How the Sparks are navigating the bubble so far

From integrating another coach miles away to keeping sane in the bubble, the Sparks have been maintaining themselves.

After quarantine for the WNBA was over in the bubble, Sparks forward Nneka Ogwumike treated the team to catered Chipotle. (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)

It has been almost a week since the league has departed to the IMG Academy. Traveling parties have been quarantined for most of the week and training camp has just begun on Friday.

As practices have just begun, the Sparks are looking to be intentional about where their players are mentally and physically to begin getting into a groove to start this 22-game season on July 25th. The energy has been high and positive as they navigate through a not-so-normal situation.

The Sparks will not only be without Chiney Ogwumike and Kristi Toliver but physically, they will not have Assistant Coach Fred Williams on the sidelines in Bradenton. Due to precautionary health reasons related to risks connected to coronavirus, Williams has been working remotely from home with the coaching staff.

Sparks Head Coach Derek Fisher told media after practice that they had Williams on the big screen in their first gathering as a team after clearing quarantine protocols and Williams was able to address the team. Fisher went on to say that the coaching staff has spent plenty of time together virtually.

“We’ve gotten comfortable communicating this way being able to use our share screen options, to watch video together, to still go through strategy X’s and O’s, planning, etc.,” Fisher said. “Coach Fred is going to still be an invaluable piece of any success that we hope to have this year. His voice, his presence, [and] his wisdom.

Despite being miles away, Williams is just a call away and will be there for the team every single day as the coaching staff has to think about coaching and teaching in different ways.

In the bubble this past week, we have seen some players express their displeasure with some of the conditions in the beginning of their quarantine. From wonky rooms, laundry spaces, and food, the players were going through it. 

The league and players association moved swiftly to get things rectified to better accommodate players throughout their stay at IMG Academy. 

For the WNBPA President and Sparks forward, balancing her obligations has been a work and progress for Nneka Ogwumike but she is thankful for the position that she is in to be of help for the players. Entering the CBA negotiations then the pandemic was challenging for Ogwumike but she has been leaning on the executive committee, staff, and league to get through it all. 

“In the wubble, it’s another balancing act. I feel as though I have to make myself accessible to a lot of the players and of course staff so that we can really address everyone’s concerns,” Ogwumike said.

Ogwumike had to work through a lot of housekeeping these past few days in this new situation for the players, league, and IMG Academy. She had to appease many of the concerns and bring them to the league and IMG Academy so they could get to solution-based action.

“Everyone is on the same side here. We all want this to go very well. We all want everyone to be safe and healthy,” Ogwumike said.

Now that everyone is mostly settled in, it has not been as many things that needed to be brought up.

With practices getting in gear, players are excited to be back on the court with teammates like Reshanda Gray who was very ecstatic about being in practice with her hometown team.

Gray spoke about how all of the veteran players are easy and approachable while encouraging teammates to get better everyday.

“It is something that I truly value and appreciate,” Gray said.

Brittney Sykes spoke about how every teammate keeps one another accountable within practice. For Sykes, she had struggled with doing so with herself along with consistency but with this group, she is able to push harder everyday to be better for what the team needs of her.

“If we do a rep and it’s not good enough, we’ll do it over. We’ll end on a better rep,” Sykes said.

One bit of advice that Sykes has gotten in these early days of practice with this team is don’t be afraid to make mistakes. Sykes said that it was nice to not have that look over her shoulder if she messes up that something would be wrong but have someone there encouraging her and having her back.

“That’s something that was unspoken but it felt good to know,” Sykes said.

Keeping herself occupied within the bubble, Gray brought her bedazzler and hair supplies to hone in on her craft of hairstyling. Through her time so far in the bubble, Gray has learned to not waste the time that she has and make it useful.

Sykes has been occupied with entertaining herself and others by just being authentically her, dancing as much as her heart desires within practice. Sykes said that by keeping herself awake and alert, she busses a move and jokes around when it is time for fun.

The Sparks have survived week one of the bubble with good energy and ways to keep them prepared for the season.

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