By Sydney Gibbs
After months of unsureness and unpredictability, IMG Academy in Bradenton, Florida is now the temporary home of the Atlanta Dream and the other 11 WNBA teams for the 2020 season, thanks to the coronavirus pandemic. This is a wildly unorthodox situation that has placed the players and coaches from all 12 teams in an environment foreign to them –– in hopes of playing through the shortened 22-game season.
Even though this season will be unlike any other, taco nights and birthday celebrations are a couple of ways the Dream players are making the best of these unforeseen circumstances. Forward Brittany Brewer certainly enjoys her villa roommate, Blake Dietrick’s cooking and is always willing to be her taste tester whenever she throws it down in the kitchen.
Happy birthday, Blake! 🎂 pic.twitter.com/14quUWqHaY
— Atlanta Dream (@AtlantaDream) July 20, 2020
“We’re just trying to keep it light and fun, remembering there’s life outside of the bubble and basketball, and not forgetting to appreciate those moments as well,” said Dietrick.
Since arriving in Florida, the WNBA has taken strict precautionary measures to ensure all players, coaches, and team personnel are safe and healthy. For the first few days, they were in total quarantine and only allowed to leave the room for testing purposes.
But after those few days passed things started to lighten up. They aren’t able to leave campus unless they’re going to the game gym but other than that they’re free to roam around and be amongst the other teams.
Wait for it 😅 pic.twitter.com/vhIeb73Csf
— Atlanta Dream (@AtlantaDream) July 15, 2020
This is a different experience for everyone, the coaches, the rookies and the veterans. The adjustments and adaptations players had to subject themselves to are far from anything they’ve ever experienced. But positivity is what has kept things moving along.
“It’s definitely different. It’s mostly just mentally, just how mentally strong can you be together as a team because it’s going to take everyone,” forward Shekinna Stricklen said. “I think encouraging each other and being there for each other on and off the court. I think that’s very big.”
With just a couple of weeks of practice under their belt, the players have had to adjust to the speed and pace that everything is moving along. The first game is right around the corner and in more traditional settings, more time is usual allotted. However, players understand this is the new normal and are taking a positive approach.
“Mindset. Putting things into perspective and having a positive mindset. You could either be negative about the situation or positive so why not be positive,” forward Monique Billings said. “In training camp my focus is just to leave everyday empty. Put everything I have on the floor and give it all I got. I just have the focus to be more, give more and do more.”
Dream open the 2020 WNBA season Sunday, July 26 at 5 p.m. ET on CBS Sports Network