World-class athletes don’t really owe the world anything. Like you and I, they’re free to live their lives as they please. But some world-class athletes choose to go the extra mile. These audacious athletes choose to chase greatness in every part of their lives. They give of their precious time and talents to foster businesses and relationships that extend far beyond their athletic feats. Sklyar Diggins is that kind of athlete. The two-time WNBA All-Star, 2014 WNBA Most Improved Player and 2015 ESPY Winner dedicates just as much time to her life off the court as her life on the court. She is on the Board of Directors of the GenYouth Foundation, runs the Skylar’s Scholars program, participates in various basketball camps and is the author of a children’s book. She does it all on top of grueling training, intense games, modeling, media tours, family and friends. Yeah, Skylar has the audacity to believe that she can do it all and we love watching her do it. We had the privilege to catch up with her to find out what she has going on, how she balances her hectic life and what she thinks about some of the major issues involving women in sports. Take a look at what she had to say… The WNBA season wrapped a few months ago, but your grind legit has not stopped. You and Sanya Richards-Ross did a campaign with Nordstrom and Nike. What was that about?
It was great a campaign that showcased new women’s boutiques that Nordstrom and Nike partnered to create. The boutique paired sneakers and leisure pieces with lifestyle pieces; so they matched dresses with sneakers. I think a lot of people want to wear sneakers but don’t always know what to wear with them. So we showcased some really hip, tomboy chic outfits. There are three boutiques—one in Seattle, Toronto and Chicago. You should definitely check them out if you’re in one of those towns.
Sounds super modern and stylish. Another post-season initiative you’re involved in is the Allstate WBCA Good Works Team® which recognizes student-athletes for their service off of the court. What does it mean to you to be an ambassador?
It’s important for me to be an ambassador because I was in their shoes not too long ago and I still am. My life is nonstop and I’m juggling and balancing so much at once just like the women on the list are. It’s amazing what these women are able to do as student-athletes. To see what they have to juggle really shows you how selfless these women are. They give so much time to the community and still have to keep up with their responsibilities as students and athletes. I admire the women on the list.
I think it’s wonderful that the list includes Divisions I, II and III. It’s great that they are getting recognized for what they’re doing on the floor as well as off the floor. In some ways I think what they do off the floor is more important.
The work they’re doing really is changing lives. You make a lot of social and business appearances. What impact does your visibility have on the brand of women’s basketball as a whole?
I’m not sure. For me, my passion to be involved in the community comes from my parents and my stepdad. They were always so involved. Through them I learned the importance of being outgoing and reaching back. Those are some of the same qualities that you see in the women on the Allstate WBCA Good Works Team®. They have developed a passion for being in the community.
I just hope people see me being myself and embracing my fans. I think that’s what fans want to see and know about players in the WNBA, that they can connect with us on personal levels.
This year a number of women in the WNBA took firm, public stances on the issue of police brutality and injustice against African-Americans. What’s your take on athletes getting involved in social justice movements?
Sometimes people want to dictate and limit what athletes do—do this or don’t do that. But if there’s something that’s important to an athlete, even if it’s a sensitive topic, they should be able to be vocal and be involved. I think everyone responds to what’s going on differently. And that’s fine. I don’t think everyone has to think alike. I like diversity of opinions; agreeing to disagree. People should be able to respond to what’s going on in their own personal ways. If you feel something is important, speak on it. I appreciate when athletes take time to use their platform to take positive stances and share their opinions.
An athlete who has become more vocal is Serena Williams. She just penned an open letter about fighting against sexism and discrimination. Can you think of any instances where you had to deal with sexism or discrimination?
I’ve definitely had a lot of hurdles along my journey. Whenever there’s a hurdle to overcome, I always go back to my inner circle and my family and the values that are important to me. I always try to remain the same Sky and focus on my goals and those around me who are positive thinkers like me.
And that’s the message I try to relay to children. In my book The Middle School Rules of Skylar Diggins, I talk about awkward moments, teasing, body image and other issues kids go through. So I tell them through all those things to stay true to themselves and their values. That’s the same message I give to young women. I encourage them to have the audacity to go after their dreams, no matter what anyone may say or think.
You wear so many different hats. How do you find time for it all and how do you stay motivated?
I definitely don’t do it by myself. I know that it takes a village and I have a great support system. I have a wonderful agency at Roc Nation and an awesome inner circle that helps me balance everything. But I’m also really having fun, so it’s not hard to stay motivated. I like being busy. I like doing things and traveling. I know exactly what I signed up and I’m having a great time; I’m happy.
A GladiatHer® is a woman in sport who gives her all on the court, in the media room…anywhere sports are. She inspires others and gives her all for the glory of herself, sport and women in general. Can you think of a GladiatHer® who inspired you?
I have a number of them actually, but two that stick out are my mom and Coach Niele Ivey. My mom is my GladiatHer®. The example she showed me as a strong, powerful, independent woman was priceless. She always taught me to have the audacity to go after what I wanted. Coach Niele Ivey is an assistant at Notre Dame. She recruited me from when I was young. What she has done for the women’s game and the impact she had on my life has been incredible.
Skylar Diggins is constantly encouraging people to have the audacity to dream big and to chase those dreams. But more than using her words, she uses her own life as a testament of what can happen when you put fear, doubt, naysayers and other hindrances aside in efforts to fulfill your dreams. She is destined to keep winning on and off the court and we’ll be tuning in to watch it all happen. Be sure to follow Skylar on Twitter and Instagram so you can too!