Off the Record Episode 4: Temi Fagbenle
Welcome to Off the Record, a series meant to inform, inspire and highlight women of color creating their own lane in their respective industries. If you were looking for boss women, you found them.
Today, meet WNBA Minnesota Lynx Forward, Temi Fagbenle.
HOW DID YOU GET STARTED?
I started playing basketball when I was 14 years old. I didn't start because I wanted to, tennis was my first love, but unfortunately, I grew up in England and I was playing tennis but being one of 12 children it started to get very expensive for private training. After moving to basketball at 14, I went to New Jersey and I went to a boarding school there. Basketball was my passport. I say this a lot, basketball has been a passport for me my whole life. It's taken me to so many countries. Met so many people through it. Got a free education in every place I've been in and I've really capitalized on my skill in order to better myself in other ways as well. I use basketball as a tool to reach my other goals.
So I went from Blair Academy to Harvard University and then from Harvard to USC and then from USC to the WNBA. My goal was always to make it to the WNBA because I knew that was the epitome of "amazingness" in women's basketball. It's just an amazing experience so far.
WHen you went to harvard and usc, what interested you in the majors that you chose?
At Harvard, I chose Anthropology. I didn't really know what I wanted to do. I had so many interests and it was all so broad. And I just didn't know what I wanted to pick, but Anthropology was kind of the broadest subject for me. And then at USC, I did Strategic Public Relations, so I feel like I've set my self up for my future. I'm thankful for basketball for giving me that platform and ma[king] it easier for me to go through those routes.
Who/what inspires you? Why?
My family inspires me. I am one of 12 children and we do everything. We have teachers, lawyers, artists, poets, journalists, you name it. So everything they do really inspires me. Makes me want to be a better person. Not only because of their accomplishments at work, but because of the kind of people they are.
Do You think the different cultures and places you've visited have shaped or have helped you succeed in basketball?
I grew up in a very open-minded family. There's more to life than just me. There's so many people in this world. And so many different views. And so many different ways of life. Taking that on the court has enabled me to just let things come. I'm not quick to judge people. And that I think translates on the court. It kind of gives me a patience.
Can you describe your experience at the 2012 Summer Olympics?
It was just fantastic and it was in London, one of my hometowns! It's a once in a lifetime experience for me because it's not going to be in London in my lifetime, or in my athletic lifetime anyway. Whenever I think back, I get shivers. It was such an amazing experience. It was such a high and then when it ended such a low. But it was so amazing to play in front of the home crowd and the support was just unparalleled.
What part of your job do you find most satisfying? Most challenging?
Definitely winning. Wining after knowing how much work you put into the whole thing, because it's a collective effort. It's not one person that wins, the whole team needs to be on the same page in order to fulfill your goals. And that's the hardest part of being on a team as well: getting everybody on the same page, getting everybody to realize this is what we need to do to win and getting everybody to be selfless as well. When that clicks, it's just one of the most amazing things. Just satisfaction.
What advice would you give someone wanting to pursue a career in the WNBA?
This is a very exclusive club. You have thousands upon thousands of people wanting to be in the pros or even to play in college. To those people I tell, if you're serious about it, you already know deep inside what you have to do. But if you want to know how to be serious, it takes so much dedication. It takes so much hard work. It takes so much consistency in all of those and hard work.
What are you doing on the court? What are you eating? What are you putting into your body? How are you looking after yourself? What are you wearing on your feet? All these things matter in terms of playing at a higher level and increasing your longevity on the court.
You really have to look to yourself and ask yourself, "can I do this?", "can I be dedicated to this endeavor?" And if you can, you can. If you can't, you can't. But understand it's going to take a lot of work. And it's going to be fun. It shouldn't be daunting. It sounds daunting, but it shouldn't be such a crazy thing to achieve, it just is what it is. You're going to put in [the work], and you're going to enjoy putting in that work.