I love my job! I get to work with some incredible athletes and sometimes those athletes go on to do great things. One such athlete is Amber Stokes.
Whenever anyone gets me talking about the athletes I’ve trained and who some of the best were, I always bring her name up. How I like to phrase it is, “Amber is one of the top 3 athletes I’ve ever had the pleasure to work with and I’m hard pressed to think of who those other two candidates might be.”
Amber still holds 4 records on our record board for her age group and she trained with me almost 10 years ago. Following her athletic achievements throughout the years has been extremely fun for me.
Amber was nice enough to take time from her busy schedule to answer some questions about her career path and assuming you might have some talent, what you can do to put yourself in a position to play at the collegiate level and if you’re lucky the pros.
AK: Tell us who you are, what team you are currently playing for, and how the season is going thus far?
AS: My name is Amber Stokes. As of right now I play for New Basket Oberhausen (NBO) in Germany. The season isn’t going too well. Hopefully out of the 5 games that we have left we can pull out a couple of wins.
AK: You went to Ohio State to play basketball after a stellar high school athletics career. First tell us about the transition from high school to college:
– What were some of the tougher things you had to adjust to in regards to your game?
AS: You’re no longer the best player on your team. You’re one of many good players who are competing for a spot. I had to start at the bottom as freshman and work my way to the top.
– Was the impression you had of college athletics as a high schooler met or completely different than you envisioned?
AS: Yes, it was what I had envisioned. I knew that it was going to be tough and that I was going against girls who were stronger than me and just as fast as me. In the end I knew that I was going to improve as a player and as a person.
– If you had to do it all over again is there one thing that you would do differently to be better prepared for the college game?
AS: I think one thing that I would have done differently is get in the gym a lot more to improve my shot. I think if I did that I would have been a better shooter in college.
AK: What would be the one or two big pieces of advice you would give a high school basketball player, or any athlete for that matter, who has a desire to play collegiately?
AS: Practice makes perfect. Best thing you can do to improve your game is to get in the gym as much as you can to better your skill sets because there is always someone competing for the same spot as you.
AK: Some would view your college career as being very successful – got to play in the NCAA tourney, a Big 10 title, a defensive player of the year award.
– Did you accomplish what you wanted to accomplish?
AS: I think overall I accomplished everything I wanted to accomplish. I was really hoping to be back to back defensive player of the year, but due to an injury I was not able to.
– How will you look back on your college career at OSU?
AS: When I look back on my college career I think about all the injuries that I endured and how they made me stronger and a better person. I’ll think about all the things that I accomplished and how I got better as a player. Overall the tradition that I got to be a part of and will always be a Buckeye.
AK: A lot of us don’t really know the process how female basketball players transition to the professional ranks. Walk us through that. You didn’t get drafted to the WNBA after your senior year (correct me if I was wrong on that).
– So how did you get from that point to where you are now?
AS: No I was not drafted right after my senior year. One of my assistant coaches gave me information of an agent that she thought I should contact and would be a great fit for me.
– Did you try the free agent route to see if a WNBA team would pick you up?
AS: No I did not, but my agent was able to get me into a training camp with the San Antonio Silver Stars. I was with them for a week.
– How did you get noticed by the European teams?
AS: First, my agent made a website where European coaches could check out my stats, a highlight tape, and a full game to see what all I had to offer. He also emailed European coaches to see what players they were in need of.
– Do you sign one year contracts or do you play for the team you start with for X number of years?
AS: Teams may offer more than a one year contract it just depends on the team. The teams that do offer one year contracts may ask you to come back next season if they like how you performed the previous season.
AK: Since a lot of my readers follow me for speed and strength information, I have to ask briefly what was your strength training/speed work schedule in college?
AS: During the summertime our off-season we would do strength which consisted of heavy lifting such as cleans, squats, bench etc. As far as conditioning, we would go to the track which was next to the gym and either run the mile or the stairs. If we weren’t outside we would be in the gym running court sprints or playing pickup with a shot clock to make us speed the games up. During the season, we probably would lift at least three times a week and go light to maintain are strength.
– And now that you are professional, how often do you do that on your own and if so what does that entail?
AS: In the off season, I work with a trainer at least 6 days a week. That consists of strength, conditioning, and core.
– When you are in-season with your team is there any structured strength workouts required?
AS: Yes, we lift on Tuesdays and Thursdays. Mostly consists of strength, core, and stretching.
AK: So what was your schedule leading up to this season starting?
– Did you do off-season work on your own?
AS: Yes, I did. I played in a couple of rec leagues while getting in the gym on my own. I also met with a trainer 6 days a week who helped me with my strength and conditioning.
– Have a training camp with pre-season games?
AS: We had a weekend training camp which consisted of a little strength, conditioning, and court drills. We also played a total of 10 pre-season games before we kicked off the regular season.
– What is your season schedule like (how many games and how often you play during the week)?
AS: We practice at least 4 days a week and have one game a week which is usually on Saturdays.
AK: What is the competition like compared to what you were used to in college and what you see in the WNBA?
AS: The league I’m in now is pretty competitive. The competition varies in different leagues. It’s definitely what I was used to in college and what I see in the WNBA.
AK: Talk about the future.
– Would you like to make a WNBA team at some point?
AS: No I would not. I love playing overseas and will continue to do so until I’m officially done with basketball.
– How long do you envision yourself playing basketball?
AS: I’m going to try to keep playing basketball until my body can’t take it anymore. I’m still young and I know I have a lot more in me.
– When you retire from basketball what would you like to do?
AS: Once I’m finished with basketball I probably will continue working for my father’s company or try to get involved with something that has to do with my major from college which was criminology.
Thanks a lot for the interview Amber and good look for the rest of the season.
Photo courtesy of Fuzzy Images on Flickr: https://www.flickr.com/photos/67144010@N05/