Kayla McBride back in action with the Aces
All-Star guard reflects on her experience on the Notre Dame coaching staff and opening up about her anxiety
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Kayla McBride is thankful to be playing basketball right now. The three-time All-Star can’t believe she’s already embarking on her seventh WNBA season. She has learned a lot about herself both on and off the court since her team’s 2019 season ended nearly 10 months ago.
McBride joined the Notre Dame coaching staff for the 2019-20 season as a player development program manager. Muffet McGraw’s decision to retire after the season only cemented that time as a special experience for McBride at her alma mater.
“I’m thankful that I was able to be with Coach McGraw for her last year,” McBride said. “Obviously I didn’t know it was her last year till the end. Just being there and learning all the X’s and O’s and the different things that they go through on a daily basis was amazing. You got to see behind the scenes of something that I was already a part of, and just how Coach McGraw works.”
The opportunity gave McBride a chance to get some hands-on experience as she ponders her future. After leading the Aces in minutes played last season, she also got some time away from the year-round grind of playing overseas and jumping right back into a new WNBA season.
“It was an amazing experience but also put things in perspective for me,” she added. “I think that, if anything, it showed me that I still have a lot more time on the court before I move to the sidelines.”
The basketball world has been on hold since early March. At that time, the WNBA was about two months away from the start of a new season. McBride and the Aces had dozens of reasons to be excited for the 2020 season. Coming off a trip to the semifinals, the team added five-time All-Star Angel McCoughtry. Las Vegas was equipped to compete for a championship in just its third season after relocating from San Antonio.
But the weeks and months went on and WNBA players, like many of us around the globe, wondered when they’d be asked to return to work and what that might look like. Naturally, all the time spent at home, stuck in an indefinite state of limbo, wore on people. McBride shared her struggles with her anxiety in an Instagram post back in May.
“Anxiety is something I think I have struggled with since I was little,” McBride said on Thursday. “Especially in the world of sports, it’s hard because you have this realm and this view that people have of you. You know, you’re on the court, you’re an athlete, you’re successful, you’re making threes, you’re making plays. Sometimes you have to be able to humanize yourself. COVID and the quarantine has been able to do that for me.”
McBride highlighted the importance of taking a step back to check in with her family—a lesson that can apply to any athlete at any level. She greatly appreciated the support she received from teammates, including Liz Cambage and Danielle Robinson, after sharing some of her struggles in that post.
“Liz was one of the people who reached out to me; DRob was one of the people who reached out to me,” McBride said. “Being able to come back to rock bottom, back to that square one and be able to connect on that level, it’s different. I think DRob probably stuck out the most with me just because I came into the league and played with DRob back in San Antonio. She saw me as a young rookie. And maybe I wasn’t ready to share that kind of story. Now, in my adulthood, being able to share a story like that, having her support and being on her team now, it meant a lot. I was really happy and excited to be able to come here with her after sharing that moment.”
McBride was excited to talk about the team’s new additions on the perimeter, headlined by Robinson and McCoughtry. After looking up to McCoughtry for a long time, McBride will now be starring alongside her.
The Aces are doing their best to get settled in even though they haven’t been able to play much five on five to date. Several players have missed practice time due to some nagging injuries. On a different timetable following quarantine protocols upon entering the IMG campus, McBride joined the team for her first practice on Thursday—a welcome sight with the team less than two weeks away from its season opener.
“It’s been a little bit of a rollercoaster,” she said of the last few months. “But now, just trying to settle in here in the bubble and being thankful for the opportunities. Thankful to be here with Vegas and play basketball again. The world wants sports again, and I’m just glad to be a part of it.”