Candace Parker is a basketball legend. She’s a two-time NCAA Women’s Basketball Champion, the 2008 WNBA first draft pick, and she can dunk! What can’t she do? Candace has appeared in television shows and won countless awards, however, this interview wasn’t just about her and her many accolades, but the opportunity for student athletes to receive scholarships by winning the Capital One Cup.
With just a five-year history, the Capital One Cup is already become a prestigious award. This award, which recognizes the best men’s and women’s Division I athletic program in the country, is giving a combined $400,000 in student-athlete scholarships. Candace Parker is touring as an ambassador on behalf of the Capital One Cup. In this interview, she speaks on the award process, how athletic programs score major points and gives us an inside look on her busy life as a player, wife and most importantly, a mom.
QL: Candace, for those who don’t know, please explain the Capital One Cup.
CP: Well, Capital One does a lot for mens and women athletics. In the past 6 years they’ve given away a combined $2M. You get points for winning a national championships all while aiming to be a number 1 athletic program; Basically it combines all the sports. The best athletic programs gets A combined $400,000 for that year. It provides a positive rivalry amongst schools while also uniting your programs.
QL: What does it mean to athletic programs to win not only an NCAA Championship, but to win this cup?
CP: There are so many positives that go along with winning a national championship that winning this cup is just the icing on the cake. You better your program and university.
QL:When your school is called to participate on the biggest stage during the collegiate career, as a former champion, what is going through their heads?
CP: You just trust that you’ve done all the preparation and now its your time to shine. That’s what the NCAA tourney is about and it’s not what you do in those games, it’s what you’ve done in the past. If you trust your preparation and journey, then you just put it in autopilot and play. You have to live in the moment and appreciate it.
QL: What are your thoughts as the Lady Vols enter the NCAA tourney?
CP: With being a top program there are high expectations and with Tennessee it was win a national championship or it was a bad season, and thats the expectation that program is going forward with. Luckily going in to the NCAA tourney, everything is 0-0. Every game matters. Every play counts. The team that you’re playing, their record during the regular season doesn’t matter, you have to beat them this one game.
QL: Talk about your first NCAA experience.
CP: I just remember my NCAA experience, back when I was a freshmen at Tennessee, I never knew what to expect when that ball was tipped. The feelings that I had or experienced, can’t be described. I got to play the game that I loved that gives me so much back in return. It gives you all these memories that will live on for years to come.
QL: As an athlete and even more importantly as a mom, how important are women in sports?
CP: Women in sports are very important, this generation they see women as athletes. I have young boys coming up to me and asking for advice, a few generations ago that wasn’t heard of, but now, that’s the norm. Its fun to see and raise a daughter to be whatever she wants to be and do whatever sports her heart desires. It’s nice to see young boys supporting and following women sports.
QL: What are your views on the viewership of women’s sports, in particular, the WNBA?
CP:America is so money driven, if it brings in revenue people are gonna watch. You have to kind of understand that’s it a growth process and just understand its a process. The WNBA has only been around for 20 years, its grown and its expanding and it’s still here while being the longest standing professional women’s sport in the US. With that being said, it holds a lot of weight, you have to go through the ups and downs.
QL: With so much basketball experience, do you see yourself being apart of WNBA administration?
CP: I can’t see myself without basketball. It has brought so much experience to my life and has taken me across the world, I can’t imagine without it having some capacity in my life. I want to be careful in my choices because I am still figuring out what makes me happy and balancing my life as a wife and mom.
QL: How do you juggle being a superstar athlete and a family?
CP: I been fortunate to have a fantastic husband and daughter. He balances me. I never have to worry about my daughter because I know she’s well taken care of. It also helps to have a fantastic, free-flowing daughter. I’ve been extremely fortunate.
QL: “Women’s Day” was last week, but I wanted to ask you a question in relation, while millions look up to you, what woman do you look up to?
CP: That’s a really good question. I didn’t realize how big “Women’s Day” was until I was overseas, like it’s a big deal! They kiss your hand, give you flowers and gifts! But the one woman that sticks out to me is Coach Pat Summitt. Coach Summitt she’s in a role model, what I want to be. She doesn’t just talk about advice, she lives it. She’s facing one of the biggest battles in her life in such a positive environment and attitude. When she told me she was battling Alzheimer’s, she dd it in a way that she owned it, not letting it control her life.
For more information on the Capital One Cup, or to keep up with where each school stands, visit www.capitalonecup.com. And if you would like to follow Candace on her adventures, follow her on social media on twitter: @Candace_Parker and on IG: CandaceParker