Dynamic, passionate and inspirational are just some of the words to describe Phoenix Mercury (mercury.nba.com) player Skylar Diggins-Smith, a four-time WNBA All-Star and all-around role model for young athletes. Here, the 31-year-old opens up about family, her career and what drives her to keep shooting for the stars.
When did you first fall in love with the game? It started when I was younger. From the time I was 4 years old, I tried everything: volleyball, softball, gymnastics. It was important to my mom that the family stay active—do a sport, be part of a team. Out of all of those sports, basketball was the one that connected with my spirit. I was out day and night bouncing the ball, shooting; basketball became a part of me. I remember getting a letter of interest when I was in fifth grade.
Where does your drive and passion come from? All of my values come from my family. My mother is the strongest woman I know. She instilled a sense of self and taught me how to commit to a goal. My continued strength is reinforced every day by my husband and the love I have for him and my son. Their love and pride in me—it keeps me going every day.
What is your mantra in how you stay disciplined? I have so many sayings, including: ‘Pressure makes diamonds.’ ‘You are like an ATM—you get out what you put in.’ ‘They call them hurdles because they are obstacles to get over.’ ‘Once you have a toolbox to get you through the day, you realize it’s you that keeps you disciplined, not any outside force.’
Any pregame rituals? Every practice is a pregame ritual. Every time I shoot, it’s a pregame ritual. I don’t believe in superstitions, but I do believe in being as prepared as possible for when I step onto the court for the game.
What do you love most about the Scottsdale/Phoenix area? So many things. The people and fans are true. The heart of the city is so important. The hiking, the views, the peace, the geography—it’s all awe-inspiring.
What sort of progress have you seen in the WNBA and women’s sports in general? Do you think we still have a long way to go? There is a conversation now—one about our needs, salary inequalities, facilities, travel, providing childcare and maternity leave, nursing rooms. For the longest time, these needs were ignored, and now, there are conversations.
What would you like to see change in the sport? I would like all women who play sports to be seen as athletes, to be covered equally, to be respected for our skill and recognized for our accomplishments. That’s across the board.
Do you feel pressure to be a role model for young women? I never wanted or expected to be a role model, however, when stepping onto a public stage, you immediately become one. People, young women, start watching your actions and how you carry yourself. I 1,000 percent know and want to be a role model for my son. That’s not pressure, but my responsibility as his mother.
What advice would you give young female athletes watching you play? Stay focused on your goal. Try to quiet the outside noise and practice, practice, practice. You will never make the shot that you don't take. Lastly, trust your gut.
What do you hope for the season ahead? The championship!
“I WOULD LIKE ALL WOMEN WHO PLAY SPORTS TO BE SEEN AS ATHLETES, TO BE COVERED EQUALLY, TO BE RESPECTED FOR OUR SKILL AND RECOGNIZED FOR OUR ACCOMPLISHMENTS.” –SKYLAR DIGGINS-SMITH
“STAY FOCUSED ON YOUR GOAL. TRY TO QUIET THE OUTSIDE NOISE AND PRACTICE, PRACTICE, PRACTICE. YOU WILL NEVER MAKE THE SHOT THAT YOU DON’T TAKE.” –SKYLAR DIGGINS-SMITH
Photography by: EVAN MILLSTEIN COURTESY OF ROC NATION