For many WNBA players leading into the unusual 2020 season held at IMG Academy in Bradenton, Fla., the decision to take part in the year was a tough one. From social justice topics throughout the country to the ongoing concern surrounding the coronavirus, some players decided to join their teams in Florida while others stayed home to focus on things bigger than basketball.
For Odyssey Sims, her decision to ultimately take part in the 2020 season was a difficult one for a different reason: She became a first-time mother this offseason.
Sims gave birth to her son, Jaiden, in April and that left her status to join the Lynx in 2020 — regardless of where it was being played — up in the air.
While continuing to work out and going back and forth for months on if she would play, the veteran guard made the choice in July to travel to IMG Academy to take part in her seventh year in the league this summer. Sims arrived with her team last week, playing in two games so far ahead of Wednesday’s contest against the Dallas Wings.
“It was a tough decision, just me leaving my kid,” Sims said. “It’s not something that I had my mind made up about in March or April or May. This was literally something I made my mind up about in July. (Cheryl Reeve and I) had talked and reconnected and I told her I wanted to play.
“It was kind of last minute. … As I was working out from Day 1 until now, it was just about how did I feel. Every day I worked out. Every day I continued to work to get my strength back in my muscles and everything. After that, I said ‘I can do this.’ I know it’s going to a challenge getting myself back into game shape, but I told myself I can do it.”
BECOMING A MOTHER
This offseason Sims’ attention wasn’t entirely focused on basketball. And for completely understandable reason.
In April the 28-year-old gave birth to her first child and her focus went from solely on basketball to the newest addition in her life. It has also given her another outlook on life in general.
“I’m excited, it’s my first kid. Being able to watch him grow, walk and chase him around and just take on a full mom role,” Sims said. “Being a mom now, I have someone else to live for and someone else who gives me purpose every day. It’s not about me anymore, I’m doing everything for him. … He’s brought me a lot of joy, more than I’ve ever had up to this point. It’s helped me enjoy life more. Never taking anything for granted.”
As the offseason progressed and the option of potentially still joining her team in Florida becoming more and more of a possibility, Sims knew she wanted to get back to playing the game she loved. Even if that meant leaving her newborn back home in Texas while she played in the season.
“I had to think about if I was going to bring my kid or if I didn’t. For me personally, deciding on if I want to play,” she said. “Mentally, it’s just mind over matter. That’s what I tell myself every game, every practice as I work myself back into game shape. It’s going to be a task. Up until this point, it has been hard. Coming back from pregnancy is not the easiest, but I’m here and I’m ready to play.”
WORKING HER WAY BACK ONTO THE COURT
Going into Wednesday’s game against Dallas, Sims has slowly started to work her way back into the Lynx rotation while coming off the bench until she gets her legs back underneath her.
After serving a two-game suspension when she rejoined the team, Sims made her season debut against the Las Vegas Aces on Aug. 12 and has since averaged 14.5 minutes per game while tallying 2.0 points, 3.0 assists, 2.5 rebounds and 0.5 steals during that two-game span.
“I think I’m in pretty good shape. I’ve been working out for a while. … I’m just happy to be back,” Sims said. “Once I get in game shape, I should be good to go.”
Sims, who was traded to Minnesota prior to the start of the 2019 season and made her first All-Star appearance in her first year with the Lynx, is excited to be joining a group that has gotten off to a strong 7-3 start nearing the midway point of the season.
“I was watching them from Game 1 up until I came. I wouldn’t say (the strong start) gave me motivation, I was just excited because it is surprising,” Sims said. “We are a younger team, we still have (Sylvia Fowles) here of course and she always looks great. This group didn’t surprise me.
“I’m just going to do whatever Cheryl needs from me and get wins.”
During the offseason, Sims has worked on adding a few new aspects to her game, saying we will have to “stay tuned” to see exactly what those additions are. While she continues to work her way back into the mix of things in Minnesota and ultimately getting more playing time, she’s just happy to be back with her team and back on the court this summer.
“Just to be here, I’m just excited to get the opportunity to play the game I love,” she said. “I was on the verge of possibly sitting out, but my intuition wouldn’t let me. I’m here now, I’m with my teammates and I’m excited to see what we can do this year.
“To me, this is a historic season and I think years later I will have something to talk to my son about. This is really a once in a lifetime experience. Just to be here, it’s amazing how the WNBA made a season happen. That they made it possible, it means a lot.”