My daughter's first WNBA game wasn't so much about her as it was about me. It was a Dads and Daughters game in Newark, where the New York Liberty were playing while Madison Square Garden was being renovated. It was a beautiful Sunday in June of 2013. And I was more about taking some wonderful photos with my daughter than having her develop any interest in basketball. I had to take her to another game. Besides, she hadn't been to The Garden yet.
We had to wait almost a year for that next game. I remember that day so well. May 8, 2014. It was raining. I hustled from the subway to my daughter's preschool to pick her up early so that we could head to Madison Square Garden. I was taking Camilla to her first New York Liberty game, a preseason game vs. the Connecticut Sun. This was a moment I could only imagine back when I was an inaugural Liberty season ticket holder in 1997. Now, I was living that dream. I was taking my child to a WNBA game! And it was at her request! However, at age 3, my daughter was slightly more interested in the music, Maddie the mascot, thundersticks, and the Jumbotron. And her interest in any of those only lasted for one half. But, it was still such a joyous occasion. I was able to share my love of the WNBA with my daughter. I wasn't sure at that time if she would develop into a fan of basketball or the Liberty, but this was a least a nice start.
Now, three years later, my daughter is not just a fan, but has developed a genuine love of the game of basketball. She takes basketball classes, receives lessons, had a basketball themed birthday party, and shoots often on a mini-hoop on her bedroom door. She has improved a great deal in the two years she has received basketball instruction. I'm truly impressed with her work ethic and her ability to be coached. She envisions herself a point guard, so she always works on her dribbling and passing. When she's not playing, she draws basketball pictures. She takes out basketball books from the library. She asks to watch highlights. She even watched the 2017 WNBA Draft twice by request!
We also watch games in person as much as possible. We went to Connecticut to watch the NCAA Women’s 2017 Sweet Sixteen. We head to the Garden often to watch the Liberty. Honestly, we really love watching the Liberty together. The games are fan and family friendly. Our team is one of the best in the league, so we’re watching a skilled squad with a real chance to win a championship. When we’re not at the Garden or the team is on the road, we watch games on television. We talk about what is happening in the game as well as strategies. I also make sure to answer any and all questions she poses. (She asks some really good ones!) I’ve also purchased WNBA Season Pass, which is a bargain for under $20. With the Season Pass, we watch games throughout the league, so Camilla can watch and learn from top players such as Maya Moore, Sue Bird, and Candace Parker. And the players are amazing role models for my daughter. They play high quality basketball with passion and determination. Not only are they gifted athletes, they are very active in community service. They are bright, engaging, and accessible.
Camilla’s dream is to one day play in the WNBA. My job is to do what I can (within reason, of course) to help her realize her goal. Whether it's practicing with her or signing her up for camps and clinics, I am happy to help. One of the things that I do is try to have her meet as many accomplished basketball players as possible, so that she might receive advice from them. We’ve met with Columbia’s Women’s Head Basketball Coach Megan Griffith and one of her top players, All-Met Div. I Player of the Year Camille Zimmerman, who both challenged Camilla to find areas of basketball to improve upon. She has been lucky enough to meet New York Liberty legends such as Teresa Weatherspoon, Kym Hampton, and Sue Wicks. She has received advice and affirmation from the likes of Tina Charles, Skylar Diggins-Smith, Sugar Rodgers, Kelsey Plum, as well as the recently retired Swin Cash. She is so inspired by these talented women that she just finished creating a book celebrating some of the league's current stars. Diggins-Smith told Camilla to, "Keep working on your game!” Camilla thinks about that most days and uses those words as motivation. Players in the WNBA don’t seem to shy away from the impact they have on future generations of players, especially young girls. The fact that my daughter is growing up with a dream of playing in the WNBA is pretty fantastic. With the league only 21 years old, there are players who didn’t have a WNBA to dream about when they were 6 years old. So, my daughter is lucky in that respect.
Watching Camilla become a fierce advocate for Women's Basketball and a budding player in her own right makes me pretty emotional. I’m so pleased that she is developing a passion. And I feel blessed that it is a passion I can help foster. And to think, it all started with taking her to a WNBA game at age 3.