How much contact do you have with the players during the offseason?
Typically we will email every so often to the players who
are overseas, try to stay in touch with them, but not a lot.
We are focused on preparing for the season. The coaches have
a lot more correspondence with them during the offseason than
I do. But that will certainly increase in January with a few
players coming back early. They are going to get in shape,
they are going to have some individual workouts with coaches
and equally importantly they will be out in the community
helping us to market our upcoming third season.
Do you know who those players might be?
We dont know yet. Well probably know in the next
week or so. Some of the players had originally planned to
go overseas, but are interested in possibly staying back.
Others are looking at job opportunities, internship opportunities,
so were kind of juggling all of that right now. We can
only have three at a time, but want to be able to allow any
of them that are interested to come back at one point or another
throughout that four or five months leading up to the season.
One of the things that a lot of fans have noticed is that
for being a team that has been in last place or towards the
bottom for the last couple of years, there hasnt been
any griping or finger pointing or complaining publicly. Everyone
seems like they get along so well. Its so different
from what weve seen in other sports or other teams.
What do you attribute that to?
Well, I think its the quality of the women that Coach
Dunn drafted and brought to this organization, first and foremost.
I appreciate the fact that the fans acknowledge that and they
see that because thats something that we as an organization
appreciate. We know that there were frustrations this year.
And I think that Lin has drafted some incredibly mature and
professional adults who really respect one another and really
appreciate the opportunity that they have to be a part of
building something very unique and very special. And its
a credit to the players.
Along that line, the players are really put forward as role
models. Its something that we hear a lot about. These
women are professionals outside of the game of basketball,
they are in the community and they are really touted as big
time role models. Does that get in the way a little bit? Are
the demands on the players too much or is this something they
all get into?
I think knowing that the history of professional womens
sports in our country continues to be a struggle, that these
women are willing to fight the fight. And they know that it
means compromises personally and professionally. To help grow
this league in such a way that we can ensure that the players
that come after them have the same opportunities as they have.
And they are very grateful. You know many of them have played
overseas for many years. Many of them would not have the opportunity
to continue a professional career if the WNBA wasnt
here, so they are willing to do whatever it takes to help
make the league successful. They maintain very optimistic
outlooks throughout the year despite a very demanding schedule.
We obviously walk a fine line working very closely with the
coaching staff to make sure that any of the needs that we
have on the PR side or community relations side arent
drastically compromising their ability to perform as world
class athletes because thats really important too. But
they continue to be our single most important marketing tool.
And they appreciate having that opportunity. They are really
passionate about the continued success of womens professional
sports and want to do whatever they can to insure its longevity.
Ive got one question about Michelle Edwards. With her
injury, shes mentioned a couple of times that maybe
shes considering retirement. Have you spoken to her
about that? Is she still kind of up in the air?
Yeah, we did talk to her about that. Shes going to go
back to New York for rehab and then come back. She really
just wants to keep an open mind about it. She wants to see
how she feels, I think probably both emotionally and physically.
And Michelle assured us that as she goes through her rehab
and reflects on these last few years and starts to think about
moving forward. Shell definitely stay in touch with
the coaching staff about how shes feeling. Obviously,
as we get closer to training camp well stay in close
contact with Michelle and get a sense of what shes thinking
about her future. She hasnt made any decisions yet and
isnt anxious to.
I kind of asked this a little bit already. But one of the
things that certainly attracted us to the game and is something
that has been a big plus for the people who are going to all
of the events is the amount of player contact that the fans
have. When the Storm start averaging 15,000 a game, do you
think you will be able to continue that much contact level
and when we have a season ticket holder party at the end of
the year, and youve got 10,000 season ticket holders,
is that really going to be able to work?
Well, for starters, I dont think we are going to grow
our attendance in terms of season tickets holders. As I was
alluding to earlier, thats not where the growth in attendance
is really going to come from for this product. I think we
will continue to maintain a core of season ticket holders
who will always be our most enthusiastic, most passionate,
most vocal fans and that number will hover right around 3,000,
maybe up to 4,000. And we will continue, as the in arena attendance
grows with single game ticket buyers, to do everything that
we can to grow the game experience with the number of fans
that come without compromising that player/fan connection.
We will always maintain that as its really important and thats
what makes the WNBA so special.
One of the things thats kind of going on with the fans
in Seattle are stirrings of some kind of organization. Weve
talked to a couple of your staff and theyve mentioned
that you are interested in or researching a possible booster
club. What are your plans and what kind of things are you
thinking about for that?
Were researching it and its not something weve
gotten to yet. We are aware of booster clubs that exist around
the WNBA and we are in the process of getting information
back from other teams about how theyve structured those
and at some point over the next couple of months well
take a look at that and make some decisions. We obviously
want to do everything we can to enhance to relationship that
we have with our core fans. We want to make sure that we continue
to reinforce our fans commitment to our organization
and also balance that with other marketing efforts that we
have. So, we just havent had a chance to take a look
at it, but we definitely will. If we ultimately decide not
to officially launch some kind of fan club, we certainly encourage
our fans to take it upon themselves to do that.
Thats kind of already happening. We had a short meeting
before the last game with a few people and Susie was there.
And we were all talking about having viewing parties, going
on road trips together, sitting in the same section and doing
a lot of that kind of thing already. So
I think thats great.
I think that the one thing we dont want to do is really
duplicate any efforts that the organization may be wanting
Once we have a chance to gather more information and figure
out that would fit in to everything else we are doing. We
would have a discussion with fans, such as yourselves, and
folks who would be most likely to spearhead that kind of an
effort and make sure that we are not duplicating it. My guess
is what we would probably opt to do is allow our fans to take
some ownership and then we would support it in whatever way
we could to enhance the value you are delivering.
The last thing about that is that theres kind of a mega-fan
organization brewing with fans from all different teams. Weve
been in contact with several other people from other cities,
especially Sacramento for some reason, maybe because theyve
been coming up here a lot for games, but a lot of fans from
a lot of teams are getting together and wanting to, when they
come to your city go out to dinner or whatever, and again
that just seems to be very different than what Ive seen
in other sports.
Thats great. Im glad. Something similar happened
in the ABL. And Im glad to see that in just two short
years time Storm fans and other WNBA fans are starting to
develop relationships between themselves. I think thats
great because that can only build the passion, excitement,
camaraderie and also the rivalry between other teams around
the league and I think thats great. I think the more
involved our fans get, the more engaged they get, bodes well
for the future of the product. Its that kind of passion
and energy that will eventually catch fire and grab the attention
of folks who havent already come into the building because
they want to know whats going on and what this is all
about. And thats how we grow the fan base and thats
how we get people excited about WNBA basketball.
Oh yeah. And thats one of the things that Angie and
I have been trying to
I mean, its become a lifestyle for you guys. (Note:
Its a bad sign when the Storms VP for Operations
recognizes that your fandom has become a lifestyle
Well, it is. One of the things that we didnt anticipate
with doing the web site is how many people weve met.
And not just in Seattle, but all over the world.
Its been great. One of the things about the new ownership
looking at sports owners, the one guy that comes to
mind is Mark Cuban, owner of the Dallas Mavericks, just because
he is Mr. Vocal and very visible. But he does a lot of things
that are kind of pretty cool too in addition to being an opinionated
nugget sometimes [Karen laughs]. Its been kind of reassuring
for us to see Howard Schultz at the Storm games, and not just
sitting there but hes gotten up off his seat and yelling
at the refs a couple of times. What kind of WNBA owner is
Howard Schultz going to be?
Hes very supportive. Thats the word that really
comes to mind. Hes definitely going to support me and
Lin and the rest of our organization and help in whatever
way he can to see that we achieve our goals. And thats
really all that I can ask for is an owner that is bringing
his expertise, his love of the game and just his support of
the product. He strongly believes in what the WNBA is all
about. He has enjoyed getting to know the players and learning
more about some the challenges that we have in the league
and hes really just excited to help. He really felt
that by the time the new ownership group was in place that
we were so far down the road planning wise that there wasnt
much impact that he could have. But even the short amount
of time, he did have an impact, by just supporting us. And
just showing himself as an owner and that he cared about this
product. Taking the time to get to know our players. That
really meant a lot to them. Hes going to be even more
impactful in this third year because he is going to be involved
very early on as we plan and strategize on how we are going
to be more successful.
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