So, imagine you’re the top athlete in the country in your sport, at your particular level, and you realize that you’re really, really sick of the sport you excel in. You get a scholarship to a powerhouse program, and two days in, you quit and move back to a Div. I-AA school closer to home.
Sound weird? Well, that’s the case of Elena Delle Donne, whom you may have heard about. She was a 6’4″ guard all set to play for Geno Auriemma at UConn until she’d finally had it with basketball in general — now, ESPN’s Mark Schwarz checked in with her for a piece to air on Outside the Lines tomorrow, and she seems more than happy to be away from the path that had been set out for her. She’s now playing volleyball for Delaware; this came only months after everyone was predicting that she would be the Next Big Thing to impact women’s hoops on a big-time level in both the college and, eventually, the pro ranks, after Candace Parker.
The piece makes Auriemma come off like a bit of a prick, saying he can’t understand how someone can play a game that they’ve hated since the age of 13. Well, if you have a trainer from the age of 7 like Delle Donne did, and you get real good at something, it’s hard to give it up even if you loathe it. Considering the pressure put on players like Parker and Chamique Holdsclaw before her (and Holdsclaw had a breakdown) in the lower-stakes world (media-wise) of women’s hoops, it’s a wonder we don’t hear about more cases of burnout from male athletes in the power sports of football and basketball — kids are specializing in a sport earlier and earlier, and those with disposable income are getting all sorts of specialized training.
Then again, Delle Donne may have the luxury of being able to walk away from a basketball career that would have likely had her globe-hopping between the WNBA and a Euro team. Many of the athletes making it big in the pro and college ranks are doing it for a shot at a better financial future.