As I sit at my desk firing off snappy social copy and editing a recent feature, I can’t help but ponder the differences between my and Skylar Diggins-Smith’s work lives. For those not acquainted, Diggins-Smith is a Dallas-based point guard entering her sixth season playing professional basketball. She’s embarking on a grueling schedule of 34 regular-season games across more than 12 cities, all within the confines of a few months. Factor in practice time, and she’ll clock at least 350 hours on the court this summer. Compared to my job that requires little to no movement — save for a snack break every few hours — I can’t begin to imagine the mental and physical toughness needed to step into the all-star’s shoes.
Curious to know more about what goes into being a top athlete in 2018, I set out to get the scoop. However, catching Diggins-Smith in a moment when she wasn’t training was nearly impossible, so it was only fitting we caught up in between shooting sessions at a gym in Texas. The PUMA athlete shared the ins and outs of her intense conditioning schedule, meal-prep tips she banks on during the season, and how she finds time for self-care within her hectic travel calendar — all the while flaunting her badass off-the-court style featuring PUMA’s newest DEFY sneaker silhouette. Get to know the superstar athlete and what it takes to get on her level, ahead.
How did basketball first come into your life?
“My mom is a small woman, like 5-foot-nothing, and very graceful. So she started me in all these other sports early on like tumbling and gymnastics, which I grew out of. Basketball was actually the last one I tried when I was 5 or 6 years old, and it stuck.”
We’ve heard a lot about girls dropping out of sports at a much higher rate than boys by the time they reach high school. In your opinion, what can we do to keep them motivated to stick with it?
“When I was a kid, you went outside and rode your bike or went to the playground. Now, when you drive by a park, kids aren’t there anymore. In this age, we have an issue with technology not inspiring exercise. So to empower young women, I share what sports did for me. I do camps all around the country for grade-school-aged kids and talk about the life lessons that came from the game. Companies love to hire athletes because of that skill set — working well with others, working well under pressure, and having a commitment to something. It comes through in your confidence and self-esteem.”
“Look, I’m no one’s parent, so I don’t feel any pressure. I’m not putting on a facade. I’m just me and it comes with the territory. I love interacting with the fans and the youth, it feels organic.”
Talk to us about your training schedule now that basketball is back in season.
“I start practice around 7:45 a.m. with weights or individual shooting. We have team practice from 10 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. with film, and then we’ll cool down and leave around 2 p.m. On game days, we shoot around in the morning, walk through some plays, and then it’s game time. During the season you literally live in the gym.”
Now that’s dedication. Are you just as physically active in the off-season?
“I train in bunches because you don’t want to peak too early. Off season is all about maintenance. I do yoga, Pilates, meditation, and weights to train different aspects of my body.”
Traveling always throws me off my routine. How do you stay healthy when you’re on the road?
“Being on the road is tough. To me, airport food isn’t real food. We have a nutritionist who helps us find the healthiest options. But I also try to meal prep, so I can eat before heading to the airport or take it on the road with me. My husband and I like to grill a lot; that’s how we get our meal prep in. We throw some veggies on the grill, because in Texas you can do that year-round. It makes it easier, so you don’t have to cook three separate meals a day in the midst of training.”
On that note, what’s your go-to game-day meal?
“Chicken pasta with garlic bread (yes, seriously) is my go-to pre-game meal. I need something carb-heavy to last me until after the game. There’s a misconception that you should cut out carbs, but carbohydrates are so essential for what we do as athletes.”
How do you find time for self-care during the season’s strenuous schedule?
“For road trips, you actually have a good bit of free time, so sometimes I’ll get my nails done before a game or take time to myself in the room. I sweat every day, so I’m all about keeping my hair and skin clean and moisturized. Coconut oil and cocoa butter help with the bumps and hits I take during the game.”
What’s your style like off the court?
“I’d describe it as tomboy-chic. Since I’m always on the go or at the airport, I’m all about comfort. I love bright colors, and I’m not afraid to stand out and have a moment.”
Would you consider yourself a sneakerhead?
“Absolutely. I’m a hooper. I’m always trying different sneakers to help my performance. PUMA keeps me laced. I have at least 250 pairs in the house right now, and that’s just sneakers.”
What do you wish would change for female athletes in 2018?
“I’m very passionate about equality. The league is great, but it’s unfortunate that we don’t get the respect or coverage we deserve. I would love to see more women writing about our game and circulating our sports stories. It’s always been a platform that is under appreciated. We’re the most competitive league in the world, and we don’t have highlights on the sports shows that claim to be the worldwide leader in sports.”
Lastly, what’s next for you? What’s your long-term goal?
“I just want to make my mom proud, represent for my city and my family, and be the best version of myself. I’m just trying to see how high my elevator can go.”
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