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Episode #03

Leave Your Mark

with Kiah Stokes

08 Jun, 2020 · Basketball

Kiah Stokes, WNBA player and 3x National Champion, discusses the college recruitment process, the transition to a D1 university, and the power of visualization, and she shares her advice on how to achieve success in sport and beyond.

Transcript

(background music starts)

Stef

Welcome to the voice in sport podcast. I'm your host, Stef  Strack, the founder of voice and sport as an athlete professional and mom, I have spent the last 20 years advocating for women and innovating across the sports industry. Now I want to bring more visibility to female athletes and elevate their voice, at voice and sport. We share untold stories from female athletes to inspire us all, to keep playing and change more than just the game.

Today our guest is Kiah Stokes WNBA player for the New York Liberty Kia was a first round draft pick out of the University of Connecticut, after graduating in 2015. She led her team to three national championship titles. Kia earned defensive player of the year in 2015 for the American athletic conference. She is an Iowa native who gained early success playing for the USA basketball under 16 team when they captured the gold medal at FIBA Americas. Kia shared her advice on various topics that female athletes can use to find success. We discussed the importance of playing multiple sports, the college recruitment and transition process, and the power of visualization that she learned from her dad. We hope you enjoy our candid discussion on the reality of dedicating one's life to sport. Kia welcome to the voice in sport podcast

(background music stops) 

Kiah

Thanks for having me.

Stef

You have an amazing background and an incredible track record of wins. Coming off of, three straight national championships, at UConn is pretty impressive, drafted in the first round and playing currently with the New York Liberty.

Kiah

That summed it up pretty well. Born and raised in Iowa. Luckily got a scholarship to Uconn, you know, stayed there, graduated in my four years and got drafted to New York. And since I've been drafted I’m either in New York or in Turkey, where I play overseas, that's where I've been in the past five years, that's the short version.

Stef

Let's talk about your journey in sport. How did it start? What sports did you play along the way

Kiah

Growing up, I played a little bit of everything except soccer never, ever got into that. I just can't do it. Baseball, T-ball, Softball, Track, Tennis, Basketball, Volleyball, everything. Swimming, I even swam a little bit, I do have broad shoulders, so I was pretty good. I played, played on basically everything up until high school. And then that's when I just stuck to basketball and volleyball all four years. And When I went to UConn it's a little tough to do both,  I wanted to, at first I was going to go to University of Iowa and play both sports, but I just felt like with my career path after college, I knew that if I went to UConn, I will have a better chance at the basketball world. That's where I had to cut out volleyball and just stick with basketball at UConn.

Stef

I think it's really great that you played a couple of sports all the way through high school. I think you gain a lot  from playing multiple sports. 

Kiah

Definitely a lot of my friends played both, then there's some people that just play volleyball and then some that just play basketball. I felt like I had the best of both worlds, a lot of friends. I'm super competitive, so I'm just.. love to compete. And I just think that basketball helped me with volleyball too. I gotta jump a lot in volleyball. I feel like it was good with my timing. Like the blocks translated that over to basketball. I think it's great to learn multiple skills, you know, basketball Volleyball, very different sports have very different skill sets, which you can use a lot of the same skills for both sports. So the more sports the better, just don't, you know, burn yourself out. 

Stef

I love that. And the burning out is important.  I actually think having a couple sports helps you not burn out. You know, cause then you're not always on, on one. I ski raced and did soccer and I always had that balance, which is great.

Kiah

I agree

Stef

Talk to me a little bit about growing up in Iowa. I mean, you and I are both small States. Actually, we're physically really big in Alaska, but we have a really small population. So to all the girls out there, what can you share with them that think that they don't have a chance because they're coming from a small state or a town that's, you know, not New York.

Kiah

Yeah, I mean, never in my wildest dreams would I thought, would I think that, you know. Had you know, Arianna come and watch me play. But I think if you just work hard. Another thing was traveling, a travel team. That kind of helps too, just so you can kind of get your name out there, face out there. But it has to be, you know, big tournaments. My AAU team mainly just traveled around the Midwest. But still somehow my name got out there, so I must've been doing something right. But you know, what's crazy is actually in my class-- I went to UConn, we had another girl who went to Stanford and then another girl went to Notre Dame, all for basketball, all in my class. I thought that was pretty exciting to, you know, three girls from Iowa going to, top 10 programs for women's basketball in the country. You know, it doesn't really matter where you're from as long as you work hard and now with social media, there's so many ways to get exposed. If you put a highlight video who knows, who's going to see that I'm not saying like only post highlight videos and all that, but just saying, if you're good and you know, work hard and coaches can see that, you're nothing more than a click away and they can kind of follow you from there.

Stef

I love that. Do you have any advice for girls that want to reach out to coaches for the recruiting process? Like what's the right way to reach out to a coach? Or have you heard any stories.

Kiah

Definitely don't

(laughs)

Don't have your parents, please don't have your parents reach out to coaches, just please. Don't, it's just not a good look. No coach wants to coach a player and their parents. No, don't do it. But for example, if I was still in high school and I wanted to, you know, reach out to a coach, I would talk to my high school coach, see who they know, see how they get connected. It's way better when coaches talk to coaches versus a player going to a coach. Until a certain school comes to you and then they're like, yeah, call me whenever that's different. But as far as like first meetings go, it's just, it's tough. And you know, just go through your coach-- there's respect between coaches. So it's, understanding, my coaches in high school helped me with a lot of things and my AAU coaches as well, can't thank them enough.

Stef

Great advice. And what if you don't have a coach that knows anybody? Then how would you personally reach out? What's the right way to personally do it? Like, is it an email?

Kiah

I would, I would say email, I mean, if you can, and I feel like it's better if you go through somebody that knows them. I know it's hard in this world, but you know, if there's a school, that you really wanna go to, you know, it's nothing, if you want to reach out to one of the players, you know, just say, I thinking about going here, what's it like, you know, what skill level, what do you need, to even be considered, sometimes you might find someone that's willing to help. It is difficult. Don't get me wrong, but you know, definitely go with the email first-- don't really think you should call people. You know, if you can find their phone number, that might be a little overwhelming. Yeah, definitely go for the email, set up a time to talk, go back to that way.

Stef

Good advice and reaching out to players is a good idea too. So let's talk about that first year, those first couple of years for you at UConn. Like when you think about the transition from going from high school to college sports, what was the biggest sort of lesson learned and the biggest surprise, what would you tell the girls out there that might be about to transition.

Kiah

Man, that was different. You know, you used to living at home, with your parents. Maybe, I don't know how your parents were not you, but like people's parents are-- my parents were pretty strict, so I don't have, you know, too much freedom to go do what I want. So it was pretty structured. And then when you get to college, you realize you don't really have the same, oh, you're not home in bed by 11, you're going to be in trouble. You know, you kind of have freedom in terms of that, which is good and bad, you know, you get more responsibility, but it also means that she needs to be more responsible. Be prepared for that.

But basketball, you know, it does take up a lot. Well, it did take up a lot of my time at school, but time management for sure. High school was easy compared to the courses in college. So I always plan to study more outside of school that's for sure. And study more for tests. Colleges, they don't really, I wouldn't say all of them, but a lot of professors when they're teaching, you know, 200 and 300 people lectures, they don't have time to wait to make sure everyone writes down all the notes. They're just, you know, trying to get the info.

So make sure you show up to class, definitely be prepared. And time management is like another thing, just, it's a whole different thing. You have to be way more responsible and your coaches, they're going to try to help as much as they can, but you know, they're not going to pass with you. They're not doing homework with you. They don't know what you have to do. They understand it, but then again, you know, they want to win basketball. So they're more focused on the basketball part.

Stef

Yeah. I don't know if you can look back of your four years there, you won three championships. So there's probably not a lot that you would change, but if you would go back in time and say, okay, I'm going to go into this college experience with this, this, and this to get done. Would you tell yourself anything different than the four years and how you spent your time there?

Kiah

Yeah, I would tell myself, you know, like my first day on campus you came here from Iowa, you deserve to be here. You're good. I think we had 11 on the team at this point. You're one of the 11 people that got a scholarship to UConn this year. You kind of got a lot of things going for you. I just wish it would have been more confident instead of more doubting myself going in there just because I was nervous. I'm like, Oh my God, they're from California and New York. And they played on the national teams and they did this and I'm just like, I did a little Midwest travel team in high school, you know, I'm not like them, but I wish I would have trusted my skill set more, been more confident. I would definitely tell myself, be confident in your abilities because I'm here at UConn for a reason. You know, he saw something in me, he wanted me. But I definitely would have tried to go on that way a little bit better.

Stef

I love that. You know, we all face, I think doubt at some point in our journey. Was that the time in your entire career, cause you've also played overseas and, and in the pros, is that the time that you felt the most doubt and self-confidence issues? Or were there other moments?

Kiah

I would say that was my biggest one is just the adjustment going from high school to college, I had a little bit after I got drafted, you know, it's going into college to the pros where you're going against like grown woman. So like I'm 22. I got to go against, you know, 35 year olds. Who've been doing this for 10 years already. So that was a little nerve wracking, but that didn't last, as long as the one in college, college is just different. It's just a whole different environment. I mean, I had the best time of my life, but it's definitely the hardest for sure.

Stef

And what do you think makes it so hard? Because you're also trying to balance like social life, new friends, and also sports. and then when you get to the pro life, you've been more focused, like my job, and I've got this as the main focus. What would you say is the most critical thing to kind of get through college from an athlete perspective and make it to the pros to be in a place where you're not burnt out, that you get to the end of your four years there. How would you advise others?

Kiah

That's tough. I mean, college was definitely demanding, you know, especially being at UConn, it's like basketball capital of the world. We hear that a million times. You definitely just have to be mentally prepared for it all. Just go in knowing that it's going to be really, really hard. I mean, Gina would make our practices damn near impossible. That's what it seemed like. You know, we play against practice guys and we're doing a drill where like we have to score, stop, score.

So we had to score on this end, get a stop on defense, and then score again, right. So we're going to get some practice guys and then just for fun, he makes it five of us versus eight of the guys he said, okay, go. He's like, get your score stop score. So like, what, like, is this dude serious? Like, and he's like, we're going to sit here all day until you get it. Knowing that compliance has a four hour time limit. I mean, we haven't went the full four hours, but he was very set on, like, if you don't get it, we'll be here for eight hours. So we're doing this drill and man, we never thought we would get it, but eventually we ended up getting it.

He was like, see, you guys can do it. You just gotta put your mind to it. Or just like looking back at the things that he made us do. I'm like, there's no way that happened. I think my memory is deceiving me because like, some of the things he had to do is just incredible. But you know, he's seen it, he's seen the best athletes in the world, at least in one was basketball. So he knows what we're capable of. You just have to believe it for yourself. And then once you do it, you're like, oh yeah, we did that. Like, okay, I get it. Like, we're actually good. It was hard, but it was very rewarding, when we completed the task. That was mental toughness. You got to think you can do it first and then you can actually do it. But yeah, that was tough.

Stef

Totally. Sport is so demanding physically, but I think not everybody realizes soon enough in their journey that the mental aspect is so important. Can you describe some of the challenges that you faced, on the mental side and how did it help you? Developing that mental agility, how did it help you get to the next level?

Kiah

You gotta have thick skin. I think, you know, you can't take things personal. I said this on the Instagram live as well, but a big thing for me was when you're getting cussed out or getting yelled at, don't listen to how he's saying things or, you know, your teammates or coaches, listen to what they're trying to tell you. Which was the biggest thing for me, just because, you know, so if some people got, you know, a little temper and they just blurt out things, but they want the best for you. So when he's cussing you out saying you're lazy, this and this and this. And say like, yo, you so slow, my grandma could beat you and you just sound lazy and we don't even want you here. You're just like, okay. He obviously doesn't mean that. Cause you know, he brought me here, but he just wants me to, you know, work a little harder, go a little faster. but once you handle that, I think that was like made it way easier. And like till this day, Because people still don't know how to communicate the best, at least I think so. Then it's easier to, just to, like, I know they ain't really tripping over that. They just want me to do this. Like, they just want me to do this. And that was the biggest, key for me.

Stef

It's great advice.

Kiah

I mean, I've had so many, so many times where it's just like, I was dreading going to practice. So I'm like, man, what am I going to be yelled at again for today? I was just going in with a negative attitude and that was the wrong mistake, not the way to go into it because it's maybe some psychology thing, where it's self-fulfilling, if you think negative thoughts, you're not going to perform well. And then you're going to get yelled at and they're not gonna perform well because you're doubting yourself. I had that, you know, a couple of times where I'm like, I gotta get out of this little spiral and then once you really go in, like, okay, I'm excited. I've been working hard, doing extra. I feel good. And then you see yourself playing better and then, Hey, the coaches aren’t cussing you out anymore. It's crazy how it works.

Stef

I'm assuming that you've had some access to sports psych. So have you picked up any tips along the way, like little things you do under pressure?

Kiah

In college, I feel like I was just all over the place. I was very superstitious. Like I just feel like I had to do this, this, and this. And now that I'm older, my routine changes all the time because our games are at different times, we’re traveling, we're in different countries. So your routine can't be the same.

Stef

Right.

Kiah

So one thing for me is I always, before the game in the locker room, put some calming music on, I just take like, 5 or 10 minutes and just like calm myself down, try to breathe out any nerves I have. And just try to visualize the game. That's one thing I learned from my dad also is try to visualize a game, think of where you're going to get the ball. So you get on the block, what move you doing? In my mind, I'm in the locker room thinking okay, you know, dribble, spin bag, left hand hook, right hand, things like that. So that was one thing for me is just sit down, visualize, breathe, slow down because once you step on the court, the warm music, everyone's going to be super excited, a lot of energy. So if you don't have the time to take a moment to yourself, it can be a little overwhelming at times, but for me, just taking a minute, breathe, relax, take some me time. Definitely does you wonders.

Stef

I think there's so much power in that. As a ski racer, it kind of becomes part of the routine because you stand at the top and before you go down in the race, you stop, you close your eyes and you imagine yourself going through every turn. In the perfect way. And if I didn't do that, I think in any given race, then I definitely set myself back. So that's really cool to hear that you do that before a game.

Kiah

I never would have thought of it, but my dad, like I said, he's been right next to me the whole time I've been playing. He's like, sometimes you just seem like you’re so antsy. You just need to take a minute to breathe. And I was like, fine, but then after doing it, I was like, okay, I know what you mean.

Stef

Shout out to all the dads out there.

So we know that the mental part is really important, the physical hard work putting into the game is so critical. Let's talk a little bit about the third component: nutrition, because It is so important to fuel your body in a way that is right for your own body. And I think it takes us a little longer to learn that, I wish I would have learned how to fuel my body earlier in my sports journey.

(laughs)

So can you talk to us about what you've learned about fueling your own body? 

Kiah

One for me is like always stay hydrated. I feel like you can never drink enough water. Drink water, it does wonders for your body. Believe me. And another thing is just pay attention to how much sugar you're eating. My sweet tooth is ridiculous. Like I could have a whole cake every night for dinner. Like after the neck I wanted to, that's how bad it is. But I also know that in college I could eat whatever I wanted and it wouldn't matter. Cause we're burning so many calories. Our workouts are so hard. Like we're always working out or doing something physical. And then when I got to being a pro and you don't have all those, you know, four hour practices, I was just like, okay, I can't eat like this. So I did gain a little weight and then I had to, realize okay, eat more vegetables, drink more water, cut down on the sugar. And I think that was like, the biggest thing for me is just, you know, you really have to take care of your body because as you get older, you can't practice for hours to stay in shape. Your, your body just physically can’t handle it. So you have to stay in shape by eating, right. So you can feel the difference in your body. That was the keys for me, is just know what you're putting into your body so that I don't have to train four hours a day to stay in shape.

Stef

Yeah, it's so important. There's a lot of tools you can use out there: Your coaches, your nutritional specialists, even talking to some of the other players and see what works for them. And then just testing a little bit, like testing your own body, especially if you have those tournaments where it's all weekend long, 

Kiah

College is different because they provide all your meals. So it was like, whatever the team's having, you're having, but our coaches, they talked to our strength and conditioning coach all the time. So she was super good with the nutrition, her and and our physical trainer, that taped ankles and stuff. They were both working together. So they picked the whole menu. so yeah, they had it all covered in college. And then it was really after college when I had to figure it out for myself. 

Stef

It's tough to figure out, but the hydration is so critical. I think people often overlook that and the hydration is not just about getting water in. You have to get your electrolytes. You have to get the right amount of sugar. Do you have then, a favorite pregame or post game meal?

Kiah

Post-game no. Pregame, I usually try to just have some type of carb, like, rice usually is my favorite. If there's not rice, then pasta. And then I try not to eat too much meat, but you need to before a game. So tuna, sometimes I have some chicken, beans, lentils, and then vegetables. I love spinach, green beans, broccoli. So keep it pretty simple.

Stef

I'm just curious, did you have this routine down while you were in your first year of college?

Kiah

The one thing that I thought was funny is, when I was playing volleyball in high school, we you know have those Saturday tournaments that were like all day long. So I sweat a lot. After volleyball game, you think, you think it's not hard, but like, it can be hard. Any sport can be hard. So I'm like drenched in sweat. And then my teammate was like, not even sweating, but she's downing Gatorade. I was like, how many have you had, like, I think that's enough like for the day, but she would have I don't know, eight Gatorades a day. I was like, that cannot be healthy. I feel like it's all sugar. Fast forward like a month later she comes back from the dentist and was like, oh my God, I had 10 cavities. I was like what, I was like nah see, No. So since then, I kind of stopped drinking Gatorade. Well I would limit myself because I love the taste. It tastes like juice. So of course you would want to drink it, but I tried to not drink it as much or switched over to a different way to get electrolytes. Which Pedialyte is a good substitute.

Stef

Exactly. Pedialyte is pretty good. It doesn't have as much sugar. And I think the really important thing that girls need to know is that sugar is important to your performance and so is electrolytes and water.

Kiah

Just not 8 Gatorades.

(both laughing) 

Stef

I think on the other extreme, some athletes only do water and then they might be missing out on not getting those other nutrients. Finding the balance is important.

Kiah

One thing I thought was cool is, when I got to New York, we did a little sweat test so they can see exactly like what you're losing in your sweat. So some girls don't seem super salty, so they would have to, you know, eat super salty at halftime. Which I thought was pretty cool. So if you ever can get to that level of, or find that, equipment, I would definitely do that. Learn as much about your body as you can. Cause that'll help you in the long run. You may need to get blood work too. That's when I found out I was like low, but they're like just eat more of this or drink less of this. It was cool.

Stef

Yeah, totally. Another test you can do is you can sweat and you can lick and you can actually just see how salty am I? And obviously that sounds really gross, but it is so true. Everybody sweats slightly differently and actually women sweat less than men. And so that means we need some different amounts of sugar and electrolytes. Learning that is so critical.

Kiah

I was intrigued by it. I was like, wait, what? But I was just so mad at the sweat test. Cause I was like, oh, I got to like run on the treadmill and do this and this and this. I didn't have to do that. Literally. It's a little thing they put on your arm and like vibrates to make you sweat. But they just want him to get extra workout in.

(laughs)

So they may be also fake. 

Stef

Were you super salty? Or where were you on the scale?

Kiah

No, it actually wasn't too salty. Like I said, I sweat a lot, so they thought I had a problem, but it turns out I'm just sweaty. So it was like a lot of water, a little salt. But, but my dad, for example, I mean, he's like pretty dark. So when he would sweat, like we'd go fishing and you know, it's hot in the sun, but when we get back in the car and he, his face was just like white with salt. So I know that he would be like super salty, but for me, I think I was average or a little less than average on salt that I would lose.

Stef

Well, let's transition a little bit to, ultimately Voice in Sport podcast is all about, which is untold stories. So do you have an untold story that you can share with other female athletes out there about your journey?

Kiah

I got one story. It was just from a practice at UConn, which I think was the biggest, Turning point for me. So I'll share that. So we're at UConn, practices are tough, but at the end of practice, you guys do shell drill, which for those that don't know, it's like, it's basically defensive drill. So you have four people like on the blocks and then two on the elbows guarding, you know, four on the perimeter. So we're going against the guys and you know, it's the end of practice we're tired. I'm a freshman. Like, you know, I'm just saying, I just want to go sleep. I'm over at this point.

So, first group goes, you have to get like two or three stops in a row and then you can go out. First group goes, second group goes and I'm in a third group. I go, we get our staffs. And then he subs in, somebody else, but I'm still in then subs in somebody else and somebody else, but I'm still in then subs in, somebody else. So basically, during this drill it's me and like three other people that don't really play. So it's like, we're like the end of the bench people right now. Right? He's just trying to prove a point like, this is what it is. So he's like, okay, I want you guys, you guys are going to keep going until either Kiah blocks a shot or Kiah gets a steal. I was like, damn, why are you picking on me today? Like, it's always me.

(laughs)

So, I kid you not. I don't know exactly the time it was. Let's just say, we started the drill at five and Gamble, the arena UConn, there's big clocks on both sides. So you always know the time. So let's say we start the drill at five. When I tell you we're just in there, like they get a bucket, they get a bucket. We get one stop, but not enough. We get a, they get a bucket, they get a bucket. I try to, you know, block, a shot, I'd miss it. I tried to get a steal, but I run past it. I'm like dying. I want to quit. I'm about to take my shoes off and go home. Like, I'm just over it.

So we're doing this literally us four are in this drill for 33 minutes, 33 minutes on the clock. And I know because I looked up and it's like 12 minutes go by, I was like, he can't keep us here forever, well he can't. So on the 33rd minute, I was just like, I'm over it. I'm done. I'm dead tired. So I’m supposed to be in help side, but I'm late. So if I'm on the right block or my person's on the right baseline, the balls on the left side, he drives. I'm just like, man, I just go sprint finally block a shot. Finally.  Coach blows a whistle. He's like, okay, practice over it. That's all you need to do, Kiah. What took you so long? I was like this mother, like I was over it. Meanwhile, all my teammates on the side, they got ice on their knees, ankles. They gettin stretched from the trainer and me and the three of the players are just like dead tired. But since that day I was just like, okay, like if you really think about it and you really want it bad enough, you can do it. Yeah, since then I was like, I should do this on the third try. I don't know why I waited 33 minutes 

(laughs)

I don't know why I waited 33 minutes. I was like, Oh my God. I don't know how I did it.

Stef

Sometimes you get put on the spot too, and your whole team's relying on you.

Kiah

Yeah, no, that was definitely a turning point for me. Cause I was like, okay. He obviously is trying to get at me, trying to light a fire, trying to make me see something. But at the time I was just pissed.  

Stef

Okay. So let's talk about then what is the superpower you think you gain from sport? All these years playing basketball, what is it that you gained and how are you going to use that to do something outside of sport?

Kiah

One thing for sure is teamwork. I think just teamwork, get along with people, listening. That's another good one. Well, that goes in with my other superpowers': communication, if you can't express yourself or how you feel or how you think that can cause a problem. So at least for me, communication and teamwork, those are the two things and that can help you with anything in life. Cause I feel like there's very few things that you actually do by yourself. I feel like you always have some sort of team around you at all times. Even if you're a CEO, you still have people, you know, help you. So for sure you wanna communicate, one thing, and working with people is another thing, because if you have a great idea, you can't expect them to someone else then how was it going to happen? Like, how's it going to get done? So those two things, for sure.

Stef

Okay. And if you had to pick three words to describe your journey in sport, as a female athlete, what would they be?

Kiah

Demanding that's one, but I mean, with that is rewarding. So those kind of go together and then. You know, I would say just passionate, like this is my passion. I love sports. Anything competitive. So I would say those three things, just passion, demanding, and rewarding, you know, that kind of sums it up for me.

Stef

I love it. And it's such hard work, but it's worth it. You have to make sacrifices, but if it's what you love, you're going to be better.

Kiah

That's a good one too, sacrifices. Can I have a fourth word? Cause that's, that's a good one. Yeah, definitely had to make some sacrifices, but all worth it. Wouldn't change anything about it.

Stef

Let's talk a little bit about the sacrifices, I think that comes up a lot actually with athletes, what do you feel like are things you've really had to sacrifice if you honestly look at your life, and you're now a pro basketball player.

Kiah

Growing up, definitely had to sacrifice, you know, going to certain parties or hanging with certain people or you know, you can't necessarily go see that movie, even if you're not going to the party. Maybe you can't go see that movie at 10 because you like for volleyball, we have practice at 5:00 AM. Couldn't go to prom. That kind of sucks. but that was probably the only one that I regret is not going to prom cause everyone wants to go to prom. But yeah, and then when it comes to being a pro, I played WNBA in New York, my family's in Iowa, so you're away from them. And then I play, you know, seven and a half, eight months overseas, mostly in Turkey. So you sacrifice a lot of time with your family, friends, relationships, significant others. It's demanding. It's difficult. That's another sacrifice, but you know, I want to play basketball, that's what I want to do so. It's one of those things you just kind of get over it. I know that sounds bad, but it's how it is.

Stef

Well, talk a little bit about like the time at Fenerbahce and overseas. Is the level of play about the same as the WNBA? How would you describe the differences if people are considering to do that or not? Cause there's only 144 spots in the US, but is there more spots overseas?

Kiah

Yeah, there's more spots overseas. They have all different levels. So even if you know, you don't make it in WNBA, they have first division teams that are still competitive. But it's just not WNBA, but our yearly games, you know, we're a team from Turkey, but we played teams that are in Italy and France and Russia. But all those first level teams, they have WNBA players, they have the best players of Europe. So you're getting great competition. Euro league is really, really tough. As far as Turkish league, it’s not as competitive. But I mean, there's still good teams. It's just different, but as far as talent wise, WNBA for sure, like the best players, but don't, don't sleep on 'em European players. Cause we have a few in the WNBA because they have some really, really great players. But if you can't make WNBA, definitely try to go overseas. You can play anywhere you can play all of Europe people pay you to go on vacation, basically. I mean, it's not vacation. You have to work. One of my friends is playing in Italy and she lives on a beach. So she goes to practice for two and a half hours, and then she's on the beach all day and getting paid. So not a bad gig if you asked me. Not bad.

(laughs)

Stef

Amazing. Well, I loved my time overseas. I started my career at Nike in Italy, in Velonia and...

Kiah

Wow, that's awesome.

Stef

They called Velonia ill Grasso, which means the fat. Because it's right next to Parma, ham and Reggiano, parmigiano cheese.

Kiah

That sounds amazing.

(laughs)

Stef

It was amazing. 

We're going to end the podcast with one piece of advice that you have to all of the girls out there playing sports. What would you like to tell them?

(background music starts)

Kiah

Well, a piece of advice. I think to sum it up, just work hard and be confident. I think those are the two biggest things, you know, you can't get anywhere in life, you don't work hard. I mean, very few people get things handed to them. So you definitely have to work hard and just be confident in what you're doing. You know, work, it's work so hard that you're confident. You know, you can be confident because, yeah, I put my time, then I did this. You know, I deserve to be here. Yeah, work hard, be confident, you know, leave your mark on the world.

Stef

It was so inspiring to talk to you, Kiah. Your journey is incredible. And with all those titles and wins, to have you here helping other young women, I think is really remarkable. So thank you.

Kiah

Yeah, no problem. Thank you again for having me. It's been a very, very good time.

Stef

A huge thanks to Kiah for sharing authentic stories and advice. You can follow Kiah on Instagram and Twitter @Kstokes41. Please subscribe to the Voice in Sport Podcast and give us a rating. You can follow us on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter and TikTok @voiceinsport and if you are interested in advocating for female athletes check out voiceinsport.com and voiceinsporfoundation.org.

Host: Stef Strack

Producer: VIS Creator™ Libby Davidson

Kiah Stokes, WNBA player and 3x National Champion, discusses the college recruitment process, the transition to a D1 university, and the power of visualization, and she shares her advice on how to achieve success in sport and beyond.