First Thing: This Olympic Basketballer Shares Her Morning Routine for Success

Lauren Powell
by Lauren Powell

Courtesy of Basketball Australia

Basketballer, Leilani Mitchell, is currently living every professional sportsperson’s ultimate dream—including her own. The 31-year-old American-born Australian, who has been playing basketball since the tender age of six, is proudly representing the green and gold at the Rio Olympic Games—a result of her undeniable talent on the court, her love for the game, and an endless amount of hard work.

The talented sportswoman shared with us her journey, eventful schedule, and her morning routine on her final day of preparation before flying to Brazil to commence the Opal’s gold medal quest—and to experience the biggest sporting moment of her life. Read on the find out how an Olympian spends her A.M.

“Today is the last game of our tour before we head to the Olympics in Rio. It has been quite a long journey—not only for myself as a player, but also for our team. I have been playing basketball since age six. Growing up with five brothers was a major reason why I love sports—I was definitely a tom boy. I have five older brothers, and one younger, so my mother used to go overboard with the frills and dresses (complete with a lacy bonnet!) when I was very young because of the excitement that she finally had a girl. As soon as I was old enough to realise, it’s safe to say I adopted the “sporty” style and haven’t looked back.

Since January, the Opals have been on four tours, and completed four camps—this is quite a lot in a short amount of time. From March until now, there hasn't been a period of time where I was home for longer than 10 days. Add into the mix moving interstate, buying a house, and trying to do renovations—his is quite the beautiful mess I have been in leading up to the Olympics! I'm lucky that I have a fiancée that supports me 100% and is willing to make many sacrifices in order for me to reach my goals and lifelong dreams—I couldn't ask for a better partner to spend my life with. But now, all that preparation, sacrifice, hard work, anxiety, and highs and lows are coming to an end.

We are closing one chapter of the book and moving on to the main event—the 2016 Olympic Games. This is a glimpse of my final day before heading to the Olympics, and it just so happens to be game day against the number one ranked team in the world—a team that Australia has never beaten and our biggest rival, the USA. And what bigger stage to do it then New York City, in the world’s most famous arena, Madison Square Garden.” 


Courtesy of Basketball Australia

7.30 a.m. Wake up call. Off to meet my fiancée for a birthday breakfast.

7.35 a.m. Brush my teeth and put my training gear on.

7.40 a.m. Pack my bag for training—it's a shoot around only training session and non-competitive as we have a game this afternoon.

7.45 a.m. Walk to have breakfast with my fiancée at a Cafe 8. I'm not generally a big breakfast person, so I usually just have yogurt and granola with some fruit. If I'm feeling really hungry, I do like to have an omelette with spinach, tomato, and mushroom.

9.00 a.m. I walk back to my hotel to catch the bus to training.


Courtesy of Leilani Mitchell.

Mitchell with her fiancée Mikaela.

9.30 a.m. We board the bus to head to Madison Square Garden. It is only one block away from our hotel so even though driving will probably take longer than walking—we are driving so we aren't bothered by the masses of people and it makes it easier to stick together.

10.00 a.m. We drop our bags into the locker room and enter the court—we have to wait a couple minutes as the team before us (France) were taking lots of post practice photos because it is such an iconic arena.

10.10 a.m. We commence training which consists of mostly shooting. The second half of practice is running through our own plays five on zero as a refresher and making any adjustments to plays as far as what we think will work against the opposition’s defensive scheme. Then, the last 15 minutes is our 'scout' defence—we have already been through this yesterday but again, it is just a refresher to make sure we know our opponents plays and how we will defend them.


Courtesy of Leilani Mitchell.

11.05 a.m. We do a half-court shot—this is sort of the standard for most basketball teams all around the world on game days. Everyone lines up and gets at least one chance to shoot from half court—this is a fun way to end training. The thing that varies from team to team is who puts the money in the “jackpot”—sometimes the coaches will put the whole amount in and whoever makes the shot wins that money. Or, if the coaches don't want to pay, then the players may put in a set amount and the winner gets it all. If there is a tie, the players usually split the pot.

11.15 a.m. I head back to the hotel for lunch and individual meetings with the coach. We usually have these quick 5 minute meetings to discuss our individual goals for the game and discuss with the coach any other thoughts or strategies for the game.

Love basketball? Watch one of the greatest basketball-inspired movies of all time, Love & Basketball. 

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