Candace Parker's basketball career is decorated with lots of firsts: She was the first woman to dunk in an NCAA tournament game, the first player selected in the 2008 WNBA draft, and the first player to win both the WNBA Rookie of the Year and MVP award in the same season. While not everyone can perform high-flying dunks like the Los Angeles Sparks' 6-foot-4 star forward, her milestones inspire major #resumegoals.
Parker, a two-time Olympic gold medalist who picked up another league MVP award in 2013, doesn't solely define herself by her accomplishments or her job title. She's also mom to 6-year-old Lailaa and a business woman who recently partnered with Mixed Chicks — a hair care line dedicated to curls. In the midst of her busy off-season schedule, the versatile 29 year old shared some gems for success that she’s collected during her basketball journey, which can be applied to any career (no dribbling required!).
1. Don't be afraid to set the bar high
"I was laying on the couch in 1996 and that was the first time I can honestly remember telling my dad that I was going to play basketball in the Olympics. The expectations I have for myself have always been higher than anyone has had for me. Every year, going into the WNBA season, I expect to win a championship. It hasn't happened yet, but I'm not going to stop reaching for that goal. I just balance expectations by controlling what I can control. If you set super high expectations, you may fall short, but you're reaching high. That goes for basketball and everyday life for me. I'm always aiming high."
2. Lead by example
"My first team experience was when I was five. It set me up for a life of working well with others. Not everyone has the same communication style or the same buttons to push to get them motivated. I play and work with a lot of different types of people. [I believe] the best leaders are ones who lead by example. Through the years I've limited the amount of words I say on the court and started to just demonstrate things by action. If you want your team to come in early for extra shots, you have to come in early to the gym instead of just telling them they need to do it. And hopefully, they'll follow your lead."
3. Give yourself some space
"When I was younger, I would get so hung up losses. You never play as good as you think and you never play as bad as you think. After a loss, I used to be upset and watch film from the game immediately. My emotions would be so high. [To gain a better perspective], I developed a 24-hour rule. Now, I don't talk about a game or watch it for 24 hours. I’m at a better place when I do return to it. I can analyze and assess my game better, instead of letting emotions get involved. In life, some decisions are made in an emotional state — when you’re happy or upset. By allowing time to pass, you take the emotion out of it."
4. No one is perfect, but aim to be the best
"Just as I'm trying to be the best basketball player I can be, I’m trying to be the best mom I can be. That's important. My parents were at every single basketball game and school play I had. So based off of that, my expectations for myself, as a parent, are pretty high. When I miss Lailaa's activities or I can't pick her up from school, I feel like I'm missing out on precious time. I'm not perfect. But I try to be there for my daughter when I can. Like, this off-season I’m not playing basketball in Russia [as I have done in years past]. I'm spending more time with my daughter."
5. Seek a variety of challenges
"Basketball has pushed me to seek more challenges. When I start something I want to be the best at it. I'm going to start taking boxing classes and Spanish lessons very soon. So when I start these classes, I’m looking to be one of the best at boxing! It may not be possible, but that’s what is driving me — that passion to give it my all and see where I end up. Same thing with Spanish. I always need a challenge."
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Photo Credit: Leon Bennett via Getty Images