The Oldest Woman’s Team on the American Pro Women’s Basketball League:
June 8, 2016
Story behind the story:
Chloe Sandler, 28, speaks as if she’s been writing this one all her life. “It was like a dream to play,” she recalls. “I always wanted to play pro.” As the daughter of two Olympic swimmers, Sandler grew up dreaming of wearing a professional swimming cap instead of a basketball uniform. “My dad wouldn’t let me use the pool,” she says. “It was more like, ‘Why don’t you use this basketball hoop?'” When she was 14, Sandler knew she was serious. She trained with her brother and began playing with the San Diego Passes, a recreational league. That summer she traveled to Hungary to participate in an ACBL summer program.
Sandler played in that program for two years and then transferred to UC San Diego. She wanted to play professionally so badly that she went back to Hungary again after graduating from UCSD. “I played overseas in Hungary from July until January to get the quality of play, and I loved it,” she says. “Once you get over the travel, it’s a lot more fun.” The price was high. Sandler’s training took off during the summer in Europe, and she found herself signing with several teams in the ACBL. By the end of the year, she was drawing offers from European leagues.
Photo courtesy of Chris Gateman
A native of Mission, Ariz., Sandler was raised in California by a family of aquatics enthusiasts. She recalls practicing before school with her sister, Chelsea, and swimming and running alongside them at a pool in West Seattle. Though Chloe can’t pinpoint the moment when she knew she wanted to swim professionally, she can say clearly: “When I was in fourth grade, I met a guy. We went down to Lake Washington together and I thought: ‘Oh, my gosh, I want to do this.’ I started trying to practice different strokes, some of which are my specialties.” Chloe found her niche on the water. After graduation from Seattle Pacific University, she earned her degree in biology and minored in sports medicine. Sandler played in three different countries and earned her professional tour agent’s license, including a stint in Hungary. She was even able to complete her masters degree on the road while on tour. “I’d go to school at night and drive down the road in the middle of the night to get the bad school days out of my system,” she says.
*Chloe Sandler shuns gold medals for jerseys*
Chesapeake has four flights per week, three for women’s team members and one for everyone else. Before the three-day Sacramento tournament, the players flew on a chartered plane to Los Angeles, where they stayed at a hotel. The women arrived in Sacramento a day early so they could attend the arena taping of “Jimmy Kimmel Live” hosted by ex-girlfriend Sandra Bullock. The team attended the day of the competition, arriving before the game. “The games are live,” says Gateman. “We’re calling it live, exclusive event basketball. It’s like the Olympics. The coverage is bigger than the Olympics.”
They play live:
Before leaving for the Sacramento tournament, Sandler texted a picture of the men’s team’s T-shirts — with their names spelled incorrectly — to rally the women. “When I do it, I feel, like, ‘Wow, I’m trying to do better,'” she says. “But I’m also just like a deer in headlights. I totally, completely blanked the players when I saw them, but I knew I needed to get them excited.” Gateman says the women play at about 80 percent of their energy, which was aided by the extra practice time before leaving for Sacramento. They leave for the Sacramento tournament each summer, with Las Vegas this year.
They team up:
There are many people who see the women’s team as inseparable. “It’s hard sometimes, because they’ve trained together for three years,” says Gateman. They shared a hotel room on the way to Sacramento. “Honestly, it’s weird,” says Sandler. “I’m just getting to know people now, but at the same time, you get to know a team.” The women hope to pass down their love of basketball and physical fitness to younger players. “We want these girls to look up to us,” says Sandler.
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