Re­becca Allen: Bas­ket­baller. Donna Walker-Mitchell

Re­becca Allen, 24, bas­ket­baller WNBA, New York Lib­erty

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I was born in Wan­garatta but my fam­ily moved to Mel­bourne when I was five years old. So when peo­ple say “home”, Mel­bourne is al­ways that for me. I had a re­ally great child­hood and went to Carey [Bap­tist] Gram­mar. When I was grow­ing up, my par­ents wanted me to try a lit­tle bit of ev­ery­thing. I started out with net­ball and I loved it, but I was al­ways play­ing goal de­fence and I liked how with bas­ket­ball you could play a bit of ev­ery­thing. So that’s how it all started. My dad also wanted me to play mu­sic so I tried a whole ar­ray of mu­si­cal in­stru­ments and that never re­ally worked out.

Through­out my ca­reer, I’ve taken ev­ery step as it comes. But even as a ju­nior and play­ing for my state, I al­ways thought, “You never know who is watch­ing you so you need to per­form.” In terms of mov­ing to the States, I thought, “Yes, this is some­thing I want to do and I think I’m ready.” A lot of peo­ple think, “Oh, I want to stay in Aus­tralia un­til I’m ready to leave,” but, I don’t know, when are you ready to leave? I’m happy I’ve al­ways taken the plunge. You’ve got to say yes to things oth­er­wise you don’t end up pro­gress­ing at all.

I love New York be­cause I like big cities. That’s tak­ing it to an ex­treme when you go to New York be­cause there are just so many peo­ple. I feel like this is my third sea­son and I’ve kind of done all the touristy stuff so now I’m find­ing all the places the lo­cals like. Com­ing from Mel­bourne, I’m a cof­fee snob, so I’m al­ways at Blue­stone Lane cafe in New York. You’ve got to sup­port your fel­low Aussies so that’s one of my favourite places.

I’ve had two shoul­der re­con­struc­tions and I’ve had knee surgery as well. The way I look at it, when you get in­jured, that’s re­ally the only time you get away from the sport. So in that time, you just have to try to en­joy your life. It’s those times when I re­ally get stuck into my stud­ies. I’m try­ing get my de­gree [a mas­ter’s in mar­ket­ing] so I’m do­ing that on­line with Deakin Univer­sity.

My par­ents have al­ways made sure I have an aca­demic com­po­nent in my life. I’m a big be­liever in hav­ing some­thing af­ter bas­ket­ball. I’m not go­ing to play this for­ever so that’s why I’m get­ting my mas­ter’s. It’s also good be­cause it pro­vides a break from bas­ket­ball. I need an­other di­men­sion be­cause if it’s all just bas­ket­ball, I go a lit­tle bit in­sane. That’s just my per­son­al­ity.

Not ev­ery­thing has gone my way, I’ve had some set­backs. Not mak­ing the Olympics last year was dis­ap­point­ing. So that’s some­thing, next time it comes around, I’m re­ally go­ing to be fight­ing for. That’s the one thing I feel like I haven’t re­ally achieved, but I know I’m still young and I’m yet to make my mark com­pletely. My thing was to be happy for ev­ery­one else who did make it. I refuse to be­come that neg­a­tive per­son in the back­ground. That is some­thing that only does a dis­ser­vice to your­self.

One of the great things about liv­ing in New York is I have so many fam­ily and friends who want to come visit me. It’s great to know I have their sup­port and I al­ways have a fridge that is stocked with my favourite Mint Slice bis­cuits, Vegemite and Caramello Koalas.

My ca­reer highlight to date has been play­ing along­side Penny Tay­lor at the World Cham­pi­onships [in 2014].

To me, she’s the ul­ti­mate com­peti­tor, team­mate and cap­tain. I found that re­ally spe­cial, but I’m not sure she knows that. When you play along­side some­one you’ve al­ways looked up to, it’s a pretty big deal. My thing was to try and soak up as much as pos­si­ble as to what she brought to the ta­ble. You don’t find peo­ple like her all the time in sport. She’s rare. She’s ex­tremely hum­ble, she doesn’t think she’s any big­ger than any­one else on the team. She’s the star, but she never acts like it.

Driv­ing in Man­hat­tan is not some­thing I’ll ever get used to. It’s a re­ally stress­ful ex­pe­ri­ence, at least it is for me. My team­mates drive me to the games. You have to be a very ag­gres­sive driver in New York or you’re screwed.

I’m go­ing to go play in France af­ter this WNBA sea­son. I’m go­ing to Lyon so it’s great to be in a re­ally nice city like that. It’s go­ing to be a great ex­pe­ri­ence play­ing in the French league. I wouldn’t mind try­ing to learn French, too, while I’m there. All I know is, “Oui, oui.” The food is go­ing to be awe­some. I joke that I like to play in nice cities be­cause it means my fam­ily and friends will come visit.

The things I love most about Mel­bourne are the peo­ple and the life­style. It’s so dif­fer­ent from any­where else and that’s what I love about it. I miss it, but I’m also a big be­liever in you’ve got to live in the mo­ment. I’m en­joy­ing liv­ing in New York. The way I look at it is: be here, be present. While I’m in the WNBA, I’m not want­ing to be home. In Europe, it can get harder, just be­cause of the lan­guage bar­rier.

You have to take ev­ery op­por­tu­nity as it comes and I feel like I’m some­one who has done that. The other thing that has re­ally pushed me on is the sim­ple fact I want it. If you want some­thing, you have to just go

• for it.

DONNA WALKERMITCHELL is an Aus­tralian jour­nal­ist based in Los An­ge­les.

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