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‘People don’t realize what we sacrifice,’ the pay gap in women’s sports

Last Updated Mar 8, 2020 at 8:30 pm EDT

Summary

Atkins said she was told she would never become a pro basketball player because she is a woman

She helped the Washington Mystics win their first WNBA title last season

Atkins plays pro basketball year-round to help make ends meet

Ariel Atkins is a reigning WNBA Champion and a role model for thousands of young women. But becoming one of the best female basketball players in the world didn’t come without its challenges.

Atkins said she was told she would never become a pro basketball player simply because she is a woman —  but rather than let that negativity sink her dream, it motivated her to keep going.

“It motivates me. You are always going to hear people say ‘no,'” she said. “But I was passionate about it and I just kept pushing and kept going towards my goal.”

She recently spoke to a group of girls at the Scotiabank Arena where she helped teach them basketball and life skills. She said her main message was simple: pursue something you love because people are going to expect the best out of you, especially in sports leagues like the WNBA.

“Just enjoy what you do, you need to love it,” she said. “People are going to expect the best out of you, so you better enjoy what you do first.”

Atkins is entering her second year in the WNBA as a champion. She helped the Washington Mystics win their first WNBA title last season.

“It’s still crazy to me. It hasn’t 100 per cent sunk in because I haven’t got my ring yet.” Atkins said. “It is an amazing feeling though because it’s something that you worked really hard for and to be able to do that with the people that I really enjoy playing with is a really good feeling.”

The WNBA is currently in the off-season, but that doesn’t mean basketball stops for her. She, like many players, has to go play in Europe or another country so they can make enough money to keep doing what they love.

“It definitely takes a toll on your body,” Atkins said about having to play at an elite level all year round. “It’s tough because [it’s] something you know you have to do.”

Atkins said a lot of people don’t understand the sacrifices WNBA players make to play the game. Quality time with friends and family is often very short.

“I’m in D.C. for around 5 to 6 months out of the year, and then I get shipped across the waters depending on where the best offer is from,” she said. “Then I play there for about 5 to 6 months and then maybe have two to three days just to make a quick stop in Texas…say hi to the family…then hightail it back to DC.”

“This is the normal routine for a lot of WNBA players.”

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