Challenge #3: The physical demands and travel
The grind for women’s basketball players is another topic that has received a lot of attention, as over half of players play year-round. EuroBasket would seem to add to that wear and tear, factoring in both the games and the travel demands. In mid-August, Fagbenle admitted, “I’m in a state of perpetual adversity with my body. And I think that’s how it is for a lot of people in this league.” Mestdagh added that EuroBasket leaves players “physically and emotionally and mentally totally drained.”
For Mestdagh, the WNBA season gave her time to recover because she doesn’t play very many minutes. But for players like Meesseman, Turner, Zahui B., and Hartley—all of whom average over 20 minutes per game—the opportunity to rest is limited. However, their coaches were not worried about managing their minutes. Washington’s Mike Thibault pointed to an August schedule that features a lot of home games and enough days off. New York’s Katie Smith said that the bigger challenge than resting players was that “we got in a rhythm of them being gone for a good three or four weeks and then all of a sudden now you’re … adding more players.” Phoenix’s Sandy Brondello also mentioned how difficult roster changes can be, but she pinpointed the increased workload for guards Leilani Mitchell and Briann January while Turner was away rather than the challenge of reintegrating Turner. Brondello called Turner “one of the fittest athletes there is” and added, “That one doesn’t need rest.”
She may not need rest, but Turner admitted that the jet lag was challenging, especially playing for a West Coast WNBA team. She called the nine-hour time difference “the hardest part” of transitioning between EuroBasket and the WNBA; on July 30, she told High Post Hoops that she was “just now getting [her] sleep schedule back on track.”
Bentley and Dallas’ Glory Johnson also cited jet lag as one of their biggest challenges. Before her first game back, Johnson told Dallas SportsDay’s Selby Lopez, “I played a day ago and just from landing last night and getting here, I’m not going to be on the same timeframe. I’m going to be tired, but at the end of the day, that’s what athletes do. They play.” Bentley shared similar sentiments with High Post Hoops a few weeks later: “To get on a new time zone was pretty tough, but it’s what we do. … I’m able to push through it and just try to focus on doing what I can for both teams.” All three players seemed to handle it well: Bentley and Turner each had 10 points in their first game back with their WNBA teams, and Johnson had 14 and 18 in her second and third games back.
On the other hand, Amanda Zahui B. may have wished to be jet lagged—and therefore back in New York—after a series of travel delays left her stranded in a Serbian airport. Zahui B. took to Twitter to share “the movie that [she] was in,” which involved a nonexistent plane, a plane turning around mid-flight, and a cancelled flight. When asked about her ordeal in August, Zahui B. focused on the positives: “They gave us a hotel room after being stuck at the airport for 11 hours, so I got a good night’s sleep. And, I mean, this is what [women’s basketball players] do. We’re used to delays.”