WNBA star Candace Parker has received some of the most accolades in the history of female basketball players. But Parker is also working hard off the court, and is a longtime champion and advocate for youth equity in sports.
This is why Parker is excited about this partnership with Gatorade and DICK’s Sporting Goods. Gatorade is donating $100,000 to The DICK’s Sporting Goods Foundation Sports Matter Program, and these funds will be used to support those who live in under-resourced communities to pay for registration fees to increase access for young athletes.
In addition to this donation, Gatorade has also partnered with the Foundation to send Las Vegas’ Arbor View High School girls’ basketball team to the 2023 WNBA finals in Parker’s honor.
Parker understands the importance of representation, rhetorically stating, “25 years ago was this even possible? Three years ago, was this possible in terms of being able to send young girls to a professional game to watch the WNBA finals and see women compete on the high stage with media coverage in the longest running sports league for women ever in the history of the United States?”
As a mom, seeing the representation of women and girls in sports hits home. “It’s about getting the life skills and learning the lessons that sports teach you that I don’t think anything else can,” Parker told ESSENCE. “I’m able to have a front row seat to my daughter and witness what she’s learning from sports.”
Parker shared that here daughter is a high school freshman and two-sport athlete who plays volleyball and basketball. “Being able to watch what she is able to learn every day, I think it just reinforces how important sports are and the ability to have that opportunity for everyone.”
Her partnership indeed helps bring that opportunity to other young athletes. “Being a role model, but then also having programs and organizations that are putting this at the forefront…empower[s] these young athletes to believe that, while they might not aspire to be a professional, they have the opportunity to utilize sports to learn life lessons.”
Parker frequently referenced her goal to “level the playing field” and was excited to discuss what that would look like in an ideal world. For one, she stated, “generational curses are being broken by this generation. Even being able to be within a sports league, and have women that are role models that are playing professional soccer or basketball, or volleyball or in the Olympics.”
“I think it honestly means that everybody is able to be represented and to have a role model that they can look up and see themselves in,” Parker revealed. “I think that’s really when we’ve conquered and leveled the playing field. Whether that’s across the board in lacrosse, fencing, swimming, whether it’s a professional league and volleyball, dance, whatever it may be. I think it’s important that my daughter’s daughter see people that look like [her] in sports. So that’s what leveling the playing field from the youth level looks like,” said Parker.
Ultimately, Parker wants everyone to understand the “importance of investing in our youth and investing in young athletes to be able to pursue their dreams.”
“I think it’s super empowering to be a part of this initiative with Gatorade and Sports Matter because it’s a passion of mine,” she added. “I’ve been able to witness the benefits of it as an athlete, but then now as a mom [I am] able to watch my daughter– and hopefully my son in the near future– participating in sports.”