Between the NBA Finals and the start of the 2011 WNBA season, pro basketball is flourishing. We are glued to the tube for the Mavs-Heat matchup, but we're also looking forward to seeing Candace Parker of the Los Angeles Sparks.
After being mostly inactive the last two seasons—2009 on maternity leave and 2010 with a shoulder injury—Parker is ready to resume her career on the court full-time. If, as we expect, she regains her rightful place as one of the WNBA's top players, it will be due to her strong off-season training program and exceptional work ethic.
Parker's program includes a mix of core, jumping and lower body strength exercises. She says, "My off-season training goals definitely are to get faster and stronger, like they are every off-season," adding that core and lower body exercises specifically transfer to basketball skills.
Her career to date has proven the effectiveness of her off-season work. After leading the University of Tennessee Lady Vols to two straight NCAA titles, she won a Gold Medal at the 2008 Beijing Olympics and became the first overall pick in the 2008 WNBA draft.
Parker's dunking ability is well known. She was the first woman to dunk in an NCAA tournament game and the second woman to dunk in a WNBA game. "I think the training definitely enhances the jumping aspect of my game," says the high-flying Parker. "I've had previous problems with my knees, so it's kind of training to teach me how to land, as well."
Parker also attributes her basketball success to her early days of playing soccer. She says, "I was able to get the foot speed and the foot quickness." She clearly benefited from playing more than one sport.
She was never a stranger to strong competition, often playing with her brother Anthony [now with the Cleveland Cavaliers] and other young men. When she first started showing up at pickup games as a kid, Parker recalls getting weird looks and being picked last. Of course, it wasn't long before the guys realized she could really play. Soon, Parker was the one picking teams.
Parker's development as a player should encourage young female athletes to play against tougher competition to improve their own games.
Watch the video above to hear it from Parker herself.
Photo: jaehakim.com; nationalbasketblogassociation.wordpress.com
Photo Credit: Getty Images // Thinkstock