to the Liberty/Wings game, she was beyond exuberant. Although she wondered how she would cheer for her favorite player vs. her favorite team, she found a way to honor both.
Thanks to a friend who works for the Liberty, we were invited to watch the Liberty pre-game routine. I was excited to watch this shootaround and discuss what the players were doing with my daughter. However, I was also excited about the possibility of Camilla meeting Skylar Diggins. I informed my daughter that this could happen, but tempered her expectations. Things were not looking good for that meeting when we learned that Skylar did not play in the Wings season opener the day before. I was now not sure Skylar would even be in New York as her team was taking her recovery from last season's devastating knee injury very seriously. But, my giddy daughter and I still headed to the Garden.
In order for this all to work, we had to be at MSG two hours before the game started. Add those two hours to the two hours of gameplay, and we're talking nearly four hours of focus for my 5 year old daughter. If you know anything about children that age, you know that 15 minutes of focus can be a challenge. Well, my daughter was so focused that we never opened up the coloring books I brought nor did we turn on my iPad to read. She focused on basketball and the Garden festivities for three and a half hours. And her behavior, impeccable. (She is one determined 5 year old.)
We watched the Liberty practice. We watched Montell Jordan and members of the Hamilton cast rehearse. We talked. We watched some more. My friend said we could stay at the pre-game until 4:15, so I looked at my watch often, informing Camilla how much time we had left. Finally, around 3:45 p.m., members of the Dallas Wings emerged from the Garden tunnel to do their pre-game routine. We saw players such as Erin Phillips and one of my favorite former Liberty players Plenette Pierson head to the court. But no Skylar Diggins. At 3:50, Pierson and another teammate head over to us. Plenette asked Camilla if she was the girl from that video on Twitter. We both responded, "Yes!" She shared this with another teammate and said that she had to tell Skylar to come out. At 3:55, Camilla retrieved a ball that went into the seats and passed it to Wings guard Erin Phillips. Phillips smiled often at Camilla during warm ups and even high-fived her. Camilla was happy, but still anxiously awaiting a Diggins appearance. At 4:17, I told Camilla that it was time to go to our seats. What came next made me proud. She did not complain. She did not cry. She just said, "O.k., Daddy." We started to our seats, trying to find the easiest route to the other side of the Garden, when I noticed that Skylar Diggins was on the court. We asked an usher if we could briefly return to our pre-game location, and he graciously said yes. Then, Skylar noticed Camilla from across the court and ran over to her! She picked her up from the second row and gave her a long hug. Looking at Camilla's face, she was experiencing a combination of sheer joy and shock. They briefly talked and high-fived. Skylar even took time to shake my hand. She then returned Camilla to me and went back to her team.
And we were both so happy. I was happy for Camilla to have this experience and started to tear up. I know just how much this means to my daughter. It's one of those moments Camilla will never forget. It might also have been the moment that clinches Camilla's love of basketball. She now wants to wear the number 4 when she joins a team, the same number her favorite player wears. Skylar Diggins has made a fan out of me as well. Here is Skylar Diggins, an All-American at Notre Dame, the number 3 pick in the 2013 Draft, two-time All-Star, running over to greet my child as if they were old friends. Ms. Diggins is a class act. Bright, talented, and personable, she is a wonderful role model for my daughter.
As excited as I am to share this story, I can't help but be reminded by how few people know and celebrate the accomplishments of the WNBA. What is disappointing is that despite the league now celebrating its 20th season, most people don't know the women who play in the WNBA. These are some of the most accomplished and decorated athletes in the history of our country, yet Tamika Catchings or Elena Delle Donne or Candace Parker are not even close to being household names. But you know what? My daughter is taking it upon herself to change this. This WNBA superfan is telling anyone and everyone about the league. So, let's Watch Her Work.