Rebecca Allen: Basketballer. Donna Walker-Mitchell
Rebecca Allen, 24, basketballer WNBA, New York Liberty
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.