Courtesy of USA Today:
Even for a program like Connecticut, Elena Della Donne was a big deal. The Huskies routinely bring in top classes, but by 2008 Delle Donne had become perhaps the most talked-about high school girls basketball player in history, destined for multiple titles with the nation’s most elite program.
Then, after only a short stay on campus the summer before her freshman season, she left. Her decision to transfer to the University of Delaware is still scrutinized nearly 10 years — and one WNBA MVP award and Olympic gold medal — later.
Now, she’s hoping to pass on the life lessons she learned then – and from the rest of her career (so far) – in two new books: Her memoir, My Shot, and the first in a series of kids books, Elle of the Ball. Delle Donne wants both books — which are written with a collaborator and will be released by Simon and Schuster in March of 2018 — to be accessible to children and teenagers who may be struggling with the same feelings she had when she was younger.
“It’s been a couple of years in my career and I feel like at this point I’m comfortable with who I am, where I am,” Delle Donne said. “A lot of lessons I’ve learned along the way, and I love kids so I definitely wanted these first books to be geared towards a younger age group and just wanted to share some life lessons. Also just give a little bit of fun reading.”
Among those life lessons, she said, are those she learned in the years after her departure from UConn, when long-simmering feelings of burnout culminated in an abrupt – but necessary – break from the sport before returning to the court at Delaware a year later. She said she began feeling burned out long before she stepped on campus in Storrs, Conn. and in her book shares some of the emotions she was feeling in the years leading up to that famous departure.
“It was definitely a chance to tell it in my own way and in my own words, even going through the writing process of it all. At some points it’s kind of emotional to have to re-live moments that were tough, especially the whole Connecticut turmoil and going through that I felt like I had to re-live those emotions in order to re-tell it the way I was experiencing it in that time,” she said. “So I would say that was one of the hardest parts of the book was getting through that and burnout was a huge part of the book and I think — even if you’re not an athlete — there’s things in life you feel like you’re burning out in and I tell it from my perspective and how I got through it and hope that can help others.”
There are other life lessons in the books that Delle Donne hopes can appeal to kids – and grownups – across different audiences. Which means she hopes that both boys and girls take away something from the books. In Elle of the Ball, a book about a middle school basketball player, there’s a boy character too.
“So if they don’t relate to my character hopefully they can relate to another one and that was very important to me,” she said.
Delle Donne also hopes to offer some of what she learned about perseverance, having the right people to support you and some tales about life being so tall. (Delle Donne is 6-foot-5).
“It took me until college to really be comfortable,” she said. “Obviously basketball helped a lot but I would say college is when I finally loved my height and embraced it.”
As for feeling comfortable with herself as a whole? As it is for any of us, it’s an ongoing process, she said.
“But I’m in a great place now and I feel like I’ve really learned so much over the years,” she said. “This was a great time to reflect and share some lessons.”