Sue Bird Lets Us Into Her World

From Michelle Voepel at ESPN:

Sue Bird is one of the best basketball players in WNBA history, but she has not been as outspoken as other female athletes during her career. This close-up of her life today provides a good portrait.

While her friends and family have known she is gay for years, she did not declare it publicly until recently.

“I’m gay. Megan’s my girlfriend. … These aren’t secrets to people who know me,” Bird says. “I don’t feel like I’ve not lived my life. I think people have this assumption that if you’re not talking about it, you must be hiding it, like it’s this secret. That was never the case for me…It’s happening when it’s happening because that’s what feels right,” Bird says. “So even though I understand there are people who think I should have done it sooner, it wasn’t right for me at the time. I have to be true to that. It’s my journey.”

Comparing her level-headed approach to life to the more emotional perspective of her girlfriend, US soccer player Megan Rapinoe:

“Megan feels really passionately about things,” Bird says. “I just never felt that calling, if that’s the right word. I was living my life, just not necessarily leading the charge. But I never felt that made me any less real.”

Bird has surprised coaches by understanding how to balance setbacks in her athletic career with the rest of her life to avoid becoming burned out. She associates that perspective to a comment from Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski that the “psyche of the best players sometimes is taken for granted because they seem to be fine, even when they’re not.

Bird never put much credence in strict diet, conditioning, or sleep regimens until injuries and not feeling 100% in 2014 changed her mind. With her trainer,

they built a daily diet/exercise/rest plan that Bird has followed without fail. She has also fully embraced technology; she now uses the WHOOP fitness tracking device that monitors the entirety of an athlete’s day and provides specific data to implement. “Once she knows something works,” Borchardt says, “she buys in all the way.”

One other great story: in her sophomore year at UConn, coming off a freshman season in which she only played 8 games due to injuries, her coach Geno Auriemma told her that if anything went wrong with the team going forward, it would be her fault.

Such is Auriemma’s genius at reading people. He made Bird feel ownership for everything because he knew that the more responsibility she had, the more she would thrive.