Q&A With Elena Delle Donne: Partnering With P&G, Off-Court Hobbies, Preparing For Olympic Games, Team USA Goals

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Despite sitting out the 2020 WNBA season due to medical concerns, Elena Delle Donne used her platform to keep her fans entertained during what was a very challenging year for everyone. It was a true act of kindness from the two-time WNBA MVP.

With the Olympics on the horizon, Delle Donne partnered with Procter & Gamble for their campaign that’ll feature several athletes who make a positive difference in their communities.

Procter & Gamble recently released two new films for the Olympic Games, Your Goodness is Your Greatness and Love Leads to Good. Marc Pritchard, the chief brand officer of P&G, released a statement on the company’s inspiration behind these two films.

“Over the past decade, we have been honored and humbled to tell the stories of amazing athletes and the families who have supported them on the journey to achieving their Olympic and Paralympic dreams,” Pritchard said in a press release.“When those dreams were put on hold in 2020 ,we were inspired as they moved beyond their own disappointment and stepped up to help others and serve their communities. By putting others above themselves and lending their time, talent, and resources to help those in need –these accomplished athletes show that their goodness is their greatness.”

Delle Donne had the honor of being featured in Your Goodness is Your Greatness alongside her sister, Lizzie.

We sat down with Elena Delle Donne to discuss her partnership with P&G, preparing for the Olympics, her message to young women involved in sports and much more.

This interview with Elena Delle Donne is presented by Procter & Gamble, which launched two films for the Tokyo Olympics. 

The Spun: First off Elena, can you tell me about the work you’re doing with P&G and what it meant to be included in Your Goodness is Your Greatness.

Elena Delle Donne: First, I’m honored that my sister and I get to be a part of this campaign, which is so touching and so simple. It’s just about being kind and being good to one another. Even just the simplest acts of kindness, like if we can just do one a day and everybody did that, think about the place we’d be living in. And I love that P&G takes the power of Olympics and will come with such a strong, great message to better our world. To be a part of that and be a part of inclusion is something that certainly hits home with me.

The Spun: I also noticed your work with Always and trying to help girls stay in sports. Why is helping the youth so important to you?

EDD: I am super excited, and in the very near future I’ll be sharing a lot of what I’ll be doing with Always. The importance of getting young women involved in sports is so big to me, not just for the young ones who want to become professional athletes, but just the things you learn in sports that help you out in life. I’m just super excited to be partnered with Always, and we got a lot of great things ahead.

The Spun: Before I ask you about the Olympic Games and your training, I want to revisit last season. For medical reasons, you sat out the WNBA’s restart in 2020. Then, that medical reason was denied. What was that experience like?

EDD: It was certainly a different year; I think I can say that for everybody though. The pandemic made a lot of us pivot in different ways. For me, I’ve been immunocompromised for many years now. I know my body and I know what I’ve had to deal with when it comes to fighting Lyme disease. I just wasn’t confident in how safe it was to play basketball through a pandemic. Obviously, we’ve learned so much and the sports leagues have done a great job figuring this out. Now that we have vaccines and everything, I’m super excited to get back to what I’m used to doing. I certainly pivoted in the moment and dove right into my woodworking business and created Delle Donne Designs. Instead of taking a break, I threw everything I had into woodworking and that artistic process of being able to connect with fans in a different way. Maybe I can’t entertain you on the basketball court at the time, but I was excited to create pieces that people can have in their homes. It was a fun process that’ll continue for as long as I’m playing and even after.

The Spun: Can you tell me about your ‘Beyond the Game’ series? I just caught the first episode a few days ago and thought it was great to see open you were with the viewers.

EDD: I was excited to share a different side of me. Through social media you can share a lot, but not as much as recording yourself. I wanted to be real and honest throughout this process with my second back surgery. I also wanted to make people laugh. It’s been some tough times for a lot of people, so if I can just share my horrific dancing or whatever it may be and get a giggle out of people, that’s important to me. It’s been a lot of fun.

The Spun: Where are you at in terms of confidence level for the WNBA season opener?

EDD: I’ve been so grateful to be working with the most amazing therapists and strength coaches. I feel like I’m getting stronger and stronger every day. I’ve learned to live in the moment and take strides daily. I’m feeling super confident, and I have all the faith in the people around me. I’ve been working really hard.

The Spun: You’ve been a part of this Olympic experience before. What’s the biggest difference in playing style between the WNBA and international hoops?

EDD: A lot of it has to do with the way the game is officiated. In our game, you can be in transition and rip right in and go get a layup, but often I would notice in the Olympics that’s a travel. I would be like ‘Wait, this is correct footwork. I’m not doing anything wrong.’ So, getting used to the different ways that refs will see the game is important. The physicality is something that’s different too. It’s a physical game, but you also can’t touch too much. My first few Olympic games I was in foul trouble. I’m not a player who’s often in foul trouble, so there was a lot of adjusting in the moment since I don’t play overseas. It’s always fun to compete on Team USA though.

The Spun: Outside of Team USA winning the gold, what’s the goal for this year’s Olympics when it comes to using that platform?

EDD: The biggest message we want to send as a team is our greatness and the dynasty we’ve created. Also, we want to inspire the young ones who are watching. That’s why we became Olympians – because we watched it, dreamt about it, and somehow made it happen. To know there might be a little girl out there watching who sees us and thinks ‘Maybe I can do this someday,’ that’s something I’ll never take for granted.

Elena Delle Donne photo from P&G.

Elena Delle Donne photo from P&G.

The Spun: I want to ask you something about the NCAA. I’m sure you saw the weight room for the women’s teams. What changes need to be made moving forward to make sure they get the support system they need?

EDD: I think more resources need to be placed toward the women’s game. It should be equal. That’s what the NCAA is supposed to be about and say they’re about. I’m thrilled we live in an age where there’s social media and you can call out that embarrassing, little weight rack and you can show the inequalities in our sport. I’m proud of the athletes who spoke up, and look at the change they made. I doubt the NCAA ever does anything like that again.

The Spun: Looking back at your career, what would you say is your greatest accomplishment?

EDD: I always remember the moments off the court with my teammates and the interactions we have. If it’s on-court accomplishments, it’s 100 percent the team accomplishments. Starting from college, it would be getting our team to the Sweet 16, which is something that’s never happened before. Seeing the excitement of the entire state of Delaware behind us was amazing. At the pro level, no doubt, winning a WNBA championship. That was something I always dreamt of, but to accomplish it felt so amazing. Also, winning a gold medal was craziness. Once you do it, you want to keep going for more and more. Those are the three biggest accomplishments for me.

The Spun: How excited are you to play in front of fans again?

EDD: It’s such a different atmosphere when the fans are in the building. Our fans haven’t been there since we won the championship in that building. For them to come back and feel that energy is great. Stadiums probably won’t be completely full this summer, but to see a few of those faces in the stands will be great for us.

The Spun: Who was the toughest matchup over the course of your career?

EDD: Stewie [Breanna Stewart] is always a super fun player to go against because our games are so similar. When Tamika Catchings was playing, she was another one I looked up to for so many years. To play against her and feel her strength was something that as a rookie motivated me to get stronger and keep improving. Those are two people I had a lot of fun competing against.

The Spun: What would be your message to any young female athlete who watches you this summer?

EDD: I think just for them to see excellence and the drive it takes to get there. Always have fun in that journey. You get on the podium and you have that gold medal, but you think about all the steps it took to get there. Even those days where you were playing AAU basketball in a 105-degree gym, all those moments were for this big one. Hopefully, when they see us – knock on wood – achieving our dreams and coming home with gold, they’ll be inspired to do the same and to put in the work.

Just like the theme of Your Goodness is Your Greatness, Delle Donne is out to prove that someone’s kindness is a true measurement of their greatness. Hopefully, she’s able to inspire a whole new generation of female athletes with her actions on and off the court.

Sports fans will have the opportunity to see Delle Donne and other athletes at the Olympics later this year.

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