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Lady Elite 1's reflect on the WBDAPro National Championship Tournament

This season has been very tough for the Phoenix Lady Elite 1's. Once considered one of the best teams in the league, they found themselves struggling to come up from the very bottom. Their struggles were heightened by the restrictions put in place to curb the spread of the coronavirus and the fact that they were an older team in the league. But the Lady Elite 1's are fighters, and their team spirit doesn't wane. So although they might not have gotten the results they wanted at the WBDAPro National Championships in Dallas over the weekend, they are still grateful that despite the challenges faced, they got through them as a team.

Here, the team president, captain, and co-captain reflect on the past season and share their hopes and expectations for the future.

Nina Dawkins- Team President

How would you describe this season for the Lady Elite 1's?

This season has been an uphill climb. Every year I feel like we encounter some sort of blockade that we need to bulldoze. Covid and injuries this year are just the things we have to deal with. But we have a great group of dedicated women, that when push comes to shove we all make the decision to keep battling forward.

How did the COVID-19 pandemic affect the team's preparation for the games?

A big focus for us is typically athlete development, we know that in order to have a successful team it’s not only about the X’s and O’s. With Covid we weren’t able to physically develop them the way we normally do. With travel restrictions and limited gym access I think that was a huge part that we missed this year. Also due to a lot of the travel restrictions our coach Wayne Dawkins, missed most if not all of pre-season and had to delegate from a far. That had an impact how they all gelled as a team.

How did the team overcome the impact of COVID-19 to be able to compete in Dallas on the weekend?

Dedication and sacrifice, we have a core of a group of veteran players that have been with us for 2-3yrs. They understand the vision and the purpose of the team and what we want to accomplish in women’s basketball. And we have an amazing director/team captain Crystal Chestnut who is really the heart of our team. She is as fierce as all can be, and our team really responds to her leadership!

What would say was the Lady Elites 1's biggest strength going into the games?

I believe we have a really smart and strong team. We are taller and have a bit more bite than some of the other teams. Our women play extremely well together, they all have the same passion and drive!

How did the Sheryl Swoopes message impact the team's morale going into the games?

It literally stopped me in my tracks when I played the video. We see a lot of the other teams and 90% of their bench are younger women fresh off of playing college. I know it can be a battle because they have just a bit more energy and can last a bit longer. But no one can outwork our team. It was great to see Sheryl mention that and even compare it to her journey and her retirement in her 40’s. It’s a great boost and motivation going into preparing for Saturday. This entire season feels like we’ve been battling a lot of outside forces and Sheryl made a great point that we can let anyone decide our fate! Thought that was amazing, thanks again Coach Joe!

Crystal Chestnut-Team Captain

How long have you been playing with The Lady Elite 1's?

2nd season

How would you describe this season?

This has been a tough season with us losing players to injuries and personal issues, and lack of gym time for practices. We are coming into Nationals with basically new team members and not much chemistry, but we have a committed group that we have learned to develop a level of trust based on our seasoned experience.

How did the COVID-19 pandemic affect the team's preparation for the games?

We were affected by covid with lack of practices and gym availability because our season was pushed back it ran into high school times and their practice schedule so finding g a consistent gym has been tough all season.

How did the team overcome the impact of COVID-19 to be able to compete in Dallas on the weekend?

I feel like we have overcome these downfalls by learning on each other personally and developing a level of trust. Coach has done a great job with having us look at and study film and helping us figure out how to adjust to the players we e have and just be building confidence in us that we can make this work with the group we have if we just trust the process.

What was the mindset going into the games in the tournament in Dallas?

The mindset was setting the tone early, bringing energy from the minute we step on the court and trusting that each of us are going to execute to the best of our abilities.

It wasn't the best season, but what do you think is the biggest takeaway from it?

It definitely was not the preseason we wanted but it taught us a lot about where we needed improvement and feel like now we are a better team and have learned a tone and made a lot of adjustments to the areas where we were lacking.

Detranaye Gibson-Co Captain

How long have you been playing for the Lady Elites 1's?

I have had the pleasure of playing for Lady Elites for 3 seasons.

What has been the biggest challenge that you have to deal with this season?

Wow! As we approached the season was uncertain if I could play due to my back injury. But with 1.5 years of treatment, I was able to bounce back. However, just when it was looking up for me I had lost my father on June 9th shortly after finding out my 4-year-old nephew has leukemia. And a few weeks after that my husband and I took on the challenge of helping my mother take care of my 4 nephews. So, talk about a challenge. Despite this, I have remained committed to my team this year as I manage significant changes.

How did the COVID-19 pandemic affect the team's preparation for the games?

COVID created so many major setbacks for us all. We all have personal responsibilities of course, but with limited finances and gym access, we were inconsistent mostly during pre-season. During the season we all came together as a family and made it happen. Whoever couldn’t attend practice made it a point to get to a gym and put in work.

How did the team overcome the impact of COVID-19 to be able to compete in Dallas over the weekend?

Honestly, we held each other accountable. We all have challenges off the court that we had to manage but if one of us can help the other get to practice, purchase a flight, or even make it to treatment, that’s what we did!

What is your biggest lesson from this season?

Really to “stay ready so we ain’t gotta get ready.” Although COVID contributed to our setback, we must individually take care of our bodies internally and externally year around.

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