Teams have dealt with travel issues all season, and that’s no different than any other season in the WNBA.
They’ve included everything from lengthy delays to cancellations that force teams to arrive mere hours before game time. The Sky were victims of the WNBA’s poor travel policies early in the season when all-day delays had them arriving in New York at 2 a.m. for a 7 p.m. tipoff later that night.
Most recently, it was the Las Vegas Aces who were forced to pick up dinner at Walmart after a long morning at the airport waiting for a flight that wouldn’t happen, which was preceded by a five-hour bus ride.
Every once in a while, there’s a silver lining. In the Sky’s case, on their flight from Seattle to Phoenix on Aug. 30, it was a two-foot-high gold and blue BMX trophy.
“When we got on the plane, my dad told me who they were,” said Addison Brindley, a young BMX star from Arizona. “I said, ‘Oh, my gosh, I recognize them. Do you think we can take a picture when we land?’ ”
Addison and her father, Stephen, were on their way home to Arizona from a BMX tournament in Spokane, Washington, where she finished second in the 10-year-old expert girls class. She had her trophy in tow, and as much as she noticed the Sky players, they noticed her.
When the plane landed, Addison was able to spend a minute talking with Kahleah Copper, Courtney Vandersloot, Allie Quigley, Stefanie Dolson and Astou Ndour-Fall. She even got her picture.
“We told her to keep it up,” Quigley said. “That it’s amazing she’s out there kicking butt. That was us when we were younger. We were those girls that were playing every sport and not doing all the girly things.”
Addison has been riding since she was 6. She has competed nationally in more than 30 states at the expert level for her age group. Her dad estimates she trains 10-15 hours per week.
Addison has big goals for herself. An immediate one is to be a top rider in N.A.G. (National Age Group), which ranks riders by age. Last year, Addison finished 10th among riders her age from the U.S. and Canada.
A long-term goal is to compete for a gold medal. BMX was added to the Olympic games in 2008, and BMX freestyle was a new event in the Tokyo Olympics this summer. Meeting Dolson, who was part of the first 3x3 gold-medal-winning Olympic team, fanned those flames even more.
“I never expected those athletes to be flying commercial,” Addison’s dad said.
The WNBA and the WNBPA finalized a new eight-year collective-bargaining agreement in January 2020. Upgrades were made to the players’ travel accommodations, such as seats in economy plus and individual hotel rooms. Still, chartered flights are the only answer to delays and cancellations.
In this instance, there was a bright side. But not every commercial flight comes equipped with future BMX Olympians just as ready to provide inspiration as they are to receive it.
“Those moments are important,” Sky coach James Wade said. “For young fans and our players.”